Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Napa bus expansion may affect Lake Transit Route 3

The introduction of a new Napa County bus line between Calistoga and Santa Rosa may enable Lake County Transit to expand its own Route 3 services between Clearlake and Napa County. Demand is not yet in place, however, to support a "commuter" Route 3.

The Napa County Transportation Planning Agency (NCTPA) officially launched Route 11 on Friday, April 22. Public ceremonies served to educate potential riders about the new transit line, with a free bus ride inaugurating the official service.

"About 50 to 65 people showed up," said Transportation Program Manager Adriann Cardoso, adding that the 19-passenger transit vehicle was quickly filled but that bus rides will continue to be offered free through Saturday, May 7.

NCTPA's inauguration of a Santa Rosa connection was spurred by the elimination by Greyhound of a Lake and Napa County route. "We began hearing grumblings when Greyhound discontinued its service," Cardoso said. "Diane Dillion, who sits on the NCTPA board and is a Napa County supervisor, was hearing a lot from her constituents." NCTPA applied for a grant last April, which financed the new bus route.

Lake Transit Authority, meanwhile, operates Route 3 to Calistoga and Angwin on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays with Thursday's run extended to include Santa Rosa as well.

"We've been aware of the new line and have been coordinating with Napa County," said LTA Director Mark Wall, "to make sure that our connection times matched up."

LTA may make adjustments to Route 3 as it presently exists; however Wall did not have specifics as to what those adjustments would entail. "What we may try to do, instead of going to Calistoga three times a week, is take the time we will save by not going to Santa Rosa one day, to go to Calistoga four times a week."

Lake Transit 's Route 3 arrives at 9 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Lincoln Avenue Bridge in Calistoga. NCTPA's Route 11 first departs at 9:10 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from downtown Calistoga. Additional runs depart from Calistoga at 1 p.m. and 4:35 p.m.

Arrival time for Route 11's first run is 10:22 a.m. in downtown Santa Rosa. It departs from the downtown at 10:35 a.m. and returns to Calistoga by 11:47 a.m., with one hour to spare in time for northbound Route 3 to make a 12:46 p.m. stop. Eastbound Route 11's later return stops, however, at 3:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., take place after northbound Route 3 has already left for the day.

Wall said LTA has tracked Route 3 riderships for the first half of the current fiscal year. Between June and December 2004, riders purchased 696 one-way fares for Lake Transit 's Route 3. "From our experience, the great majority of our passengers take a round trip," Wall said. "The greatest number are people in Lake County who are traveling to Calistoga, Saint Helena or Santa Rosa. Most of our passengers are traveling to the Saint Helena Hospital."

Route 3 was not designed to serve as a commuter route to the upper Napa Valley, Wall added. It originated as a means of getting people to Saint Helena Hospital with the Santa Rosa run added to transport patients to Sonoma County hospitals.

South-county commuters who work in Santa Rosa are already served by Route 7, which provides four round-trips daily, Monday through Saturday, between Lake County and connections in Ukiah.

Asked how many Route 7 riders boarded from the City of Clearlake, Wall said he did not know. Within the next month, however, Lake Transit will have compiled a survey of bus ridership to determine where passengers board and where they disembark.

"My perception, and our planning studies bear them out, is that most south county commuters are headed for Santa Rosa," Wall added. "I know that a few people in the Middletown area work in Calistoga, but don't know if we have enough demand. If we had enough demand, it (a commuter route) is something we would look at doing."

Published in the Clear Lake Observer American

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