Valley Express: City Council learns
fixed route buses to roll out soon

February 25, 2015
Santa Paula News

Having local-decision making and giving commuters a shot at serious public transit are goals that have finally been met the City Council was told at the February 17 meeting where they received an overview of the Valley Express bus service.

Valley Express, two fixed routes that will serve Santa Paulans’ needs within the city, will kick off Monday, March 2, with an 11:30 a.m. dedication at City Hall. 

Interim Public Works Director Brian Yanez told the council that the first day of service will be free so all Santa Paulans can take a ride and get a taste for traveling using mass transit.

He noted Councilwoman Ginger Gherardi, who for 17 years was executive director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC), and former Councilman Ralph Fernandez, worked hard on finalizing the system.

Valley Express is a partnership of Santa Paula, Fillmore and Ventura County/Piru, the latter two that will have one fixed route bus a day. Service will continue for those who use Dial-A-Ride — in fact, it is hoped the new, easily accessible fixed route system will replace DAR service for those who are not elderly and/or handicapped — as well as the VISTA 126 bus that connects commuters to other cities.

Although there had been talk of a fixed route bus service in river valley communities for years, Yanez said concerns surfaced in 2011 about long-term funding, “increasing demand” and the county’s ability to provide “sustainable” services.

 With the projected river valley population to rise by 30 percent in 2020 and more and more people seeking public transit, Yanez said it was time to wean commuters off the pricey to maintain Dial-A-Ride and onto mass transit, especially students who make up 60 percent of the DAR rider ship. 

Several years ago following public workshops VCTC created a master plan that has been studied and tweaked to meet local needs as well as lock in funding. Now VCTC will act as administrator of the Heritage Valley Transit.

The annual cost for the three river valley communities is projected at $2.4 million and the local contribution of $1.5 million in TDA funding will be split evenly between Santa Paula, Fillmore and Piru.

Other state and federal transit funds as well as fare cash receipts — the river valley has ranked the highest per capital user of public transportation in the county — will make up the balance.

Santa Paula Valley Express will offer service seven days a week, weekdays 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will also be “tripper service” for students to area schools. 

Fixed-route service will have fees ranging from one-way rides for adults $1 and 50 cents for students 17 years and under (kids under 5 ride free), disabled and seniors (65 and up) to day and monthly passes at various prices. 

The cost for Dial-A-Ride will increase: adults/youth one-way will be $1.75 and senior and/or disabled 85 cents. ADA paratransit service — for those certified as not being able to utilize fixed-route bus service — will be by appointment only; same day service will depend on space-available and the cost will be $2 one-way.

Yanez told the council that the jump in the cost of DAR for adults and youth is to encourage use of the fixed route bus as the idea behind DAR was always just for those seniors and the disabled that needed more help.

After he explained the routes Yanez noted they could be adjusted in six months: “We hope we get comments and feedback,” that will be useful in potential route changes.

Buses will have bike racks and ramps for those that cannot step up.

Yanez noted that the monthly $10 pass for youth is “A pretty good deal,” for a ride to school, the movie theater, skate park and the VISTA 126 connection.

“As we go on we can be more flexible and make sure people get more bang for their buck,” and staff is working with area schools on programs they could develop to help offset bus costs for students. 

Gherardi said she wanted to acknowledge the hard work of Yanez and VCTC staff: “I think they had fits when I came in,” and made adjustments to the program, but “I appreciate all their assistance… and I think this will be something that is very good for the community.” 

She also acknowledged the work of former Councilman Fernandez and asked that the council extend to him an invitation to the March 2 ribbon cutting to be held Monday, March 2 at 11:30 at City Hall.

For more information, visit www.valleyexpressbus.org — the website will soon be up. Call 933-2267 for more information; passes can be purchased at City Hall.





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