What’s Your Transit Priority?

Rick for blog

Did you ever wonder how County Connection services are made possible? There’s a reason why we can’t just establish a bus line anywhere in our service area; we have to operate within very tight budget constraints, while maximizing service to the best of our abilities. If YOU had the choice, where would you place County Connection bus lines? For a limited time, you actually have the opportunity to be a bus planner for a day and vote for where you would like to see local transit services in Contra Costa. Your suggestions may be included in a long-term Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP).

Your specific votes for County Connection are especially vital. As a public service, County Connection is funded much like any other governmental service. That is, County Connection is heavily supported by taxes of various kinds. While about 16 to 18 percent of the total annual operating budget at County Connection comes from the fares riders pay, the bulk of the funding comes from federal, state and local funding. Of these, local funding is by far the largest piece. This funding as a whole makes up the operating budget (labor, fuel, insurance, maintenance, marketing, utilities, etc.).

County Connection also has a Capital Improvement Program that is largely funded by federal grants, as well as local match funding. Capital grants can only be used for particular expenses, and are largely used to replace the buses and vans in a timely manner. We are also allowed to use capital funding to maintain the maintenance facility where the buses are stored, fueled, and maintained. Federal grants used for these approved purposes are fairly reliable, as long as we have a federal transportation program. The Senate just passed a new six-year re-authorization that maintains this federal commitment to public transit (as well as the federal commitment to highways). That legislation will be taken up in the House this fall.From WC Platform-Horizontal

Let’s look more closely at the operating budget, and the revenues that support it. Of the taxes that sustain our operations, roughly 3 percent comes from federal sources, about 9 percent comes from state sources, and the rest – about 70-72 percent – is locally sourced. That’s right, approximately 70 percent or more of the County Connection operating revenue must come from local tax sources.

In fact, the trend for suburban transit systems, like County Connection, is to see more of its support come from local sources, as the federal and state governments re-orient their support for public transit towards the larger and more urban systems.

For example, the federal authorization that just expired saw a multi-billion dollar shift away from a funding program that largely benefitted smaller urban and suburban bus systems to a new program that benefits older large heavy rail systems – primarily in places like Chicago, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, the state of California seems to be transitioning their approach to funding public transit to one that is heavily tied to the new Cap and Trade based greenhouse gas reduction programs. Areas like Contra Costa County are not doing well under Cap and Trade-based programs because of our relatively good air quality. In short, lately our share of state transit funding is trending downward.

This means, as we move forward, County Connection and other similar systems are going to become more and more reliant on local funding sources. In recognition of this expectation, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority is currently working on developing its potential plan (TEP) for transportation projects funded by a future Contra Costa County tax measure.

This is where YOU come in. County Connection could greatly benefit by new funding through such a measure to improve transit services where they are needed most. Be a part of Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s public input to help prioritize what projects and programs should be included in the long-term roadmap (TEP) we are developing for future transportation investments.

Vote Today

To make sharing your transit priorities easy, a collection tool is available where you can sign in to access a personal piggybank with 10 virtual coins that you can invest across the projects and programs you care most about. How you divvy them up is your choice – you can use all of your coins in one place, spread them out among 10 different priorities, or anything in between.

You can also participate by attending one of the number of public meetings on the development of the Expenditure Plan that Contra Costa Transportation Authority is planning. You can visit Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s website to learn more.

Finally, if you would like to see the Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s Expenditure Plan include new funding for bus transit, let your locally elected officials know! Tell them how important good bus service is for you and your community.

Remember, the future of bus transit in our area is going to be locally driven and locally funded, so let us know your transit priorities!

15 thoughts on “What’s Your Transit Priority?

  1. Hi, I would like to see a bus route in the Crossings area in Concord There was one when the County Connection first started and it was eliminated. Also, I would like to see a bus route to Oakmont Mortuary in Lafayette. Please consider these suggestions. Thanks for your help.

  2. Hello I would like better schedules for amtrak to the bart N.Concord or Concord either one i just think the times are very infrequent even Mon-Fri and stop to early, when i come back from out of town i have to get off Amtrak way at Emeryville just to be able to get the bart and bus to Clayton, or pay over $50 thank you

  3. What is the cost split between the fixed routes and the paratransit routes? And what proportion of the budget comes from BART, and what proportion from AMTRAK?

