Reimagine SamTrans Brings Updated Bus Routes to East Palo Alto

This year SamTrans is bringing 4 updated bus routes and a new on-demand system to East Palo Alto as part of the Reimagine SamTrans initiative.

This year SamTrans is bringing 4 updated bus routes and a new on-demand system to East Palo Alto as part of the Reimagine SamTrans iniative. Several months ago, there was a very detailed breakdown of the exact changes to each route, and oddly now there is very little information on their website.

Because there is little information available now, about which routes are changing and when they will be implemented, I wanted to put together a brief post to update the community. I have personally used all 3 routes - 296, 280, and 281 - in East Palo Alto, so I can also write from my firsthand experience taking these buses.

Below is the new route frequency map taken from the SamTrans website here.

SamTrans frequency map

This article is focusing on how this network impacts East Palo Alto, so here is the cropped image below.

Here is my evaluation of pros and cons on the new map. If you want to look up the old map, you can find it on the SamTrans website.

Route 296 (in red in left photo)


  • runs every 15 minutes now instead of every 20 minutes (but this does not seem accurate because the route effective 8/7/22 shows every 20 minutes)
  • It is still very useful since it goes to Downtown Menlo Park and Downtown Redwood City, with access to both Caltrain stops.
  • Bypasses the VA hospital in Menlo Park in one direction which was a timely detour, based on my experience taking the bus.
  • There is a Route 296 OWL which goes down University to Palo Alto Caltrain, which is useful for residents in the center and left half of East Palo Alto.


  • There is a Route 296 OWL which does not go down Pulgas Ave and Clarke Ave in the evenings, which makes it less useful for residents on the right half of East Palo Alto.
  • It can be confusing when the cutoff is between Route 296 and Route 296 OWL. For instance, someone might get on at Menlo Park Caltrain expecting to get off on Clarke, and then be surprised when the bus turns onto University and goes to Palo Alto Caltrain.

Route 280 (in green in left photo)


  • It's nice seeing the bus route a lot more streamlined. When I took Route 280, it spent around 10 - 15 minutes going in a loop on the east of University Ave by Woodland Apartments and then going in a loop on the west side. I never wanted to take that route again because it made the trip feel very inefficient.


  • same frequency of every 60 min, which really isn't useful for residents wanting to take ad hoc but can still be useful for people who can plan out their trip (I recommend using the Transit app)
  • Streamlining the route is a con for people living in the Woodland Apartments area, as they will need to walk to access the bus. Walking is difficult given the lack of sidewalks and the congestion of parked cars in the area. However, note that the East Palo Alto on-demand zone is meant to alleviate some of this downside, though I am not sure how much it will be utilized and how it will look.

Route 281 (in blue in left photo)


  • It is being extended to Stanford's campus.


  • No other improvements.

EPX to Downtown Redwood City, SFO Airport, and Downtown San Bruno

From the SamTrans PDF:

A new Route EPX will connect East Palo Alto and Redwood City to SFO Airport and the San Bruno BART Station (select trips will also serve downtown San Francisco).

There is not enough information on this line. I am very excited about it personally as I can take the Route 296 to the Ravenswood 101 Shopping Center and then hop on the EPX to SFO. Currently I would take Route 296 to Downtown Menlo Park, take the Caltrain to Millbrae, then take a bus or BART to SFO.

I am worried about it not running very frequently or at times when I am trying to come back from the airport like at 9pm in the evening. I may not use this as much, but I hope that residents who live closer to the Ravenswood 101 Shopping Center will use it.

New On-Demand Service in East Palo Alto

From the SamTrans website:

Some areas are difficult to serve by traditional bus service and may benefit from door-to-door service and less walking to bus stops. The new network will feature new on-demand zones in Half Moon Bay and East Palo Alto. To use on-demand service, riders call or use a mobile app to request a ride and a vehicle picks them up and drops them off anywhere within the designated zone. Riders pay a fare and may share the vehicle with other riders, just like riding a regular SamTrans bus.

I honestly don't know much about this and there aren't many implementation details. I plan to use this service when it comes out and will report back later. I am concerned about it being implemented in a way that is not very useful, and I am concerned about it sounding better than it might actually be.


In this post, I have discussed the 4 updated bus routes and 1 updated on-demand system. Overall, I think this is an improvement to our bus system. There are unanswered questions though about EPX and the East Palo Alto on-demand service. I don't think any EPA residents know about these, so I'd like to spread the word and I also think we should be studying the usage patterns. Maybe a topic for our next Public Works & Transportation Commission meeting!

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