By SCOTT PESZNECKER
Bouncing along Highway 49, a Calaveras Transit bus zips between Angels Camp and Columbia College.
Most of its seats are empty.
Sitting in front is Angels Camp resident Debbie Lentz. She has neither a car nor a drivers license, and the bus is her only way to travel.
The $1 fare is affordable with her disability pay.
But Calaveras Transits next stop could be a fare increase, possibly to $2 or more.
If it goes up, I wont be able to ride it as much, said Lentz. Its going to make it harder on people who need it.
Unfortunately, not enough people ride the bus to satisfy state revenue requirements.
The transit system, managed by the Calaveras Council of Governments, should generate enough fare revenue to cover 10 percent of expenses. Since last July the start of the 2001-02 fiscal year about $18,568 has came from the fare box, or 8.1 percent of expenditures.
Thats a one-tenth improvement from the 2000-01 fiscal year, but shy of the requirement.
An additional 500 one-way rides per month would put the transit system above 10 percent.
I dont want to speculate, replied George Dondero, the Council of Governments executive director, asked when fare box revenues are expected to meet state levels.
I would say that (a fare increase) is very likely, just to meet minimum requirements, he said.
The Council of Governments and the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors will discuss the transit system during a March 18 study session.
If the system doesnt meet the states 10 percent requirement by June 30 the end of the fiscal year then it will enter a grace year.
If the bus system isnt up to par by June 2003, then the Council of Governments will lose some state Transportation Development Act funding to make up the difference. The agency annually receives $600,000 from the act.