More riders wanted for bus

September 02, 2003 12:00 am

By ABBY SOUZA

Tuolumne County employees, the county Chamber of Commerce and even area Greyhound promoter Hope Hill are disappointed with the bus line's advertising campaign in the Mother Lode.

"It looks like a half-hearted effort," county Public Works Director Peter Rei said.

At an ad-hoc Mass Transportation Committee meeting last week, Rei, chamber President George Segarini, Hill and others discussed the low ridership numbers Greyhound Lines, Inc. has had since it restarted service in Sonora nine months ago. They compared the low numbers with what they see as a weak public relations effort in the area.

"I'd love to see Greyhound thrive, but they need to take the lead here," Rei said.

Greyhound bus service, which began in December, runs daily from Sonora to Modesto with a stop in Oakdale. Leaving Sonora at 8 a.m. and 7:05 p.m., the 47-passenger buses take about an hour and 45 minutes to make the 48-mile trip to Modesto.

The bus service is funded by a federal transportation grant, which Greyhound's area sales manager Carlos Ramirez said included little money for print or radio advertising.

"In this instance, they opted to put most of the money into operational costs," Ramirez said. "They wanted to get the buses up there."

The company's Web site — www.greyhound.com — does include Sonora as a destination when searching for passenger tickets.

"That is part of our built-in advertising network," Ramirez said.

Besides passengers, the buses haul freight, including car parts and fresh fish.

Rei said the freight aspect of the route is working out well, but "the ridership numbers are not where we'd hoped they would be."

On average, the Sonora-to-Modesto bus route draws fewer than six Greyhound riders a day, stated a June grant application to fund the bus service's second year.

Last year, Greyhound received a $72,000 grant from the Intercity Bus Program to help pay for the first year of service.

The service generated 35 cents per mile in its first three months of operation.