SamTrans Bus Stop on Kelly Avenue

A southbound SamTrans bus stops at the bus stop at Kelly Avenue and Church Street in Half Moon Bay on Friday, May 7, 2021. Adam Pardee / Review

Last week, the Half Moon Bay City Council joined the Pacifica City Council by formally endorsing the Seamless Transit Principles, a set of guidelines for San Francisco and Bay Area transit operators to establish a Highway 1 bus corridor and integrate public transportation across the region.

These principles are outlined by Seamless Bay Area, a nonprofit advocating transit agencies and elected officials embrace a unified and simplified transit system for buses, ferries and trains. So far, it

has been endorsed by over 34 organizations and 11 public bodies, including Alameda County, Redwood City, San Mateo and Berkeley. The seven principles listed on the nonprofit’s website include: run all Bay Area transit as one easy-to-use system, put riders first, make public transit equitable and accessible to all, align transit prices to be simple, fair, and affordable, connect effortlessly with other sustainable transportation, plan communities and transportation together, and prioritize reforms to create a seamless network.

The move comes as legislation on transit reform arrives at the state level.

Last month, Assemblyman David Chiu, of San Francisco, introduced AB 629, the Seamless and Resilient Bay Area Transit Act. The new bill seeks to integrate the region’s 27 transit systems by coordinating integrated fares, signage and wayfinding and improving access to low-income riders.

At the same meeting when Half Moon Bay council members approved the Seamless Transit Principles, they also received a presentation from SamTrans on its separate Reimagine SamTrans project, which is midway through a two-year redesign of a new bus system. It is expected to launch by summer 2022. SamTrans is weighing route alternatives to include high-frequency service, connections to rail lines and on-demand rideshares.

In Pacifica, all alternatives shorten or eliminate Route 112. Other options have Route 118 going from Pacifica to Colma BART, while Route 294 would be eliminated or provide less service in the middle of weekdays.

With SamTrans’ ridership down 65 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, Christy Wegener, a planning director for SanTrans, said it is looking for as much feedback as possible before it releases its “preferred network” this fall.

“We recognize it may be more difficult to grow new ridership considering long-term telework trends and unknown future travel patterns, but we do think we can grow more frequent ridership, and that’s really important to us as a mobility provider,” said Wegener.

Full-scale integration likely remains a long way off, said Rick Nahass, a member of the Pacifica Climate Committee and longtime advocate for improving public transportation from the Coastside into the rest of the Bay Area. Nahass said SamTrans’ initiative doesn’t address the root problem of localized public transportation, but acknowledged that project managers and staff are constrained by budgets.

Nahass believes that, with Pacifica and Half Moon Bay adopting the principles, the coast has signaled a desire for better services from transit agencies. Specifically, Nahass noted that if there was enough public input, there would be pressure on SamTrans to create a Highway 1 transit corridor, which is essentially a bus route similar to a rail line with buses staggered as frequently as 15 minutes.

The Seamless Principle would designate transportation cost by zone rather than distance. In an ideal situation, if someone wanted to travel from Half Moon Bay to San Francisco, “It wouldn’t matter if you went on a bus on Highway 92 and somehow connected with Caltrain, or took a bus up the coast,” Nahass said. “It would be the same price because you’re going from this zone to that zone.”

“In general, transit is so underfunded,” Nahass said. “And the leadership with SamTrans, which has been there for a long time, is not thinking about what could be.”

Staff writer Jane Northrop contributed to this story.

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