Marin Transit Plan

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1. Travel choices is the only way to reduce congestion.

There is no single mode or single project that can solve all of our congestion problems. Each mode, from commuter rail to bicycles to local streets and road projects has an important role to play in improving our lives. The Transportation Vision Plan includes plans for commuter rail; local and express buses; services focused on school children, the elderly and disabled, and cyclists and pedestrians; as well as a plan for improving our highways and roads. While no single project will serve everyone, having a wide range of choices will let people make travel decisions based on the best mode for their trip, rather than continuing dependence on the auto simply because there is no alternative. Furthermore, even a 10% reduction in demand for automobile travel can significantly reduce congestion on roads and highways.

2. All modes will be linked together in a seamless comprehensive plan.

New rail stations will become hubs for transportation improvements, and will provide places for all transit modes to come together. Train stations will be well served by local and regional buses, and at least one train/ferry connection will be completed. Building each project as part of an overall system will get the most out of the overall network. If all of the projects included in the plan are implemented, transit rider-ship may increase by 5,000,000 annual riders, bicycle and pedestrian trips could double, and over 370,000 hours currently spent in traffic delays each year could be put to more productive use!

  2. a) Regional and interregional trips will be served by a completion of the HOV system on Highway 101, the implementation of a new commuter rail line, increased express bus service and increased ferry service.

Highway 101 continues to be a backbone of travel in the urbanized parts of Marin County, and a great deal of attention must be given to the burden that freeway  ongestion places, not just on the highway, but on many local trips. Key elements are:
   2. a) 1)  A fast efficient commuter rail service could carry over 5,000 daily riders.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) system, proposed from Cloverdale to San Rafael with a second phase connection to a ferry terminal, will serve trips inside the County, as well as travel between Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco Counties. Service will be provided every 30 minutes during peak periods, carrying an
estimated 5,100 riders per day. During the morning peak period alone, 1,900 trips could be removed from Highway 101 by SMART.
    2. a) 2)Rail stations will become intermodal hubs, with convenient service from local and express buses, and with at least one major ferry link.

Bicycle and pedestrian access will be a part of every station plan, taking advantage of the implementation of the North-South Bikeway which will link all of the  communities along the 101 corridor, and will make bicycle travel substantially more convenient.  

  2. b) The completion of our High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) system will allow for faster and more effective express bus service.

The Marin Sonoma Narrows in Northern Marin and Southern Sonoma Counties is the “missing link” in our regional diamond lane system. With the gap closure project
in San Rafael already under construction, this remains a critical bottleneck which prevents bus transit from gaining any time advantage over the auto. The Narrows project will provide capacity for all freeway users by putting higher occupancy vehicles in the diamond lane. It is estimated that nearly 500 person hours of delay may be saved every day by completing this project. 

   2. b) 1)  Express buses within the County and entering the County from all directions will take full advantage of our HOV investment.

A refined express bus plan will be designed to complement, not compete, with the rail service, providing direct links between higher density residential areas and higher density employment sites without requiring a transfer. It is estimated at least 1,350 new riders will use express buses, even after SMART rail is implemented.  

2. c)  Increased ferry service is expected to help keep our interregional trips on transit.

The Water Transit Authority is currently studying additional locations for a North Bay ferry, providing improved services to Marin County. A new terminal is expected to provide the critical link between the proposed SMART rail system and ferry services. The Water Transit Authority is exploring opportunities to ring the bay with expanded ferry services with the North Bay serving as a major node.

  2.d)   The increasing demand for commute trips within the County will be served by a major increase in local bus and shuttle transit, a major school transportation initiative, and an emphasis on streets and roads.

Virtually every trip begins or ends on a local street. The Transportation Vision Plan emphasizes projects on local streets and roads, ensuring that our maintenance backlog is managed effectively. Major increases in services to schools, both through the Safe Routes to Schools program and new “school pool” services from our local transit plan could combine to reduce auto travel to schools by at least 15%. Local bus and shuttle transit services will be completely rethought to create a competitive service that can capture choice riders while serving those with mobility needs. Our bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure will be greatly improved including completion of major infrastructure for north-south and east-west bicycle travel.  

