Too many seats open on buses

June 23, 2003 11:00 pm

By ABBY SOUZA

In December, Greyhound Lines Inc. made its first stop in Sonora since the mid-1980s thanks to a one-year federal grant of up to $72,000 administered by the California Department of Transportation.

Now, despite dismal ridership numbers, Greyhound is requesting an extra $77,778 from Caltrans to fund the project another year. Without the funding, Sonora would lose Greyhound service again.

Tomorrow, Tuolumne Counties and Cities Area Planning Council will discuss supporting Greyhound's application to Caltrans for the money.

The request is being made despite the company's admission that "the route is likely to never be revenue self-sufficient."

Greyhound bus service from Sonora to Modesto, stopping in Oakdale, began December 2002. Buses leave Sonora at 8 a.m. and 7:05 p.m. each day and arrive here at 10:15 a.m. and 8:05 p.m. each day.

The application to Caltrans written by Greyhound officials includes revenue statistics for the first three months of service to and from Sonora. According to these statistics, Greyhound is making 35 cents a mile on the Sonora route.

Passenger statistics show an average of 5.8 passengers per day combined between Sonora, Oakdale and Modesto stops. Sonora accounts for 5.5 passengers. Considering the relatively short distance of the route, these numbers are good, Greyhound officials said in the application.

Greyhound officials said that income from the first year of service between Sonora and Modesto is expected to be about $52,560, while expenses for that same time period are anticipated at $208,137 — indicating a loss of $155,577 unless ridership suddenly skyrockets.

Caltrans is being asked to cover half of the total deficit — $77,778 — to help support the service in its second year. Greyhound officials said in the report that they hope the service could pay for itself after its third year. "However, a matter-of-fact assessment reveals the proposed route is likely to never be revenue self-sufficient," the report states.