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San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans)
Samtrans logo.png
SamTrans collage.jpg
ParentSan Mateo County Transit District
Founded1 July 1976
Headquarters1250 San Carlos Ave.
San Carlos CA
LocaleSan Francisco Peninsula
Service areaSan Mateo County
Service typebus service, express bus, paratransit
Daily ridership50,000 (2012)
OperatorSamTrans (most fixed-route), MV Transportation (fixed-route and shuttles),[1][2][3]First Transit (paratransit)[4]
WebsiteOfficial website

SamTrans (stylized as samTrans; officially the San Mateo County Transit District) is a public transport agency in and around San Mateo, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. It provides bus service throughout San Mateo County and into portions of San Francisco and Palo Alto. SamTrans also operates commuter shuttles to BART stations and community shuttles. Service is largely concentrated on the east side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and, in the central county, I-280, leaving coast-side service south of Pacifica spotty and intermittent.[5]

SamTrans is constituted as a special district under California state law. It is governed by a board of nine appointed members; two county Supervisors, one "transportation expert" appointed by the county Board of Supervisors, three city councilpersons appointed by the cities in the county to represent the county's judicial districts, and three citizens appointed by the other six board members (including one from the coastside).

The district was established in 1976 and consolidated eleven different municipal bus systems serving the county. One year later, SamTrans began operation of mainline bus service to San Francisco. Shuttle service began in 2000.[6]

In addition to fixed route bus and paratransit operations, the district participates in the administration of the San Jose-San Francisco commuter rail line Caltrain. SamTrans also provides administrative support for the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, a separate board charged with administering the half-cent (0.5 percent) sales tax levy that funds highway and transit improvement projects.


SamTrans was formed in 1976 with the consolidation of 11 different city bus systems throughout San Mateo County.[23] Today, SamTrans operates 48 fixed bus routes and a paratransit service branded Redi-Wheels (Bayside) or RediCoast (Coastside)[24] on an annual budget of $177 million.[25]

Voters in San Mateo County approved the formation of the San Mateo County Transit District in 1974. SamTrans purchased the local bus fleet from Greyhound in 1977, and the SamTrans fleet exceeded 200 buses by 1980.[26]

In August 2013 the agency merged two routes along El Camino Real into the single all-day ECR route with 15-minute headways,[27][28] briefly stemming a long-term decline in bus ridership that began in the early 1990s. Ridership on SamTrans buses was 52,140 passengers per weekday in November 2009;[29] by November 2017, it had fallen to 37,830 bus passengers per weekday[30] and continues to decline, further threatening the agency's budget.[31] According to a route-level analysis, in 2014, four lines accounted for more than half of all weekday riders: ECR, 120, 292, and 122/28, with ECR alone accounting for more than ​ of all weekday riders.[6]:37

SamTrans is predicting a $28 million budget deficit by 2024[32] if it maintains existing levels of service and revenue sources, driven largely by growing employee pension obligations. In November 2017 the agency announced that it would place another ​-cent (0.5 percent) sales tax, dubbed "Get Us Moving",[33] on the county's November 2018 ballot. Officially SamTrans has not developed a spending plan for the estimated $80 million in annual revenues, but according to the San Mateo Daily Journal, "A very preliminary proposal suggested half of the money go toward SamTrans and Caltrain, both facing financial difficulty. The remaining revenue could be allocated in a manner similar to the current countywide transportation tax that supports projects covering highways, local roads, grade separations, bikes, pedestrians and other transit-related expenditures."[34] The Staff Report stated that half the revenue raised by the proposed tax would go to public transit projects, with the remainder going to highway/interchange improvements (22.5%), local safety/pothole repairs (12.5%), regional connections (10%), and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure (5%).[35] Measure W passed on the November 2018 ballot; requiring a two-thirds majority, 66.9% of voters approved the measure.[36]


SamTrans headquarters are at 1250 San Carlos Avenue in a 125,000-square-foot (11,600 m2) building built in 1979 and acquired in 1990, one block southwest of the San Carlos Caltrain station.[6]

SamTrans has two maintenance bases. North Base opened in 1988. It is in South San Francisco, just north of San Francisco International Airport and adjacent to U.S. 101 and I-380. South Base opened in 1984 near the San Carlos Airport, east of U.S. 101 off Redwood Shores Parkway. Primary maintenance is carried out at North Base, which can store 200 buses. South Base can store 150 buses.[6] SamTrans also owns Brewster Depot in Redwood City, which is used by its subcontractor MV Transportation for storage and dispatching; Brewster Depot is 3,000 square feet (280 m2) and was built in 1940.[6]

Bus service

Currently, SamTrans serves the cities of San Mateo County, including Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, Colma, Daly City, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Pacifica, Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, and South San Francisco. Most routes provide connecting service to BART, Caltrain, or both. There is also regular scheduled service to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco.

