Last week, SamTrans released its first study of potential Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service along El Camino Real in San Mateo County, from Daly City to Palo Alto. BRT could reduce travel times for bus passengers by up to 25 percent thanks to express skip-stop service and transit signal priority. Faster bus service would attract 3,100 to 5,600 more riders by 2020, depending on how much additional bus service is added.
But adding new service would cost money — anywhere from $5.7 million to $10.3 million annually — and without any additional operating funds, SamTrans isn’t expected to launch such express bus service anytime soon.
In the meantime, the transit agency will set the stage for faster buses by pursuing $2.4 million in capital grant funds for transit signal priority. If implemented, that will allow buses to extend the green phase of 120 traffic signals along El Camino by a few seconds, avoiding delays for bus passengers.
“We would love to get the traffic signal priority in for the existing ECR route,” said SamTrans planner Barrow Emerson. “What it does is really improve the reliability of a bus service, because you’re staying on schedule.”
The study, conducted by Emerson over the past year, also included an analysis of a long-term “Full BRT” scenario, including dedicated bus lanes and enhanced bus stops with level boarding and similar to proposals from other transit agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Full BRT would slash trip times by another 25 percent, on top of the savings provided by express skip-stop service. Only 11 miles of bus lanes were included in the scenario, keeping at least four lanes for car traffic along all of El Camino Real. Ridership would reach 34,000 each weekday by 2040 under this scenario, and building dedicated bus lanes and enhanced bus stops would cost about $150 million.