Reimagine Metro

The First Wave Starts December 2023

Waves of change are coming! Santa Cruz METRO is reimagining bus routes and frequencies to better meet our community's needs. Our primary goals are to increase the amount of service provided, make transit more reliable and relevant to the community’s needs, adapt to post-COVID travel patterns, and create a network that is useful and attractive for many people’s trips. The first wave of Reimagine METRO service changes will begin December 21, 2023.


The changes scheduled for December encompass several key improvements, such as increased service coverage, higher frequency in areas with substantial transit demand, and the establishment of more straightforward and direct routes, particularly in Watsonville. Other changes include improved transfer options resulting in shorter wait times, modifications to route numbers and names, and adjustments to bus stop locations and street coverage for bus service.


We listened to your feedback about our current system, and these changes are the best options that METRO can provide with current funding. More changes will be coming with the next wave.

Key goals include:

  • Increase the amount of service provided
  • Make transit more relevant to the community’s needs
  • Adapt to post-COVID travel patterns
  • Create a network that is useful and attractive for many people’s trips

How Do We Get There?

We are planning changes to the network that would come into service in three phases:

  • Phase 1 - December 2023 and March 2024
  • Phase 2 – over the course of 2024, based on additional funding and operators.
  • Phase 3 – long-range improvements, once Phase 2 is complete and further resources become available.

Phase 1 - Starting December 2023

The METRO Board of Directors unanimously approved the Phase 1 service changes at its meeting on Friday, Sept. 22 that will begin in METRO’s Winter Schedule starting December 21, 2023. The changes include:

  • More service (a 10% increase over today and 25% more than spring 2023)
  • Higher frequency service in areas with high transit demand
  • Simpler, more direct routes, especially in Watsonville
  • Better transfers with shorter wait times and no additional fare
  • Some changes to route numbers and names
  • Some changes to bus stop locations and which streets have bus service

A Phase 1 system map can be viewed here. Specific service changes coming in December 2023 include:

  • Higher frequency between Watsonville and Santa Cruz:
  • A bus every 15 minutes between Santa Cruz and Watsonville.
  • A bus every 10-20 minutes at Cabrillo College
  • A bus every 30 minutes (or better) on all of Soquel Drive
  • The return of an express route between Watsonville and Santa Cruz during peak commute times
  • A NEW route in Watsonville serving the County’s new Health and Human Services facility
  • Continued 15-minute service on Routes 18 and 19
  • A NEW route connecting the UCSC campus to Live Oak and Capitola Mall

Specific service changes coming in March 2024 include:
    • A significant increase in night and weekend service:
        ◦ NEW Routes 1, 2, and 3 would each operate:
            ▪ Every 30 minutes until 9 PM
            ▪ Every 60 minutes until midnight
    • A NEW route in Watsonville serving the County’s new Health and Human Services facility

Phase 2 - Review in Process

In the coming months, the METRO Board of Directors will review a second round of bus service changes that could go into effect starting in June 2024. These changes include:

  • Increased, 15-minute frequency on three cross-county corridors serving Watsonville and Mid-County (WAVE SERVICE, see below for details)
  • Service extension from the east side of Santa Cruz through downtown to the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) campus, creating a frequent, one-seat ride from Cabrillo College or the Capitola Mall all the way to UCSC
  • A new, frequent route connecting Watsonville to Cabrillo College via Freedom Blvd. and Airport Rd.
  • All-day service on a Watsonville to Santa Cruz express route

New WAVE SERVICE from METRO coming to Santa Cruz County (Reimagine METRO Phase 2)

In 2022 and 2023 METRO worked with our communities to plan a network of service that is faster, more frequent and reliable in areas of high transit demand. In the process, METRO created simpler, more direct routes, many of which will operate with 15-minute frequency throughout the day for a more livable METRO system. WAVE SERVICE is the brand of 15-minute all day service because much like the waves in Santa Cruz, WAVE SERVICE will be frequent, and powerful in changing how residents use METRO.


Details of METRO's new WAVE SERVICE

  • More Service: Adds 43% more service for residents and 64 new jobs to the economy.
  • More Frequency: 15-minute all day service
  • Reliability: Straighter routes with transit signal priority (TSP) at intersections to keep buses moving fast, frequent, and reliable.
  • Access: In total, more than 100,000 residents will have access to WAVE SERVICE within a 5-minute walk.
  • Convenience: One-seat ride (no need to transfer buses) from Capitola, Live Oak to downtown Santa Cruz, and the UCSC campus. From Watsonville, WAVE SERVICE will create a frequent local route extending to Cabrillo College where an easy, free transfer can carry them to destinations along Soquel Avenue, downtown Santa Cruz and on to UCSC.
  • Added Benefits: Faster service from the San Lorenzo Valley area into Santa Cruz, as well as more frequent service on many of the routes in Watsonville, and the return of METRO’s popular all day express service (Route 90X) from Watsonville to downtown Santa Cruz.

Benefits of METRO’s Fast, More Frequent and Reliable Service

METRO’s reimagined bus system with WAVE SERVICE will double ridership to more than 7 million rides per year. This equates to a VMT reduction of 9,852,903 miles per year and a CO2 emission reduction of 40,068 metric tons per year. Meaning less congestion and emissions in Santa Cruz County. That’s transformational.


METRO with the new WAVE SERVICE brings livable transportation alternatives to residents—no matter what age, income or race. Equitable and easy to use transportation options for everyone, including freedom of travel to education, job access, health care. All signs of a healthy community. Finally, but certainly not least, METRO with WAVE SERVICE brings opportunities to better align housing opportunity with quality transportation, which will bring enhanced State and federal funding opportunities.


On December 7, 2023, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC) will vote on three areas of funding. To fully implement the new METRO reimagined bus system with WAVE SERVICE for the next three years please encourage RTC Commissioners to vote for the following:

  • $27 million in TIRCP funding to METRO. The intent from the legislature and Governor of this one-time State funding is to help transit agencies build ridership.
  • $7 million in Zero Emission Capital funding to METRO. The intent from the legislature and Governor of this one-time State funding is to help transit agencies with funding gaps in purchasing and building infrastructure for zero emission vehicles.
  • $5 million from the $27 million available in the Consolidated Grant Funding to METRO. This funding will allow intersections to be upgraded with transit signal priority so that buses running behind schedule with WAVE SERVICE can catch up and return on schedule.

Without these three investments, METRO will not be able to implement the transformational WAVE SERVICE. We urge you to vote yes to help communities build a better METRO.


A Phase 2 WAVE SERVICE system map can be viewed here

Get Involved

Visit the project website to comment on where we are headed:

  • Take the Alternatives Survey. Comment on near-term changes and your priorities for the future.
  • Read the Alternatives Report.
  • Learn more and sign up to get project updates.

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