       2.d) 1) Improvements to the local bus and shuttle transit system are critical to the Transportation Vision Plan, providing the “glue” that links all modes.
Over 16,000 new riders are projected to be attracted to the reinvented local bus and shuttle transit service each day. Two new bus transit junctions are expected to be created along with improvements to the existing bus transit hub in San Rafael. These hubs will provide convenient transfer points, allowing passengers to seamlessly travel from their local residence to any point within the County. Hubs will be served by a new County Express route serving the residential and employment concentrations along Highway 101.

The total cost of all of the projects in this plan is at least $1.5 billion dollars. Existing revenue can cover only $367 million, leaving a gap of over $1.1 billion over the next 25 years to make our vision a reality. It is clear that we will not be able to move forward on all projects at once.

We must prioritize our investments,  Only by providing a range of choices will Marin County residents finally be able to enjoy their county without the uncertainty and frustration caused by back-ups.

......  the continued widening of roadways is costly, may harm our environment and quality of life and can no longer keep up with growing demand. Looking into the future, one thing is clear — to manage congestion, we will have to provide a richness of choices that will enable people to  travel differently,  ......

52% of all work trips made by Marin County residents are to jobs here in the County. And, while more than a quarter of Marin County's work trips are still destined for San Francisco, the Marin-San Francisco commute is well served by transit. While only about 5% of all trips in Marin County are made on transit, over 25% of Marin-San Francisco commute trips are transit trips,

63% of all Marin jobs are filled by Marin Residents. 37% of Marin County workers live outside the County. The majority, approximately 14%, are Sonoma County residents.

Only 6% of Marin Resident's work trips are currently headed to Sonoma County, rapid job growth there is attracting an increasing share, and will also reduce the number of Sonoma County workers commuting south.

Of all trips made in the morning peak, over 70% of all trips that begin in Marin County have destinations within the County. Local school trips the morning combined with local work trips.

Of the morning peak period traffic entering Marin County from the north is 52% is destined for Marin County. 24% destined for San Francisco or south, 20% East Bay.

76% of all 580 trips, from East Bay, entering Marin County in the morning are destined for locations within the County. Even during the evening commute, when San Francisco's Bay Bridge approaches experience near gridlock conditions for several hours, only 2% of the eastbound trips on Highway 580 originate in San Francisco. The vast majority (78%) of eastbound evening Highway 580 trips begin in Marin County.

All day traffic volumes across the Bridge have not appreciably changed in over a decade. The number of vehicles on the Bridge during peak periods has increased. Sunday evening traffic exceeds some weekdays.

T O W A R D S A M U L T I M O D A L F U T U R E The statistics lead to some surprising conclusions. Rather than blaming our congestion problems on excessive growth or "outsiders" traveling through Marin County, we can recognized that the sources of our congestion are primarily locally created.

Congestion is projected to grow at three times the rate of population growth over the coming 20 years.

School trips comprise 21% of our morning commute traffic.


Chapter 2 Towards a Multi-Modal Future

Continually building new roads and expanding highways is no longer a desirable or feasible solution. Alternatively, reducing our demand for automobile travel by as little as 10% may significantly reduce congestion. 

Auto trip reductions of 15% were recorded at schools receiving Safe Routes training in 1999-2000.2

Increase the bicycle and walk mode share for trips from today's estimated 7% to 20% by the year 2020. Most of those trips would occur outside of the peak commute period. Substantially increased bike-to-transit and walk-to-transit trips, helping to increase the viability of transit, bicycling and walking as legitimate transportation options. Mitigate the environmental impacts caused by motor vehicles, including air quality, energy consumption, noise, and use of land for roadways and parking lots.

