Bus system could hit end of line

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By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Public buses in Calaveras County might be nearing their final destination.

At yesterday's Board of Supervisors meeting, three of five supervisors refused to sign a new agreement with the Calaveras Council of Governments that would have kept buses rolling in the county through June 30, 2007.

Supervisors also tabled hiring a new company to manage the transit system. Laidlaw is in charge of hiring drivers, covering the routes and maintaining the county-owned buses but Laidlaw's contract ends June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Supervisors have until then to approve some type of contract for a transit system.

If they don't, people who use county transportation could lose their ride, and the county could lose out on more than $400,000 in state Transportation Development Act funding, Calaveras Council of Governments Executive Director George Dondero said.

"According to standards set by the state, this system is succeeding," Dondero said. "In the eyes of the supervisors, it's failing."

The Calaveras Council of Governments oversees Calaveras Transit, which operated on a budget of about $725,000 last year.

According to state law, Dondero said, the transportation development funds must be spent first on local transportation planning and administration, then on public transit. The funds can only be used for other projects such as roads and bike paths after a functioning public transit system is up and running.

Dondero has said before that the county could open itself up to lawsuits if it fails to provide public transit.

However, supervisors Victoria Erickson, Tom Tryon and Paul Stein all questioned why the county spends so much money on a bus system that generated just 130 rides per day in the 2001-02 fiscal year.

Erickson, who became District 5 supervisor in January, said she wants a more cost-effective way to provide public transportation.

Erickson, Tryon and Stein each suggested a "dial-a-ride" service in lieu of a bus system.

"We have less than 1 percent of the county's population using this service," Erickson said.

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The Union Democrat
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