The $12 million Soscol Gateway Transit Center is currently a wooden frame of a building visible from Soscol Avenue just south of Third Street. By December, it could be swarming with buses and passengers.
Along with the new transit center will come new VINE routes that are designed to get riders from Point A to Point B quickly, so that more people will choose to ride the bus.
“Most of our buses run once an hour, and there’s a rather indirect route of travel,” said Tom Roberts, manager of public transit for the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency. “I like to call it the sightseeing tour of Napa.”
The plan is to increase bus frequency and transfer points and have buses run on the most efficient paths, Roberts said.
“I think all our riders are going to think it’s a better service,” Roberts said. “Whatever it is you thought you knew about the bus system, it will be a whole new VINE.”
Napa City Councilman Peter Mott said the trick will be getting new riders to give the VINE a try. Those going to work and school represent the largest potential ridership market, according to a Transportation and Planning Agency study.
The agency hopes increased frequency and reliability will encourage people to try riding the bus. Routes have been designed with school locations in mind.
Currently, about 600,000 people ride VINE buses
annually. The agency would like to double that total in coming years.
“When folks travel around during the day, whether they’re going for banking or to the store, they tend to gravitate toward their neighborhood and we want to really be taking that into consideration in creating the routes,” Roberts said.
The new routes will allow riders to change buses for free at any point two lines cross, and will frequently stop at the new transit center and the Redwood Park and Ride. Currently, transfers can occur only at select locations.
“We want to create multiple transfer points so you can choose the best way to get around for you,” Roberts said. “We don’t want to drag you on a sightseeing tour through every neighborhood in the city.”
During peak hours, buses on the “transit corridor” running from the Redwood Road park-and-ride down Trancas Street to Soscol Avenue, then to Napa Valley College, will run every 15 minutes, Roberts said. Other buses will run every half-hour.
The NCTPA has been making improvements to bus stop shelters and buses in recent months. Last year, it rolled out the “Where’s My Bus?” smartphone application and computer program that allows riders to check exactly when their bus will arrive in real time.
“When you’re sitting there, especially on a rainy day, it just gives you that security that it’s here and it’s coming,” Mayor Jill Techel said.
The new transit center will have screens, similar to those at airports and train stations, that list when each bus will arrive, Roberts said.
Roberts said he does not expect the new routes to be confusing for riders, and explained that there will be education and outreach to help current riders determine which new bus routes to take.
The new transit center on Burnell Street will cost more than $12 million. It will replace the cramped center on Pearl Street next to Kohl’s department store.