Double-decker bus controversy arrives in San Luis Obispo
August 30, 2010
Updated Aug. 31. to include the price of the bus and statements by Tim Bochum, deputy director of public works.
Amid budget cuts and plans to raise the cost of bus service for the elderly and disabled, San Luis Obispo city officials announced a ribbon cutting ceremony to promote the addition of a new double-decker bus the city purchased for $850,000.
The ribbon cutting for the only California municipal-owned European style bus is scheduled for September 7 at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The 14 foot-high bus does not fit under railroad bridges and tree lined roads. Because of this, the bus was unable to cover all but a portion of one existing route without modifications.
City workers moved obstacles on the two busiest routes.
“To make sure there were no issues we trimmed trees and had the cable company raise two cables,” said Dee Lawson, public works transit assistant. “The bus will do Route 4 in the morning and Route 5 in the afternoon.”
In addition, public works’ officials are planning to reconstruct the opening of the maintenance building to accommodate the two-story vehicle. Additional costs, such as hiring an outside firm to wash the bus because it will not fit in the city’s wash station, are also expected.
Tim Bochum, deputy director of public works, said the city purchased the bus to eliminate problems with leave behinds in the past. Usually during the first few weeks of a quarter at Cal Poly, the city would run an extra bus for a few hours four mornings a week to eliminate problems with buses being to crowded to fit all the people waiting to get on.
And while the city has decided to take two spare buses out of commission and only purchase one new bus, the amount of miles being driven will remain unchanged, aside from the overflow buses that run at least 24 hours a year.
In addition, Bochum said the funds for the new bus do not come out of the same pot used for operational costs. The federal, state and county monies, primarily federal monies, used for the bus were for earmarked for capital expenditures.
In June, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously to defer requests for permission to raise standard fares from $1.25 to $1.50 and disabled fares from 60 cents to 75 cents. In addition, they rejected proposals that riders, who currently use free transfer passes from bus to bus, pay the full rate for each transfer more than doubling their cost of riding the bus.
Councilman Andrew Carter noted that when the city raised standard fares from $1 to $1.25 and disabled and senior fares from 50 cents to 60 cents in 2009, the amount of revenue dropped because of a decrease in ridership.
The council asked staff to consider charging more for monthly passes to make up for a budget deficit attributed to the reduced ridership and a 16 percent reduction in state funding.
Staffers are now requesting permission to raise senior and disabled monthly passes from $12.50 to $15, Lawson said. In addition, riders, who currently use free transfer passes from bus to bus, would have to pay 75 cents if the fare modifications are approved.
John Webster, public works transit manager, warned the council in June that if they do not find away to lower the deficit, they would be forced to cut services.