Report and photo
by Logan Hall
The city of Ojai is working with valley residents, many of whom depend on public transportation, to minimize negative effects of proposed changes to the city’s public transit system. If the City Council votes yes on recommendations that would significantly alter Ojai Trolley operations and Gold Coast Transit bus routes, changes could be implemented in July 2012.
An ad-hoc Transit Committee was formed by the city in July that consisted of various officials and members of the community. The committee has been gathering information on Ojai’s public transportation, and has decided what to recommend to City Council members regarding changes to the transit system. The changes would hopefully reduce the city’s transit costs by $150,000 a year, easing the strain on the city’s already-stressed general fund.
“Right now we have a limited reserve fund,” said Greg Grant, Ojai’s city engineer about the city’s budget. “Close to half a million dollars of the transit budget came from the general fund in the last three years. The goal is to have the transit fund be self-sustainable and take the pressure off of the general fund.”
According to a press release from Ojai’s Public Works Department, the committee will recommend that the city eliminate Gold Coast’s fixed route within the city of Ojai, raise the general trolley fare from 50 cents to $1, and that Saturday and Sunday trolley stop times will be decreased from once every half hour to once every hour. The elimination of the Ojai Gold Coast route would mean that buses would go no farther than the current bus stop in Mira Monte, but city officials say those routes would be covered by the Ojai Trolley.
Ojai resident Juan Torres says although he doesn’t usually use public transportation, he believes the recommendations could make things tougher, but might be necessary. “It sounds like it’s going to take more time to get everybody where they’re going,” said Torres as his bus approached the stop in front of the Vons shopping center. “It’s probably going to be harder for everyone, but I know they don’t have enough people and money and stuff so I hope they figure it out.”
To help appease local trolley and bus riders, the Transit Committee is also recommending to the City Council that trolley hours be increased to cover the ground of the absent Gold Coast buses. While adding more costs, Grant says those costs would be offset by saving $100,000 annually, which is what Gold Coast currently charges the city for the bus route. An added benefit would be an increase in trolley coverage during hours that Gold Coast buses operate. Currently, according to the respective websites, Gold Coast’s hours are from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. while Ojai Trolley hours are 6:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Right now the Gold Coast bus comes early in the morning and late in the evening,” said Grant. “A lot of people get stranded and have to walk into town if they get off the bus when the trolley isn’t operating. It will be a huge improvement for everybody.”
Grant also says that although trolley fares could effectively double, Ojai’s rates would still be similar to neighboring communities. “We’d still be below the other rates in the county as far as our fares would go,” he said. “So far the public that we’ve surveyed has been OK with the proposed rate increases.”
Public meetings will be held at Ojai City Hall on Wednesday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. to help the city get the citizens’ outlook on the issue. “We really want to get the public’s input on this,” said Grant. Check future issues of the Ojai Valley News for a full report on public transportation in the Ojai Valley.