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City struggles with bus breakdowns
bus routes pic
A number of Turlock Transit buses have been experiencing break downs recently, affecting reliability of service. - photo by Journal file photo

The City of Turlock has been working to increase bus ridership over the past year, however, reliability issues continue to plague the City's transit system.

The City's focus on improving public transit started with the appointment of Stanislaus State student Josie Hazelton as the inaugural Mayor's Public Policy Award recipient in January. Hazelton has been working on a project to increase affordability and convenience of public transportation for the town's college students.

Then in May, the City made a significant technological upgrade to its bus service installing the Fast Fare electronic fare boxes. Instead of purchasing ticket books weekly or monthly, riders are able to pre-purchase encoded, magnetic strip passes from City Hall, which are passes similar to those used on Bay Area Regional Transit trains.

Following a number of public outreach meetings, the City Council adopted a new fixed-route design for the City's bus system in June that increased the number of routes from four to six and hours were extended to offer later service on weekdays and Saturdays.

Despite all the progress made on Turlock's bus system, there is still more work needed to make Turlock Transit a reliable form of transportation for local residents.

Turlock resident James Pegueros brought his issues with the City's transit system to the City Council at their Oct. 25 meeting.

"I am getting tired of the bus systems breaking down," he said. "...Three buses broke down in one day and this is continuously, not one day, not two days, over year after year."

Pegueros said that the City of Modesto's buses and Stanislaus Regional Transit are always on time.

"Why are these bus systems on time and Turlock's not?" he asked the Council.

The City's director of Development Services, Mike Pitcock, looked into Pegueros' issues and gave a report to the City Council on Nov. 8.

"We are seeing a significant amount of break downs with part of our fleet," said Pitcock.

According to Pitcock, the City is seeing the most problems from its four 35-foot Orion buses. They are reaching the end of their time in service, with two scheduled to retire in 2018 and two in 2022. The City used to have a fifth Orion bus, but it caught on fire two years ago and will not be able to return to service.

"To complicate matters, they also are no longer being made so we're having issues getting the manufactured parts to get these things back on the road," said Pitcock about the Orions.

Not all the City's buses are breaking down. Turlock recently purchased five new Dial-A-Ride buses and the Federal Transportation Administration approved the transfer of two Merced Transit buses to Turlock and those should be in service this month.

The City is also working to replace the old buses. Turlock is part of a regional bus bid and Pitcock said they hope to be asking the Council in January to approve the purchase of four new 35-foot Gillig brand buses.

The federal funding  award for Phase II of the Avena Bella low-income housing complex also included funds to purchase a new bus.

"We're trying to do what we can to not only improve the bus service in the community, but also the reliability," said Pitcock.