Bus Transit Futures  (illustrated on the map in Figure 2-3:)
  Local Express Bus – Frequent (15 minute peak) service along the U.S. 101 Corridor, linking major residential and activity centers. (This is a separate service from the Marin-Sonoma Express Bus, discussed later in this chapter.)
  Intercommunity Service – An expanded system of intercommunity routes to provide an attractive local transit network for direct travel between Marin County communities.
  Tailored Local Community Service Routes – An array of local services tailored to meet the different needs of Marin communities from local fixed route shuttles, to community service routes tailored to seniors, to contract taxis in lower density areas. Implementation of this plan would allow for continuation and expansion of demonstration shuttles in Southern Marin County, Western Marin and Novato, while adding new tailored services in other communities.
  School Pool Service – While Marin County Transit would not provide "yellow school bus service," it would offer supplemental "School Tripper" shuttles and buses that would serve a similar function by linking residential areas to local schools.  The "School Pool" program would provide ridematching assistance to promote carpooling to schools. These programs would supplement the Safe Routes to Schools efforts to reduce congestion around schools, specifically targeting those areas where walking and biking is a less practical option.
  Intermodal Connections – New service would link major bus transfer points to ferry terminals and to proposed rail stations, ensuring a seamless intermodal connection at all major transfer locations.
  Paratransit – Especially designed to meet the needs of seniors and persons with disabilities, this would expand on the current services offered in response to the Americans With Disabilities Act. Expanded paratransit service will also be needed to serve Marin’s growing senior population.
  Increasing the number of bus transit junctions from one in San Rafael to three at critical intermodal points. For intercommunity and local services, three bus transit junctions would be developed for timed transfers with enhanced passenger amenities and information, including electronic message signs announcing when the next bus will be arriving. The current junction in San Rafael would be improved, with new junctions added in Novato and Southern Marin.   Improved access and stop amenities. Improved freeway bus pads and pedestrian and bicycle access would enable convenient connections between regional and intercommunity bus transit services. Improvements are expected at virtually all pad bus stops in the U.S. 101 Corridor. 

  New and expanded bus fleet. A substantial increase in the number of buses needed would be met by a diverse bus fleet that includes alternative fuels and sizes that match the service need with the service fleet.

When fully implemented, the Marin Bus Transit Futures Plan could more than double the existing local bus transit ridership of 13,200 to 35,000 daily bus transit riders by 2020.

Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plans  (carpool matching, telecommuting centers, employer shuttles to regional transit services, employer transit passes, Guaranteed Ride Home programs, and subsidized vanpools). Employers with TDM  alternatives have been able to reduce drive-alone trips by as much as 15%. TDM strategies can also be used to reduce school commute trips, a significant source of traffic congestion.

SMART Commuter Rail
a planned ferry connection in southern Marin at either Larkspur or San Quentin, or in the Northern Marin area at Port Sonoma.
With service every 30 minutes during the most congested times of day, it is estimated that SMART will initially carry 5,100 riders. This may remove an estimated 1,900 auto trips from Highway 101 during the morning commute from 6AM to 9AM.

Marin-Sonoma Express Bus Study
Even with rail implementation, there will be some inter-county markets that are better served by express buses. Currently, Golden Gate  transit serves over 30,000 daily riders on its basic and express bus service between Marin and Sonoma Counties. Given the major changes in travel patterns, including a much higher proportion of commute trips staying within the North Bay, a Master Plan was developed for an enhanced express bus service within Sonoma and Marin Counties. The recommended system would restructure existing Express Bus service and add new routes to more than double current service levels. After completion of the HOV lane system, including the completion of  HOV lanes through the Marin-Sonoma Narrows, buses would take advantage of faster travel times on Highway 101,  and would be restructured to create more than a dozen point-to-point Express Bus routes serving major employment centers in Marin County. Figure 2-5 shows the proposed Express Bus system for the North Bay. In addition to the Marin-Sonoma Express Bus Study, Golden Gate Transit is also studying new commute bus routes to San Francisco that would serve Bel Marin Keys, Hamilton and East Corte Madera. And as early as 2003, Golden Gate Transit could expand service on two Sonoma-Marin commute bus routes as part of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Regional Express Bus Program. The changes proposed in the Marin-Sonoma Express Bus Study could increase express bus ridership by 1,350 riders, even with SMART Rail in place, eliminating an estimated 600 cars from Highway 101 in the peak direction during the peak period. Implementing the Express Bus plan would also leverage a large investment in HOV lanes, and would provide additional  transit options to those currently commuting by car.

