Mammoth’s Mobility Commission resurrects idea for Old Mammoth route extension
Budget cuts affecting a cross-section of local government entities and an annual transit system reevaluation have Mammoth’s Mobility Commission eyeing the possibility of extending a fixed bus route into Old Mammoth as far as Red Fir Rd.
This potential route extension was discussed at the Mobility Commission’s regular meeting Tuesday. No formal action was taken.
The extension of a bus route into Old Mammoth beyond Snowcreek Athletic Club, an idea that was rejected quickly and resolutely by neighborhood residents just two years ago, is being considered because Mammoth Unified School District (MUSD)wishes to eliminate a bus route. School Board member Greg Newbry says this would save MUSD $300,000.
MUSD Director of Transportation and Maintenance Richard Bailey said an extension of the Town’s bus service to lower Red Fir Rd. would help serve about 25 schoolchildren.
Town Engineer Peter Bernasconi says he has enough room to work with within the road’s right-of-way to facilitate a bus turnaround at Old Mammoth and Red Fir. In other words, the bus will be able to make a U-turn at that spot versus driving to the top of Red Fir and circling back through the neighborhood.
During the 2007 debate over a potential bus route, Old Mammoth resident Dave Talsky asked why anyone would run a bus 11 hours a day, 365 days a year to a neighborhood where one might serve 50 residents.
Tom Daniels and Steve Ganong, who attended the meeting Tuesday, noted that the two residents at the time who did support a fixed bus route, Steve Black and Mary Canada, are now gone.
One or the other (bad note-taking, though I believe both are in agreement) said he didn’t think it was necessary to run a bus all day to serve the 25 or so schoolchildren.
A Dial-A-Ride Bus in the mornings and afternoons may solve the problem,
Which brings us to Dial-A-Ride. Serving just four passengers an hour and costing $60/hour to operate, Dial-A-Ride is a place one would naturally look at to realize some efficiencies. Transportation Director Bill Manning proposed one idea to promote service and create efficiency by having a D-A-R bus run a particular fixed route once per hour and spend the remaining part of the hour taking individual calls.
The dilemma the Town faces is that it, by law, is required to offer some form of “para-transit” service for the handicapped, yet just 1% of Dial-A-Ride users fit that description according to a survey of 160 riders conducted in January.
Some folks apparently take advantage of the Dial-A-Ride service by using it as a de facto taxi service after nights out on the town. Which isn’t quite fair to Mammoth Taxi’s Scottie Marzonie if Dial-A-Riders are only charged $2.10 a ride.
Overall, surveys showed 78% of D-A-R users are non-disabled adults, who primarily start and end their trips from areas served by fixed transit routes. Likewise, some schoolchildren who live in Old Mammoth currently make reservations to use Dial-A-Ride for the trip home from school (as opposed to using the school bus) because, quite simply, it gets them home faster.
As Manning wrote in his staff report, “These children have access to school transportation, however, they often take advantage of the higher level of service offered by D-A-R.”
The Sheet asked why D-A-R charges an average of just $2.10 a person, which requires a government subsidy of $12.90 a rider.
ESTA Director John Helm said fares were increased 20% systemwide last September, but that does not preclude further adjustment.
Manning said the Town could institute some charge for the fixed route system, but currently, Council directive mandates that transit remain free and available to the public.