One of the best ways to get over the crowded Altamont Pass during the busy commute hours is by bus, yet many people have no idea such a service is offered.
The San Joaquin Regional Transit District aims to change that through a new campaign to not only inform commuters about the fantastic and easy bus service, but to give them a full week of free bus rides.
"The biggest advantage is instead of getting stressed out going over the Altamont, you can sleep or you can read or work," Terry Williams, the district's senior specialist in marketing, noted. "You have greater convenience. You're eliminating the stress factor. You're eliminating the price of fuel and the maintenance and wear and tear on your car. It all adds up. I've been there. I commuted over the Altamont every day for 10 years. By far, this is the best way."
The transit district runs buses to and from Stockton eight times a day with stops in Lathrop and Tracy. The buses end up at the east Dublin-Pleasanton BART station, where commuters can connect with a Wheels bus to get to their Hacienda location.
"Our ridership has increased markedly," Williams said. "A lot of people, especially when we do some of the outreach sessions, have expressed great surprise. They did not know that we had a service to Dublin BART, so we need to do a lot more to publicize this."
The transit district has offered the San Joaquin commuter bus service since December 1995. An eighth early morning bus route was recently added at 4:45 a.m. to meet demand.
"Until just recently, we were running seven buses a day, so this is an increased schedule," Williams said. "The reason we added it is because we were getting people saying they'd like to take (the commuter bus), but they need to get to work a little earlier in the day. So we basically added it to accommodate those folks."
Four buses that leave Stockton at staggered times in the morning with the first three stopping in Lathrop and Tracy to pick up riders. Manteca commuters can catch a connecter bus that will drop them in Tracy.
A second set of four bus routes starts up in the afternoon with the first bus leaving Stockton at 2 p.m. and the last bus heading out at 5:15 p.m.
"The reason for the afternoon shift is that there are a lot of people who want to get onto BART for reasons other than work," Williams said. "They may be going to (the airport) to fly out. Or they may be going into the city to do some shopping or go to a ballgame."
The afternoon runs also put the buses back at the BART station to pick up commuters returning home from work.
The service is a mere $7 per trip, one way, or $174 for a monthly pass.
"If you figure it out, you actually get your fare down to $4.35 each way, so it's a big savings," he noted.
New commuters will get an even bigger savings if they sign up for a pass good for one full week of free rides.
"If they like it, then when they need to buy a monthly pass, they'll get the very first one at 20 percent off," Williams said. "We'll also give them an (regional transit district) wallet they can put it in."
Beyond that, the local Toot Sweets bakery will sweeten the deal by offering a free coffee or cookie.
"We can't take away all your stress, but at least we can get rid of the stress you feel from driving on 580," Williams said. "It's so much more pleasant. You arrive at work feeling more like a human being instead of a wreck."
Learn more about the San Joaquin commuter bus service at sanjoaquinrtd.com/commuter .
Hacienda residents and employees may use this link for information about how to sign up for a free one-week pass for the Altamont Pass commuter bus: http://www.hacienda.org/form/details/new%20rider%20program%20sjrtd
Please use this link for information about free Wheels passes to use in conjunction with the free commuter bus pass: http://www.hacienda.org/form/details/wheels%20eco%20pass
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