By JOSHUA WOLFSON
Although Greyhound's bus route between Sonora and Modesto has so far averaged fewer than six daily riders per day, it appears headed for a second year of service.
The Tuolumne County and Cities Area Planning Council voted unanimously yesterday to support Greyhound's application for roughly $77,800 in federal grant money to help fund the route.
The council approved the resolution without debate.
The Caltrans-administered grant would cover half of the route's roughly $155,600 projected annual deficit. The other half would be paid by Greyhound. Local funds are not used to pay for the route.
Ticket sales account for annual revenues of just $52,560 about 25 percent of costs.
Bus service, which began in December, runs daily from Sonora to Modesto with a stop in Oakdale. Leaving Sonora at 8 a.m. and 7:05 p.m., the 47-passenger buses take about an hour and 45 minutes to make the 48-mile trip to Modesto. Besides passengers, the buses haul freight, including car parts and fresh fish.
Last year, Greyhound received a $72,000 grant from the same Intercity Bus Program to help pay for the first year of service.
Caltrans likely understood when approving the initial grant that it might take a couple of years to attract enough ridership, said Darin Grossi, deputy director of transportation services for Tuolumne County.
"Most (transit) services, particularly of this type, you want to allow them to mature and built up ridership," he said.
"Typically these grants do get funded," said Peter Rei, the planning council's executive secretary.
In a letter in support of Greyhound's grant application, council Chairman Cooper J. Kessel wrote that the Sonora-to-Modesto bus service connects Tuolumne County residents with other transit systems.
"It is essential that this important service be continued, to provide the residents of Tuolumne County with the ability to obtain services in the Oakdale/Modesto area and the opportunity to access a nationwide intercity transportation network," he wrote.