    1. County Connection is due to receive just over $730,000 in BART express funds from BART in FY16. These are used to help pay for the costs of service in the I-680 corridor between the Walnut Creek and Dublin BART stations as well as service between Martinez and the North Concord BART station. This has been going on since County Connection took over the old BART Express bus service from BART in 1997.

      County Connection receives no funding at all from AMTRAK.

      1. It is interesting about the BART funding of express service between Walnut Creek and Dublin Pleasanton. The County Connection service seems oriented to Bishop Ranch only. The only direct service between these two stations is operated rush hour only by Wheels. County Connection does not offer any service at all to Dublin Pleasanton on weekends or holidays. The city of San Ramon has very little service on weekends. Just one line that operates every two hours and only to Walnut Creek. San Ramon residents wishing to go to the closest BART station or go to the Tri Valley must go to Walnut Creek and take the LONG way around. This is disappointing as the service is certainly better during the week. Maybe this weekend gap to Dublin BART can be filled in to some extent. Or maybe have Wheels extend its north boundary to connect at San Ramon transit center on Saturday/Sunday.

  4. I would like a bus to walmart in Martinez being a person who rides the bus allot and being a person who doesn’t drive it is hard to walk there from the bus stop anywhere near there.

  5. I would like to see the #1 bus in Walnut Creek better utilized. With bus service from walnut creek to downtown/Bart at only 1 time an hour and then stops at 6;30pm this is not a service that we can use to get to BART. I would like to see this bus go straight down ygnacio valley road not detouring to john Muir with several stops on YV. Also it needs to run every 20 minutes. The reason this is passenger lite is due to its not being timely. Lets step up bus service here as the 1200 units being built in wc will need more transportation options. And 200 senior housing units at corner of Oak Grove and Ygnacio coming we need bus service. Current shadelands bus service that is functional takes you to Pleasant hill bart. Lets start taking care of the main artery Ygnacio valley road. less cars, more buses.

  6. I am on route 6 and I used to take the bus to Bart in the morning and be able to depend on it being there to take me home in the afternoon. It used to be that we had buses during the week every 20 minutes. Now during the day it is every 2 hours. I don’t need you to come up Camino Pablo like you used to, but I need to be able to depend on the bus to take me home if I use it to go to work. And now, I can’t do that. Even during the commute time, the bus leaves before the train comes in if it is a few minutes late and then we are looking at a 40 minute wait for a 15 minute trip. Sounds good to you? Why don’t we just get rid of the bus and spend our money somewhere else? It used to work for me, but now it doesn’t which makes me wonder why I am paying my tax dollars to support it.

    1. I’m sending this comment to our planning/scheduling dept. for review. We did reduce the frequency of buses several years ago when we lost a critical funding source during the recession (not restored) which makes meeting the frequent BART trains a challenge. There is hope. We’re working with Lamorinda cities to address some of the transportation gaps and challenges in this unique service area. Here’s a link to the final draft report. https://countyconnection.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Lamorinda-Service-Plan-Final-Draft.pdf

      In the meantime – if it looks like you may miss the connection due to a delay – call customer service at 676-7500 and ask them request a 3 minute hold. The dispatchers can often contact the driver before they leave and ask them to wait.

  7. In order for transit to be successful it needs to be more convenient than travel via automobile. To that end, any transit improvements or new services NEED to operate free of interference from automobile traffic in dedicated transit right of way.

  8. The 680 corridor is in serious need of transit help. Perhaps you could drag Wheels, AC Transit and VTA to the table and work out something together. On another subject, let me compliment you, WestCat, Wheels and TriDelta on your joint pass and the simple method of paying for it with Clipper. That’s a huge step in the right direction.

    1. Thanks for the compliment. We put out the joint monthly pass several years ago knowing that it would be years before we were brought into the Clipper program, and based on the positive feedback we all decided to keep it going thru Clipper. As for the 680 corridor, we do cooperate with Wheels with their Prime Time Service, and the ACE train is the primary connector between the Contra Costa/Alameda corridor and Santa Clara County. We’re all struggling right now to keep existing services going so starting up new service that travels so far from our bases would be a challenge – but who knows!

  9. I believe the idea of transit priority is good. I do however, have a couple of concerns. If buses were given access to drive on the shoulder of the interstates, how will emergency vehicles get to where they are needed? Often they have to use these lanes themselves to get to a crash.

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