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New Calaveras Transit Plan Rolls In

A six-month progress report and evaluation of Calaveras County´s transit system shows ridership is up and offers three alternatives to improve the bus service.

Last May supervisors narrowly and conditionally signed a four-year contract for bus service with MV transportation of Fairfield. The board voted 3-2 with Supervisors Paul Stein and Tom Tryon opposed. They said to maintain Calaveras Transit is a waste of taxpayers´ money.

Supervisor Victoria Erickson said she would temporarily support the system until it is clear to her whether the system is cost effective.

With that, the board ordered a report on the transit system and an evaluation of possible service alternatives.

The county hired Moore and Associates, a transportation consultant, to help the Calaveras Council of Governments (CCOG) with the Short Range Transit Plan for 2004 through 2009.

The plan lays out transit performance standards, current and future transportation needs, and determines the best way to provide service and what that service would look like. “Ridership is definitely up,” said Dan Wayne, CCOG transportation planner.

So far this fiscal year compared to same period last fiscal year, ridership is up 32.5 percent, Wayne said. And overall system revenue is up by 77.5 percent.

The fare-box recovery ratio, which mandates that county transportation systems recover 10 percent of their annual expenditures through passenger fares, is over 12 percent, Wayne said.

The fare-box recovery ratio is called for by the State Transportation Development Act, through which the county transit system receives about $400,000 in local operating funds.

Public participation in the development of the plan included an on-board survey, telephone survey, county employee survey, stakeholder interviews, community open houses and focus groups.

Some highlights of the telephone survey show 85 percent of people contacted indicated support for local government operating a transit service and 65 percent would support a small increase in local sales tax to improve and expand transit services, Wayne said.

Below is a summary of the plan´s proposed alternatives:

Alternative A includes new service to Rail Road Flat, flexible access to the government center, a new 7:57 p.m. departure from Columbia College, one to three additional round trips per community, easier travel by timed connections among county routes, and timed connection in Lodi to connecting routes.

Alternative B is similar to A but adds two southbound trips from Arnold to Columbia and three trips from Angels Camp to Arnold in order to alleviate overcrowding to and from Arnold and Columbia College.

Alternative C “goes a step further,” the plan said, by addressing a demand for Saturday service and service to Copperopolis.

CCOG´s board met last week and seemed to favor Alternative A, said George Dondero, CCOG executive director.

Alternative A is the “logical” choice because alternatives B and C really “build on A,” Dondero said.

The plan will be the topic of discussion for county supervisors during their meeting March 8.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com