College students, faculty and staff can now ride Turlock buses for free, following Turlock City Council action.
The Council approved expanding its free rides for students policy to include college students (not just from Stanislaus State but all colleges), faculty and staff during their Aug. 9 meeting.
“…this is a huge advancement to the lifestyles not only of our students, but our faculty, staff and administration. It is also very important to emphasize the importance of community effort between Stanislaus State and the Turlock community because it creates an entire community feeling,” said Stanislaus State’s Associated Students Inc. President Destiny Suarez during the Council meeting.
Suarez said that ASI has been reaching out to gather information on transportation needs for students. She said they learned that the demand for public transportation accessibility since the university returned to in-person classes after COVID has been just as much as it was pre-pandemic.
The City had previously partnered with Stanislaus State for the University Pass Transit Funding Agreement with ASI. In May 2021, this agreement was terminated in recognition of major reductions to student ridership demand associated with pandemic-related campus closures.
Based on data gathered from ASI from January through March 2022, City transit staff estimates a loss of approximately $10,000 per year from a reduction in the use of 31-Day passes on Token Transit from approving free rides for college students. According to City staff, this impact could be mitigated somewhat with the anticipated increase in non-university ridership over the course of the year, but that exact level of increase is unknown. Staff stated that the City has sufficient transit grant funding within the capital subprogram that could be transferred over to cover any loss in revenue.
Along with the rate change for college students, Turlock Transit Manager Wayne York presented a variety of modifications to fixed route bus service that will be implemented Sept. 6.
Route 4 will be modified to allow for direct service to the Turlock Library and Senior Center.
“We’re going to be modifying (Route 4) to serve the library directly. This is a request that actually came out of the last Short-Range Transit Plan that due to COVID and a variety of other reasons, we weren’t able to move on that as quickly as we’d like. So, we’re now going to be incorporating that into this change, serving the library and Senior Center,” said York.
A brand-new Route 7 will serve the westside of Turlock, including stops at the movie theatre on West Main and industrial complexes on Fransil Lane and the new Amazon warehouse on Fulkerth Road.
The City is also implementing an on-demand bus service available for all users in Turlock and Denair. This would be a separate service than the Dial-a-Ride service for Americans with Disabilities Act riders. On-demand users can book a ride by phone, via the Turlock Transit website or mobile app. Fares for one-way ADA paratransit trips would remain at $1 per trip. On-Demand service with discount fares for seniors, K-6 students, and anyone traveling to Denair set at $2.50 per one-way trip. Individuals using the On-Demand service near a fixed route, that don’t qualify for a discount, would pay $5 per one-way trip. This premium pricing helps incentivize use of the fixed route system. The City will also continue the Amtrak Shuttle Pilot Project that was launched in January, which provides on-demand trips to the Denair Amtrak station for $2.50 per person.
York asked the Council to consider creating a Transit Pass Program in the future. This type of program would create a criteria for certain individuals, such as low-income or refugees, to receive a free bus pass. The City could distribute the passes or partner with local agencies such as the Salvation Army and/or the International Rescue Committee to manage the program.
“I’ve received inquiries over the past six months to a year from individuals to groups within the community that have asked, ‘hey what can the City do to help provide free passes to certain groups?’ We do not currently have the authority to offer that up. So I bring it before Council tonight to ask you if there’s any desire to explore the development of a Transit Pass Program,” said York.
For more information on Turlock Transit fixed route or on-demand bus service, visit turlocktransit.com.