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City to increase free bus passes to those in need
With a new company handling the advertising for local bus systems, the City of Turlock will be able to increase the amount of complimentary bus passes distributed to local nonprofits and the Turlock Unified School District. - photo by CANDY PADILLA/The Journal

Transit services for those in need in the community are becoming much more comprehensive due to the Turlock City Council’s approval of an agreement with a new firm to sell advertising on local buses, the revenue of which allows the City to provide transit tickets to local nonprofits and the Turlock Unified School District.

Since 1998 the City has had a partnership in place for such services with Alan Seaton Consulting Services to sell and maintain advertising on the “Blast” and “Dart” which gave the City $500 a month. The new partnership will afford the City $3,000 a month for the first year in turn allowing them to meet increasingly demanding fare box ratio requirements.

The fare box ratio is the percentage of operating expenses that are met by ticket sales as compared with the transportation system’s total operating expenses. Essentially in order to ensure that the system is operating efficiently enough, Turlock formerly had to meet a requirement of 15 percent in revenue from the fare tickets. However, with the growth in Stanislaus County the requirement has now risen.

“With the increase in the population in Stanislaus County to over 500,000 as of the 2010 census, we are now looking at a fare box ratio as of 2016 of 20 percent,” said Director of Development Services Mike Pitcock at the council meeting Tuesday evening.  “So were looking for any way and every way we can to enhance our fare box and one of the ways to do this is to bring the revenue in from ticket sales and benefit the community.”

If the city of Turlock did not achieve the necessary ratio it would have to augment funds with General Fund money, something Pitcock says he avoids.

At the behest of Council Member Amy Bublak the City reviewed their advertising agreement and in turn issued a Request for Proposals in Oct. 2014. Alan Seaton Consulting Services submitted a bid with the same rate alongside Stott Outdoor Advertising of Chico. A three person committee was formed to review the proposal and on Jan. 6, the agreement was awarded to Stott for “best meeting the terms and conditions of the RFP.” The three year contract with Stott will pay the City $3,000 a month for the first year and $4,200 after that.

“Obviously if we have $3,000 and $4,200 that’s going to allow us to help many more people,” said Wasden.

Stott will market the advertising space only to persons, companies, and businesses that agree to participate in the City’s transit program. The City of Turlock will provide bus passes to We Care, United Samaritans Foundation, Turlock Gospel Mission, Children’s Crisis Center, Haven Women’s Center, Turlock Salvation Army, and TUSD.