Unlike most large transit operators in the Bay Area, SamTrans outsources to private contractors the operation of a number of its routes. The current contract operator for Peninsula mainline, Coastside and paratransit services is MV Transportation.

SamTrans previously operated special service for a couple of Bay Area events such as San Francisco 49ers home football games and the quirky Bay To Breakers footrace in San Francisco.

Route designations

samTrans route numbering scheme[37][a][b][c]
2 9 2
Transit connections Areas served / Express sequence[38] Sequence number / Express
-- "Community route", no inter-agency connection[d] A Sequential alphabetic designator for express route[e] X Designates express service
1 Connects to BART 1 Coastside 0 Sequential number assigned to numbered routes
2 Connects to Caltrain 2 North County Colma / Daly City  
3 Connects to BART and Caltrain 3 Brisbane / South San Francisco
  4 San Bruno / Millbrae / Burlingame
5 Mid County San Mateo / Foster City
6 Belmont / San Carlos
7 Redwood City
8 South County Menlo Park / East Palo Alto / Palo Alto
9 Multi-city service
  1. ^ One exception is for Route ECR, which designates the line that replaced Route 390, operating along El Camino Real between Daly City and Palo Alto
  2. ^ Another exception is for Route FLX, a circulator route in Pacifica
  3. ^ Another exception is for Route SFO, a loop route between Millbrae Intermodal Station and San Francisco International Airport
  4. ^ In general, express routes do connect with other Bay Area transit agencies, including BART, Caltrain, Muni, AC Transit, and VTA, despite the lack of the third-digit designator.
  5. ^ For example, the first express route was AX, followed by BX, CX, etc.

SamTrans reorganized its bus routes in August 1999 and adopted a new route designation system to identify service types, geographical coverage, and connections to rail services.


Local routes have either two or three digits or a special designation (e.g., ECR). For three digit routes, the first digit identifies a rail connection:

  • 1 - Connection to BART stations only (primarily routes in Daly City, Colma, South San Francisco and San Bruno)
  • 2 - Connection to Caltrain stations only (primarily routes south of Millbrae)
  • 3 - Connection to both BART and Caltrain stations (three routes have this designation: ECR, previously designated 390, provides service between Palo Alto and Daly City, 397 provides overnight service between San Francisco and Palo Alto as a part of the All Nighter network, and 399 provides overnight service between Daly City and San Francisco International Airport as a part of the All Nighter network.)

All two digit routes are community service routes. Most of these routes do not connect with rail and operate on school days.

Express routes

Express bus routes were designated by a letter and X. In December 2009, six express routes (DX, FX, MX, NX, PX, and RX)[39] were eliminated due to budget constraints; a seventh, route CX, was redesignated Route 118. In August 2018, the last remaining express route, KX, was folded into Route 398.[40]

In April 2017, SamTrans identified fifteen potential express bus routes connecting the Peninsula counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. Most of the potential routes ran along U.S. 101, and some were planned to take advantage of managed lanes to provide speedier service. By June 2018, the list of potential bus routes was reduced to six.[41][42] The draft final report was released in November 2018, and the Board adopted it in December.[43] SamTrans anticipates relaunching express bus service in August 2019 from Foster City to downtown San Francisco along U.S. 101. Then a second route in Spring/Summer of 2020 from Palo Alto to western San Francisco along I-280.[44]


Since 1-1-2020 in US dollars[45][46]

Fare category Cash/[a]
Clipper Transfers[c][d] &
Day pass Monthly pass
Adult[f] Local $2.25 $2.05 - $4.50 $65.60
Express[g] $4.50 $4.00 $1.95[h] $130
Youth[i] &
Eligible Discount[j]
Local $1.10 $1.00 - $2.00 $27
Express[g] $2.25 $2.00 $1.00
  1. ^ No change cards provided after 1 April 2020.
  2. ^ Purchases made using the samTrans mobile app for smartphones.
  3. ^ For riders who hold a single-ride local fare, within two hours of purchase, when purchased using Clipper or samTrans mobile app.
  4. ^ Transfers for riders who have purchased express fare to local service are free, when purchased using samTrans mobile app.
  5. ^ For holders of samTrans local monthly passes, AC Transit/Dumbarton Express 31-day tickets, Caltrain 2-zone monthly passes, or VTA monthly passes
  6. ^ Ages 19-64
  7. ^ a b Fare for express routes, such as FCX.
  8. ^ $2.25 for holders of local day passes.
  9. ^ Ages 6-18
  10. ^ Eligible discounts apply to riders who are Senior (Ages 65+), Disabled, or Medicare cardholder

SamTrans offers bus tokens for adult and youth local fares, US$16 and US$10 respectively, in packages of ten. Multiple tokens or combinations of tokens and cash are accepted for journeys requiring higher fares. Tokens are promoted as being easier to handle than cash, and also include discounts. For example, a package of tokens includes 2 free rides assuming the others are worth $2 each (adult) or $1.25 each (youth).

