By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
Calaveras County's public bus system isn't dead yet.
By a 4-1 vote, with one abstention, the Calaveras Council of Governments on Wednesday evening recommended that the county Board of Supervisors adopt a contract with MV Transportation Inc., to provide transit service in the county from July 1, 2003, through June 30, 2007.
Just two days earlier, the supervisors voted against such an action, asking COG Executive Director George Dondero to describe alternatives to the bus system now operating in the county.
During Wednesday's COG meeting, Dondero discussed four options: stopping bus service entirely, cutting back on service, going to a dial-a-ride service or continuing current service.
None of the options pleased supervisors Victoria Erickson and Paul Stein, who were two of the three voting Monday to table any action on Calaveras Transit pending a thorough exploration of alternatives.
"Does public transit have to be a big bus with fixed routes?," Erickson asked Dondero Wednesday evening. "Isn't there something between a bus and a taxi? Can we find a more efficient way to get riders where they're going?"
The vote came amidst heated discussion and followed three separate motions that all failed for lack of a second.
Council Chairman Paul Stein was the dissenter. Also chair of the Board of Supervisors, Stein complained about the cost of transit service.
"I'm tired of seeing empty buses transporting air around this county," he said. "If the service is in demand, we should see the fare-box numbers go up each year. To just run empty buses around cannot be tolerated anymore," he said.
Council member Marianne Morgan of Valley Springs disagreed, saying, "I would hate to step back now when we're just on the verge of really bringing this system up to speed. It's not the citizens' fault we don't have a central place to go and pick up 50 riders.
"This is a public service. It's very disappointing to say 'cut back.' Cut back to what?"