Neighbors clash over on Old Mammoth Road transport
“I’m moving. I’m moving,” said one frustrated Red Fir Road resident, who refused to give his name, during a public meeting regarding bus service on Wednesday, November 8.
That empty threat was made in response to Eastern Sierra Transit Authority’s (ESTA) proposal that a large transit bus use Red Fir to make a loop in order to serve areas off Old Mammoth Road.
John Helm, Executive Director of the ESTA, held the meeting to garner feedback from residents who lost service last year when the Gray Line was discontinued.
The meeting brought out more people (approximately 20) than most Town Council meetings, remarked Public Works Director Grady Dutton.
Helm emphasized the importance of compromise among neighbors in the largely-local area of town, although no compromise was reached on Wednesday.
The solution that ESTA has offered is to extend the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area-run Red Line and Night Trolley so that they travel further down Old Mammoth Road and use Red Fir to turn around. Helm offered three options for service for the proposed extended Red Line, including running every 60 minutes, every 80 minutes, or a “hybrid” 40/80 minute frequency. That hybrid would see service to Old Mammoth Road every 40 minutes in the morning until 10 a.m. (to service school-aged children who take the bus), then reduce runs to 80 minutes midday, then return to 40 minute runs in the evening to get children back from school and employees home from work.
However, all of those solutions require a large ESTA bus driving the Red Fir loop. The Gray Line operated a smaller bus which made a U-turn after its last stop on Old Mammoth Road, but Helm said that to implement a small bus line to Old Mammoth now that the Gray Line has been discontinued would cost approximately $180,000, or $50 a rider (according to people per hour estimates collected by ESTA).
Helm said that the extension of the Red Line would essentially be a “zero cost” option, which would not have to be approved by Town Council or ESTA’s Board of Directors.
ESTA is working towards a permanent solution in the form of a turnaround to be built on Mammoth Community Water District property near Woodman Street, but that will not be completed in time for this season, thus the suggestion that the bus turn around on Red Fir.
Several years ago, the idea of an ESTA bus doing a loop on Red Fir was met with opposition by residents on that road, and many turned out Wednesday to say they were still opposed. “If it’s just a matter of money, [the Gray Line has] worked for 10 years,” said the resident who threatened to move. “And we’re worth it. We’re worth the money [it would cost to run a smaller bus to Old Mammoth].”
Terry Schultz asked if the Town could fund the smaller bus temporarily. “Could you float us more funds… until we can get the turnaround built?” he asked.
Residents of Red Fir expressed that they were concerned about the safety of children on their street due to the speed of the bus, noise, and pollution.
“I don’t see [Red Fir residents] complaining about the speed with which the Town plows come through,” said Jon Goodwin, who owns the White Horse Inn on Old Mammoth Road. Goodwin said that his business took a “very heavy hit” when service was discontinued.
Dutton made the point that if bus service went down Red Fir, the street would become a higher priority for Town plows.
Dan Ross, who is a second homeowner in Old Mammoth, said that one his neighbors has become “essentially housebound” because of the discontinuation of transportation. He also expressed frustration that the Gray Line was discontinued with what he felt was little notice (he said he stood at a bus stop for 15 minutes until a passerby informed him that the Gray Line was no more). “The decision was made to expand service on Meridian and take us out,” said Ross. “Now when we ask for something, we’re asking for you to spend $180 thousand on a bus. Now it’s an extra expense and we caused it.”
Associate Planner Ruth Traxler tried to find some common ground. “I feel like there’s been some consensus that we need service back in Old Mammoth. I don’t think anyone wants to see the Red Line turning on Red Fir as a long term solution. It’d be really awesome to have service back [to Old Mammoth] by the busy time around Thanksgiving.”
Dutton called again for compromise. “You have to turn around and talk to your neighbors…get some consensus that solves all the people’s issues. Nothing works for everybody.”
After two and a half hours of discussions, Helm asked that residents submit written comments to him before Sunday, November 19, informing him of would work best for them in terms of service to Old Mammoth Road.
“What can you live with for a short term solution?” asked District 5 Supervisor Stacy Corless. “If it’s nothing, I can understand that. But is there something here on the table here that you can live with?” Helm asked for “very specific proposals on times that you or your guests would use the transit to help ESTA and the Town potentially design service to the area.”
Submit comments to John Helm at firstname.lastname@example.org by November 19.