SamTrans does not provide transfers but offers a Day Pass which allows unlimited rides on local routes and a credit on higher-cost routes. The cost of the Day Pass is thrice the one-way fare on the local routes for adults, youth, and seniors/disabled/Medicare cardholders.

As of 22 December 2010, Clipper card fare machines became fully operational throughout the system, allowing riders to pay fares using Clipper card, a transit smart card that is also accepted by most other Bay Area transit agencies.

Clipper cards come in four varieties: adult, youth, senior and disabled (which includes Medicare cardholders). Adult Clipper cards may be obtained from a wide variety of vendors, but youth, senior and disabled Clipper cards must be obtained from SamTrans or another Bay Area transit agency. Each Clipper card contains some sort of stored value (e.g., monthly passes, "Clipper Cash" e-funds used for transit fares) and the history of recent trips using the card. Clipper cards generally confer an approximately 10% discount relative to cash fares.

With the exception of youth summer passes, all SamTrans monthly passes must be loaded onto a Clipper card. Youth, senior and disabled monthly passes may only be loaded onto a corresponding Clipper card obtained from SamTrans or another Bay Area transit agency.

To ride SamTrans with Clipper card, the card must be "tagged" (read) by the Clipper card reader installed at the front of the bus near the farebox. The reader checks for a SamTrans monthly pass and local-fare credits from other agencies, computes the remaining fare and (if there is one) collects it in Clipper Cash. Note that northbound passengers on route KX to San Francisco must "tag" their Clipper card twice: once when boarding within San Mateo County (which collects a local fare or equivalent) and once before exiting in San Francisco (which collects any remaining fare).

Caltrain monthly passes (with two or more zones) and VTA monthly passes (that have been tagged on VTA in the last two hours) are honored on SamTrans as a local-fare credit. To use a local-fare credit from a monthly pass loaded onto a Clipper card on higher-cost routes, the remaining fare must be collected in Clipper Cash.

New fareboxes were installed in June 2011. The fareboxes collect fares, issue new magnetic striped tickets (e.g., day passes, change cards) and process previously issued magnetic striped tickets (e.g., day passes, youth summer passes, change cards). When a patron does not have exact change, a change card is issued with a cash value that can be redeemed at a future farebox transaction for up to a year.

Up to 3 kids under 5 with fare-paying rider can board for free.


The Gillig Phantom - SamTrans' former fleet workhorse. Note the highback seats, uncommon on local buses in the United States.

SamTrans currently has a fleet of 296 buses of various sizes for its fixed-route service. Fifty-five are articulated buses made by North American Bus Industries with the 10 m (35 ft) and 12 m (40 ft) buses with low flooring, are made by the Gillig Corporation. Each bus is equipped with GPS tracking providing both visual and voice next-stop announcements, and are accessible to passengers in wheelchairs and limited mobility. In addition, most of the fleet has highback seats, with the notable exception of the Gillig low-floor buses. This enables greater fleet flexibility in terms of local and express routes.

The newest type of bus operated by SamTrans, the Gillig BRT. It's replacing the Gillig Phantom series on all its routes.

In 2009, SamTrans added 135 custom made Gillig low floor buses to their fleet, numbered 400-490, 500-539 & 2900-2903, replacing 137 older Gillig Phantom buses in their fleet.[47]

In 2018, SamTrans placed an order for 10 Proterra 40-foot Catalyst E2 buses as a first step towards the goal to have an all-electric fleet by 2033.[48] The battery electric buses are expected to enter revenue service in early 2019, and a charging station will be installed at each SamTrans maintenance facility.[49]

