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Public transportation hub rolls forward

POSTED June 8, 2009 2:31 p.m.
The Turlock Planning Commission kept plans moving to construct a new public transportation hub during their Thursday night meeting, voting 6-1 in favor of the $1.75 million development.
Alternate Planning Commissioner Victor Pedroza, who sat on the commission as a result of Chairman Michael Brem's absence, cast the lone dissenting vote.
The development, which will be funded entirely by federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds and state Prop 1B transportation funds, will reside in the triangle of land bordered by Dels Lane, Golden State Boulevard, and Hawkeye Avenue. The parcel will feature six bus shelters, a bicycle rack, landscaping, and lighting, while the southwest end of the lot will remain vacant for future development.
The new transit hub will be directly adjacent to the current transit hub, which forces passengers to transfer on Dels Lane itself, with busses making use of the wide bike lane to conduct transfers in the street without blocking traffic.
"This won't increase our ridership," Turlock Traffic Engineer Roger Fall said. "This, to me, will provide a safer area, a more convenient area, for getting on and off the bus."
While the idea of a safer, larger transit hub seemed appealing to many who spoke at Thursday's meeting, the proposed location did not sit well with several Turlockers. A petition containing 1970 signatures was delivered to the Planning Commission, requesting that the transit hub be constructed downtown rather than across from the fairgrounds.
"It's been in the works for two years already so I would sound like a fly in the ointment but I don't think the hub has been thought through," said Turlocker Pat Noda. "... Unless you change the hub you're not serving the needs of the people, and they're not going to ride something that takes them the wrong way."
The proposed hub will be about a 20-minute walk from downtown Turlock.
The transit hub was positioned downtown on Golden State Boulevard between Olive Avenue and Crane Avenue prior to 2007, when the City Council made a policy decision to move the transfer station to its current location.
According to Fall, the decision was made in response to business complaints about parking, city concerns about passenger safety, and issues where several accidents occurred involving busses, bus shelters, and the bus mirrors due to the slope of Golden State Boulevard at that location. Fall also said that public workshops were held on the move in 2007, "that no one attended but one or two bus drivers."
Fall said that the Bus Line Service of Turlock has seen an approximately 25 percent decline in ridership since moving the transit hub, but believes the decline to be primarily due to a doubling or tripling of fares which occurred at the same time. He stated the fare increase was required by California fare box ratio standards.
As the funding for the transit hub will come entirely from state and federal grants meant for shovel-ready projects, the City of Turlock has had to act quickly to secure a limited amount of funds. As a downtown hub would be both more costly and require more time to complete, the city would be unable to construct such a project with the current funding source.
"Denying this isn't going to get the hub downtown," Fall said. "It's going to get the alternate improvement (a dispatch and drivers' operation center for city busses) at the capital yard."
Fall also stated that the hub could later be sold and repositioned downtown, if the council so wishes.
Though many commissioners disagreed with the policy decision to place the hub on Hawkeye Avenue and Golden State Boulevard, the plan won the approval of the Planning Commission. The legislative role of the Planning Commission is simply to determine General Plan and zoning consistency - not to make policy - and as the evidence pointed toward acceptability of the use, commissioners felt obligated to approve the plan.
The transit hub is expected to come before the City Council again prior to final approval, however, and Planning Commissioner Soraya Fregosi suggested that those in favor of a downtown transit hub take their arguments to the next level.
"They (the council) need to know every time what they're doing right and what they possibly may not be doing right, and how they can make better decisions," Fregosi said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.
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