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City calls for new bus routes to attract more riders

City calls for new bus routes to attract more riders

A proposal of adding five minutes to each city bus route in order to offer more oft-requested stops was put before attendees at two separate meetings held by the city transportation division.


POSTED September 25, 2009 11:23 p.m.
The City of Turlock needs more people to get on the bus, if the city’s public transportation systems are to remain feasible.
It’s for that reason that City Hall played host to two public outreach meetings on Wednesday, inviting citizens, riders, and potential riders to comment on proposed bus route and fare changes.
“We’re looking for more riders and we’re looking for input from our riders,” said Turlock Traffic Engineer Roger Fall.
The need for some revision to the city’s bus routes is pressing, as Turlock is currently failing to meet state and federal standards for revenue generation.
Turlock Transit Services spends $5.81 per passenger on the Bus Line Service of Turlock, or BLAST. Each passenger on the Dial-A-Ride service costs the city almost $25.
The majority of those costs are recouped through state and federal transportation programs, but the City of Turlock is required to recover 15 percent of each passenger’s cost in fares under those programs.
While the final information for this fiscal year is not yet available, current data suggests Turlock will fall short of meeting the 15 percent goal, with fare box ratios currently hovering around 13 percent.
A large percentage of the decline in revenues can be attributed to a drop in ridership, which fell from 10.58 passengers per hour in the 2006/2007 fiscal year to 8.2 passengers per hour in the 2007/2008 fiscal year.
That year-over-year drop off is linked to a change in routes and a near doubling of fares, according to Fall. Both changes were required as a result of state and federal laws that reclassified Turlock as a metropolitan area and moved the cost recovery ratio from 10 to 15 percent, forcing the program to become more profitable.
Turlock Transit proposed on Wednesday offering free transfers between BLAST busses — normally $.25 — and a reduction in the price of student-only monthly passes from $40 to $30 in order to get Turlockers riding again.
Students comprise the majority of the 61 percent of regular fare passengers, while transfers account for 6 percent of riders. The remainder of the ridership is composed of 15 percent seniors, 8 percent disabled individuals, and 10 percent free riders, which are under age 3 or are assistants of handicapped riders.
Additionally, three alternate bus routes were proposed to meeting attendees, including a return to the pre-2008 routes.
In an informal vote held at the end of each meeting a modification of the current bus routes — adding five minutes to each route in order to offer more oft-requested stops like Costco, Central Park, Wal-Mart, Geer and Wayside, and additional routes to Emanuel Medical Center — garnered the most support.
Sheldon Luchart, owner of the Greyhound Bus Station in Turlock, proposed his own set of bus routes for BLAST at the request of Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden. Few in attendance supported his plan, which called for a new hub at the Greyhound station and 60-minute routes that traverse more residential streets.
“You got to go to where the people are at to get on the bus,” Luchart said.
Meeting attendees derided the plan as overly confusing to riders, difficult to implement, too reliant upon transfers, and too costly, as the City would be asked to pay Luchart more than $10,000 per year for the use of his facility.
Turlock Transit Services will move forward with drafting new bus routes based on the feedback heard during Wednesday’s meetings, which will come before the Turlock City Council at an undetermined date.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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