Highway System Improvements
While we cannot build our way out of congestion, we can make spot improvements that will help the existing highway system move people more efficiently.
Marin's Congestion Management Agency regularly prepares a Congestion Management Program that prioritizes highway projects. The most recent CMP was adopted in 2001. For the past decade, much of the attention and funding in the Plan has been focused on the "gap closure" project – completing the HOV lane system through San Rafael. This project is now being constructed, allowing the County to  develop new priorities.
The highest priority projects for highway improvements are intended to provide "spot relief" for major bottlenecks in the highway system. While it is widely recognized that we cannot build our way out of congestion, we can make strategic investments that will help the highway system move people more efficiently. Critical bottlenecks occur in the Marin-Sonoma Narrows area and at specific  interchanges throughout the County. In addition, accidents and incidents are often concentrated in these "choke points" where the system slows down dramatically due to spot congestion.
The Congestion Management Plan attempts to resolve these bottleneck and safety problems. Caltrans is currently studying alternatives for improving the Marin-Sonoma Narrows area by completing the HOV lane system throughout the County. This project will have the special benefit of making transit service in this area more competitive by improving travel times, while at the same time encouraging carpool and vanpool services.

In addition, improvements are envisioned at critical interchanges throughout the County, where safety and congestion are a particular concern. Seven interchanges have been identified as high priorities for future projects. Figure 2-6 shows the location of highway improvements planned throughout the County. The exact nature of
these projects will be determined through further study by Caltrans in partnership with the Congestion Management Agency and local stakeholders. The high priority interchanges are:
  U.S. 101/Atherton Avenue
  U.S. 101/Lucas Valley Road
  I-580/U.S. 101
  U.S. 101/Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (Greenbrae Interchange)
  U.S. 101/Tamalpais Drive
  U.S. 101/Tiburon Boulevard
  U.S. 101/Sausalito (Alexander Avenue)
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is also studying the potential widening of Highway 37. Possible improvements to the U.S. 101/Highway 37 interchange will be included as part of this study. The benefits of highway improvements can be measured in reduced delay. These projects combine to eliminate an estimated 1,000 vehicle hours of delay every day.3 This will result in improved travel speeds and reduced commute time, as well as a more reliable highway system. Interchange projects in particular can have a dramatic impact on local streets leading to and from the highway, as congestion often spills over onto local streets when an interchange is not operating properly.

Studies Underway
The Transportation Master Planning process has provided a wealth of information about a number of the components of the Transportation Vision Plan. Addi-tional studies, currently underway, will provide new information over time. The transportation Vision Plan will be adjusted to accommodate new information as it develops.

Water Transit Authority Study – New and Expanded Ferry Service for the North Bay
The Bay Area Water Transit Authority (WTA) was initiated through Governor Gray Davis' Transportation Congestion Relief Program. The WTA recently released its initial study report, which evaluated terminal, service and technology enhancements to ferry services. In the North Bay, service expansion is envisioned at all Marin County ferry terminals with new facilities at Port Sonoma and a potential future San Quentin site being identified for future study. Among the criteria being considered for new terminals is the availability of multi-modal connections,
including potential rail and bus transit services. For example, SMART Rail could eventually connect to potential ferry terminal locations at Port Sonoma or San Quentin, or to the existing Larkspur terminal, providing an additional transit option for those traveling from the
North Bay to San Francisco.

Golden Gate Transit Bus and Ferry Services
In response to financial needs over the next ten years, Golden Gate Transit is studying the reduction of express bus, local bus and ferry transit services in order to reduce costs. In accordance with the Transit District's Short Range Transit Plan, underutilized and inefficient services are being targeted for reduction or elimination. Plans for future transit service expansion will need to be reevaluated based on the service changes made over the next several years. Rather than expanding service, short-term objectives may need to focus on maintaining the quality of existing service in order to facilitate service expansions in the long term.

"If development is done carefully under smart growth concepts, growth will not increase traffic congestion but will instead improve the viability of transit and other alternative transportation modes."

  Sales tax funds could also be used to help facilitate smart growth development within the rail corridor. Bill AB2224: two-thirds of Marin and Sonoma County residents who live within the District can be asked to approve a sales tax measure. A half-cent sales tax would generate $21 million in Marin County in its first year.

2. Establish Performance Measurement Indicators.    The projects being considered span all modes of travel and vary widely in both implementation and maintenance costs. Also, benefits of projects in a multi-modal plan are hard to disaggregate because they are often synergistic (e.g., local shuttles are more effective in conjunction with rail). Therefore, traditional measures of things like cost-effectiveness are not appropriate.