VCTC: Santa Paula’s Unmet Transit Needs

By Sheryl Hamlinvctc

Transit agencies in California are required by state law to determine annually unmet transit needs in places where Federal and State funds are used for transit, sick according to Victor Kamhi, Bus Transit Director for VCTC, who hosted the meeting held at the Santa Paula Community Center on January 28, 2015. Comments and suggestions from this meeting will be incorporated into the Commission meeting on February 9th at the Camarillo City Hall. The feasibility of all requests will be considered.

A small group consisting of high school students at one table, retirees and a bus driver at another table, plus another half dozen from interested agencies participated in the discussion and heard details of the new bus service for Santa Paula.

Dial-a-Ride has been enormously successful, according to Mr. Kamhi. The service grew from 50,000 rides in 1995 to a max of 216,000 and is still growing. It is overwhelmed, but optimally run with respect to costs, although it is expensive. Anyone can request a ride. It is not limited to seniors or those with disabilities. Many users have “permanent reservations”, but some prefer not to reserve, so the new fixed routes plus Dial-a-Ride will service both classes of riders.

Under the new service, Dial-a-Ride is not being terminated. It will continue to be available for trips outside the new Fixed-Route service area and the price will increase. The new service starts Monday, March 2nd. The new prices are as follows:

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There will be two main routes for the Valley Express covering Santa Barbara and Main Streets in Santa Paula, plus a neighborhood route for school children with new, neighborhood friendly buses. New signs will be posted. Schedules will be on-line too. Route definition is an iterative process and the stops will be adjusted as usage is studied.

It was brought out in the meeting that there are NO school buses in Santa Paula. The decision to drop school buses saved the school district $1 million annually. Limoneira provides buses for students of its employees. Is it no wonder there is a parking problem at Santa Paula High School?

The school district should be taking advantage of the new Valley Express to get its students into alternative modes of transportation. Some school districts only allow cars for seniors and students with documentable jobs requiring them to leave for work and such drivers must show proof of insurance before the issuance of a school parking permit. SPUSD must start thinking like an urban district where space is limited because this is exactly the environment of today and the future.

Issues/Comments from Audience

  • A group of students from The Fillmore Youth Center spoke about their transportation needs, particularly the need to get to the College of the Canyons for classes. According to Mr. Kamhi, Santa Clarita has not been forthcoming with sharing the costs for transit, unlike Santa Barbara who willingly provides $800,000 a year for the Ventura provided transit to Santa Barbara.
  • The use of a system-wide pass was discussed. Ventura has had the machines since 2000 but they are in a state of disrepair and may be replaced in the next fiscal year.
  • Transit 511 is a sophisticated system to display interconnections between all agencies for route planning. In the San Francisco Bay area, this service is extensive. Ventura does belong to Transit 511, but it is not as “robust” in Ventura. In southern California, the trip planning website is http://go511.com/.
  • Kamhi answered a question about using the rail corridor for commuters, perhaps with an am/pm test commute. He indicated that the idea is periodically considered, but the track is only rated at 20 mph and in some places only 5 mph, but a commuter train needs a 60 mph rating. Once in Ventura, the riders would disembark at Montalvo with no connections and Union Pacific is not amenable to allowing the train to go to Oxnard. VCTC bought the route because it thought that one day the rail would run to Santa Clarita, but those hopes have not materialized because Santa Clarita is not interested and has in fact allowed homes to be built on the right-of-way, thus requiring a new route.
  • How to go from Santa Paula to LAX? The train does not go to LAX, but there is a fly-away service from Union Station in Los Angeles and also a huge terminal at the Van Nuys airport.
  • The Ventura-Piru-Ventura bus service will be discontinued because of no ridership. The Fillmore-Ventura route has 200,000 borders a year which consists of commuters, students, court house trips and connections to Santa Barbara. Saturday and Sunday see heavy use.
  • A woman, who has been a bus driver for 12 years with a 100% safety record, suggested the schools be surveyed for transit needs.
  • All fixed routes will be available on Nextbus, which is a real-time, on-line system to display the location and arrival time of the closest bus. The site may be accessed at nextbus.com.
  • The Ventura bus system has two peaks: afternoon use for high school and Ventura College and am/pm work commute which starts earlier and ends later than the school schedules.
  • There is now a bus from the Collection at The Riverpark which will connect to a Santa Paula bound bus.

As a discipline, transportation planning includes mathematics, engineering, forecasting, modeling, design, analysis, as well as knowledge of a large base of local, state and federal laws. Planning services and routes for a sparsely populated area is much more challenging than planning for a dense, urban area. As the population ages, transit services will become more and more important in our lives. California’s Department on Aging is actively involved with the improvement of transit services. Ventura county’s aging population is increasing dramatically, so the planning done today will be supporting the county as it ages.

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Sheryl Hamlin: With an MS in Industrial Engineering, Sheryl Hamlin spent years in technology with stints at Motorola, Tandem Computers and various startups. She has been on the boards of neighborhood organizations both in San Francisco and Palm Springs where planning issues were her specialty. She now resides in Santa Paula and loves the historic fabric of the city.  Ms. Hamlin’s blog Stealth Fashion  and  technology product ‘ Plug and Play Webmaster’.

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