See also


  1. ^ "Transparency in service delivery" (PDF). MV Transportation. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ "MV Transportation Selected to Continue Operation of SamTrans CUB Service" (PDF) (Press release). MV Transportation. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ Weigel, Samantha (28 April 2015). "Shuttle provider suing SamTrans: Parking Company of America claiming transit agency erred in denying contract". San Mateo Daily Journal. Archived from the original on 10 July 2015. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ "First Transit Awarded SamTrans New Redi-Wheels Service Contract" (Press release). First Transit. 22 January 2015. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ Angelica Pence (12 May 2000). "SamTrans to Add Shuttle Service Along the Coast New route around Half Moon Bay". the San Francisco Chronicle.
  6. ^ a b c d e Final Draft: San Mateo Count Transit District: Short Range Transit Plan - Fiscal Years 2014-2023 (PDF) (Report). samTrans. 29 December 2014. Retrieved 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j SamTrans Finance Division (8 October 2004). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2004 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 47-49. Retrieved 2018.
  8. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (21 October 2005). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2005 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 51-53. Retrieved 2018.
  9. ^ a b SamTrans Finance Division (13 October 2006). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2006 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 43, 54-55. Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ a b SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2007). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2007 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 45, 56-57. Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ a b SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2008). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2008 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 48, 51-52. Retrieved 2018.
  12. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2009). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2009 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 48, 59-60. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2010). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2010 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 51, 62-63. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2011). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2011 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 51, 62-63. Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2012). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2012 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 48, 58-59. Retrieved 2018.
  16. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2013). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2013 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 54, 64-65. Retrieved 2018.
  17. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2014). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Years Ended June 30, 2014 and 2013 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 54, 64-65. Retrieved 2018.
  18. ^ a b SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2015). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2015 With Comparative Totals for 2014 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 62, 74-75. Retrieved 2018.
  19. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2016). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Years Ended June 30, 2016 and 2015 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 56, 68-69. Retrieved 2018.
  20. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (30 November 2017). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Years Ended June 30, 2017 and 2016 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 54, 66-67. Retrieved 2018.
  21. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (5 November 2018). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Years Ended June 30, 2018 and 2017 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 59, 66-67. Retrieved 2019.
  22. ^ SamTrans Finance Division (31 October 2019). Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Years Ended June 30, 2019 and 2018 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. pp. 56, 71-72. Retrieved 2020.
  23. ^ "SamTrans Bus Operations History". Retrieved 2017.
  24. ^ "Paratransit". samTrans. 24 June 2016. Retrieved 2018.
  25. ^ "San Mateo County Transit District FY2018 Proposed Operating Budget" (PDF). Retrieved 2017.
  26. ^ "Transportation History". Sustainable San Mateo County. Retrieved 2018.
  27. ^ "SamTrans Upgrades El Camino Real Bus Service With More Reliable Route". Streetsblog San Francisco. 22 August 2013. Retrieved 2017.
  28. ^ "Rider's Digest" (PDF). SamTrans. August 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 August 2013. Retrieved 2018.
  29. ^ Multimodal Ridership Report--November 2009 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. 13 January 2010. p. 8. Retrieved 2018.
  30. ^ Multimodal Ridership Report -- November 2017 (PDF) (Report). San Mateo County Transit District. 3 January 2018. p. 18. Retrieved 2018.
  31. ^ Clark, Zachary (17 February 2018). "SamTrans ridership dropping". San Mateo Daily Journal. Retrieved 2018.
  32. ^ Weigel, Samantha (2 November 2017). "SamTrans begins rebrand". San Mateo Daily Journal. Retrieved 2017.
  33. ^ "Get Us Moving San Mateo County". samTrans. Retrieved 2018.
  34. ^ Weigel, Samantha (22 November 2017). "SamTrans, county look to sales tax". San Mateo Daily Journal. Retrieved 2017.
  35. ^ Fromson, Casey (11 July 2018). Adoption of Transactions and Use Tax Ordinance, Adoption of San Mateo County Congestion Relief Plan and Call for election on ordinance (PDF) (Report). samTrans. Retrieved 2018.
  36. ^ "November 6, 2018 - Election Results". Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder & Elections, County of San Mateo. 6 December 2018. Retrieved 2019.
  37. ^ "Schedules". samTrans. 17 November 2002. Archived from the original on 17 December 2002. Retrieved 2018.
  38. ^ "Timetables". samTrans. 2013. Archived from the original on 5 August 2013. Retrieved 2018.
  39. ^ "Service Reductions & Alternate Transportation" (PDF). SamTrans. December 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 January 2010. Retrieved 2018.
  40. ^ "Rider's Digest" (PDF). samTrans. August 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  41. ^ "US-101 Express Bus Feasibility Study". SamTrans. 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  42. ^ US-101 Express Bus Feasibility Study (PDF) (Report). samTrans. November 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  43. ^ "SamTrans Board Adopts Express Bus Study" (Press release). samTrans. 5 December 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  44. ^ Clark, Zachary (7 December 2018). "Express buses set for rollout". San Mateo Daily Journal. Retrieved 2018.
  45. ^ SamTrans Fare Chart
  46. ^ "2020 Fare Changes". samTrans. 1 January 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  47. ^ Rosenberg, Mike (28 December 2009). "SamTrans rolls out new buses with sleeker look, more features". East Bay Times. Retrieved 2018.
  48. ^ "SamTrans Orders 10 Proterra Catalyst E2 Buses and Sets A 100 Percent Zero-Emission Fleet Goal by 2033" (Press release). Cision PR Newswire. 14 March 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  49. ^ Clark, Zachary (9 March 2018). "SamTrans acquires 10 electric buses". San Mateo Daily Journal. Retrieved 2018.

External links

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