As cities across the country clamor for more reliable public transportation infrastructure, Stockton is quietly laying the groundwork for an expansion of its wildly popular Bus Rapid Transit service known as the Metro Express.
RTD is rolling out plans for its latest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service line in south Stockton that will primarily travel along Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard. The new service—dubbed Metro Express 49– will provide reliable travel along the busy south side corridor while also providing connections to the northern parts of the city. Funding would come from a variety of sources including federal transportation grants, local Measure K dollars and state
funding sources. On June 30th, the California State Transportation Agency announced $6..8 million in funding for the new route and other potential routes in the future.
Metro Express is categorized as a “Bus Rapid Transit” service and is distinguished from regular bus routes by providing high quality, high capacity service comparable to light rail, though at a fraction of the cost. Some of the time-saving features of BRT include off-board fare collection and signal prioritization.
Currently, travel along MLK Boulevard is spotty for those without cars. The existing bus service—Route 55— only runs hourly and does not cover the entirety of MLK. RTD’s new Metro Express 49 would improve headways to 15-20 minutes and extend beyond I-5 to nearly Highway 99. According to RTD officials, the new route will also transport passengers from one end of the line to the other in 20 minutes.
RTD’s current Metro Express routes have proven wildly popular as ridership on some lines has been so high that the agency had to invest in articulated buses to expanded capacity. On Hammer Lane, ridership jumped from a weekday average of just 375 with standard RTD service to 2,000 once Metro Express 40 began operations, according to one RTD official.
The new route along MLK will be a welcome addition to an area that could greatly benefit from stronger transportation options. Not only will residents be able to travel between south side neighborhoods with much greater frequency, but there will also be a connection to Metro Express 43 which will connect South Stockton to destinations to the north such as Delta College, the University of the Pacific and the malls.
The new route is still a year or two away at best, but RTD’s community outreach is already in full swing. The transit agency hosted a public open house in late June at their Downtown Transit Center and will hold another forum on July 1st fromm 9:00am to 12:00pm at the Fairgrounds. RTD is weighing three route alternatives for the new service developed from feedback received from a recent rider survey. The three alternatives all travel down MLK, with one route circling the fairgrounds via airport way and two other options extending east to Mariposa Road. Residents are invited to come and learn about the service and provide input on the routes to ensure the best delivery possible. For those who cannot attend workshops, RTD is also soliciting feedback online at sanjoaquinrtd.com/express