Council: Fare increases for Valley Express questioned after update

January 27, 2016
Santa Paula News

Valley Express, the Santa Paula’s inner-city bus service, is on the move but some said one speaker are being pushed off the bus due to rising fares.

The City Council heard an update on the transit system at the January 19 meeting from the Ventura County Transportation Commission’s Program Manager of Transit Aaron Bonfilio.

The service serves each community in the Santa Clara River Valley.

Bonfilio said when the service was launched in March 2015 “It rained as usual,” for the debut of the new fleet of 15 buses that provided transit service on fixed routes.

The move also maintained a “limited amount of Dial A Ride but more focused on those that live outside fixed routes,” to connect them with Valley Express.  

Santa Paula’s routes A and B “travel effectively through town clockwise and counter clockwise,” including special stops at Las Piedras Park and Santa Paula Hospital.

Door to door Dial-A-Ride has been expanded to seniors who do not have to go through the ADA eligibility process for the service that guarantees trips with advanced reservations and offers monthly passes.

Services have also been expanded in Fillmore and Piru.

There have been changes in fares to “implement a previously planned change” said Bonfilio.

Funding for Valley Express was expected to see about 10 percent recovery in this area through fares, but so far it is averaging only 6 to 7 percent.

Bonfilio said Valley Express could expand locally to the Hallock Drive/Telegraph Road area as well as West Harvard Boulevard where Calavo has “reached out for service,” at the beginning and end of the work day.

The organization has received a grant for bus stop infrastructure and is examining other improvements while at the same time will be monitoring school tripper service — special before and after school stops for students — where Valley Express has only been averaging 10 to 12 riders per trip.

Councilwoman Ginger Gherardi, who retired from VCTC after serving as executive director for 17 years and now is an agency commissioner, asked Bonfilio where Valley Express schedules are available.

The free handouts are available at various public places but he noted they run out fast such as the case with the Senior Center.

Gherardi noted she serves the committee for Valley Express that “Looked at making this adjustment (operational and cost) after a period of time…this was a scheduled adjustment,” crafted to align with producing new material for riders, which has a high expense.

“We will,” she added, “continue to look at it…”

“I have heard comments from drivers that there’s a lack of ridership,” noted Mayor Martin Hernandez but he’s “glad” the city is trying to fulfill public transportation needs.

Joseph Alexander said during public comment he is concerned about fare increases, especially those for the disabled and seniors for Dial-A-Ride.

While the regular fixed route fare has been increased “about 12.5 percent, it’s 236 percent for the disabled…”

Alexander, who is disabled, “had to use Dial-A-Ride three times last week for appointments,” and with the rate increase to $2 per trip, it will be unaffordable.

He asked Dial-A-Ride drivers about the “drastic” increases and was told by one that VCTC “wanted to force the use of the super passes,” and by a second driver that the increase was resulting from low ridership.

Gherardi asked Alexander for his contact information, noting, “I will get in touch with you…”

For more information visit www.valleyexpressbus.org 





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