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County transit system gaining ground

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Passing a benchmark as daunting as the 1 million-plus miles amassed by Calaveras County's six buses, the Calaveras Transit system is expected to earn enough farebox revenue through June 30 to satisfy state requirements.

George Fink, transportation planner for the Calaveras Council of Governments, made the announcement at the council's board meeting Wednesday.

Despite meeting the state requirements, though, the transit system's future remains iffy.

In Calaveras Transit's budget for the upcoming year — which directors approved Wednesday — the council's executive director, George Dondero, included the purchase of two new buses for $150,000.

That request irked board member Paul Stein and Merita Callaway, who was there Wednesday in place of board member Terri Bailey. Stein, Callaway and Bailey are also county supervisors.

Because of other budget factors — particularly a $40,000 loss of State Transit Assistance funds — the budget called for an extra $239,000 of the county's Local Transportation Funds. The funds would otherwise be used for road maintenance.

Callaway and Stein both voted against the budget, which was approved by a 5-2 margin.

"I'm here to tell you that I don't think we can afford it," Stein said, referring to the new buses.

As it stands now, county supervisors are unlikely to approve the transit budget when they vote on it July 22.

District 4 Supervisor Tom Tryon has never supported spending $1,650 on the system each day to move 130 riders.

In March, Bailey said the system fails to serve her constituents.

But Fink said the county must buy two new buses to keep the transit system reliable.

"Right now we'd settle for just about anything," said Fink. "This problem is not going to go away in the near future."

Calaveras Transit's six buses have logged more than 1 million miles in two years. If the fleet is not replaced within the next three years, Fink said, maintenance costs will skyrocket.


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