Public transit fare increases in Calabasas

Public transit fare increases in Calabasas driven by higher operating costs

By Sylvie Belmond

People who ride public shuttles and buses in Calabasas will soon pay more to reach their destinations. Riders will also see a reduction in public transit services provided by the City of Calabasas.

At a meeting last week, the City Council approved several measures to reduce costs and increase revenues in the city’s public transit system. The adjustments will eliminate inefficiencies in the system and help bridge an anticipated $100,000 deficit, officials said.

The Calabasas public transit system uses 14 vehicles and serves about 84,600 riders a year.

In the coming fiscal year the city anticipates it will spend $830,000 to operate its 10 shuttle buses, two trolleys and two Dial-A-Ride vans. Transportation funds from the county and passenger fares will provide about $730,000.

The shortfall is caused by rising fuel and maintenance costs, said Robert Yalda, city engineer and director of public works for Calabasas.

To save $30,000, Calabasas officials agreed to reduce the number of reimbursements offered to families of middle school children who buy a pass for the school bus. The budget for the subsidy program was $40,000 per year, but the council reduced the allocation to $10,000. Reimbursements will only be given to families that can prove economic need.

The city will also raise fares from 50 cents to $1 for weekday bus services and increase youth transit pass fees from $50 to $80. The passes are only valid when school is in session. The combined fare increases will produce an anticipated $18,000 in revenue for the transit system.

Despite some reluctance from two council members, James Bozajian and Mayor Pro Tem Fred Gaines, officials agreed to reduce service hours for the free weekend trolley.

To save $15,000 the trolley’s timetable will be reduced from 12 hours to eight on Saturdays and from nine hours to five on Sundays. The trolley will now run from 1 to 9 p.m. Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

Bozajian wanted to alter the trolley routes.

“ What should change is what we do with these hours,” Bozajian said, suggesting the city modify routes and consider adding the new Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center at King Gillette Ranch to the list of destinations.

“We need to encourage our residents to use public transportation as much as possible,” the council member said.

But Gaines had a different outlook.

“Our regular transit program is not a successful program. People do not take these shuttles, except for the ones during the school hours,” Gaines said, adding that the weekend trolley runs empty most of the time.

“It’s sort of my pet peeve to see this thing going around the city with only one or two persons.”

In coming weeks city staff will study visitor data for the new facilities at King Gillette Ranch to determine whether people would use public transit to get there.

During the discussions, officials opposed a recommendation to recover costs for charter bus services provided by the city to Las Virgenes Unified School District because they felt the added expense would be a burden for schools, which are experiencing budget shortages.

The council also postponed a decision to increase fares for the beach bus service because the 2012 summer program has already begun.

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