Thursday, June 16, 2016

Calistoga and Santa Rosa need genuine bus connection

Sonoma County Transit bus parked curbside
Source of image: County of Sonoma
As a former area resident who relied on public transportation, I’ve been interested in the subject of public transportation between Santa Rosa and Calistoga. So I read with interest as the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce established its Employee Shuttle Program for Santa Rosa residents aboard Beau Wine Tours’ luxury coaches.

I have concerns, however, about the steep prices of the new shuttle service, and would like to suggest that money used in formation of this service may have gone farther and have been better spent reestablishing a route aboard Napa VINE or creating one via Sonoma County Transit.

The Weekly Calistogan’s most recent article, reporting low shuttle ridership, projects that two new resorts will bring 500 new jobs to Calistoga but these jobs in the hospitality industry are expected to offer low wages.

According to the article, out-of-pocket cost to riders is $7.50 each way, with employers paying a matching fare. That places the cost of riding at $15 per trip.

Presumably the match will only be supplied on behalf of current employees. What of the person hoping to distribute resumes or show up for a job interview? Will that person have to pay the full $15 fare?

An earlier article projected the cost per-ride could be $10.78 at minimum (that’s still more than $20 round-trip).

The shuttle price seems steep compared to the cost of genuine public transit, especially considering that employee shuttle ridership may consist of low-wage workers.

When I lived in Middletown and worked in Lakeport, I was able to ride for $1.25 one-way aboard Lake County Transit’s local routes. (I likely paid less per trip in-county, because I bought a month-long pass.) A regional fare of $2.25 allowed me to travel to Calistoga, where I could use a transfer pass to board Napa VINE's Route 10.

When Napa VINE’s Santa Rosa route was in place, it offered three round-trip connections between Calistoga and Santa Rosa, four days per week. (The Napa County Transportation Agency voted in 2010 to discontinue the route, because of low ridership and an inability by Calistoga to subsidize it for 2010-2011.)

Before contracting with Beau Wine Tours to operate the employee shuttle, did anyone consider reestablishing the route aboard Napa VINE? Because local money can be used as a “match” for transportation grants, Calistoga may have seen a far greater return on its shuttle-operation expenditures.

For that matter, surely Sonoma County Transit has an incentive to capture potential ridership.

I remember a steady stream of motorists each evening in downtown Middletown, making their way home after scaling “the hill” between Lake and Napa counties. How many might be enticed by a bus connection between Calistoga and Santa Rosa? Calistoga’s effort to entice workers from Santa Rosa adds to these potential fares.

1 comment:

  1. "Weekly Calistogan" replied this morning on Facebook in response to this post: "The Chamber did explore working with transportation agencies in both Napa and Sonoma counties (and the cities you mention). The regulations and restrictions were hurdles that couldn't be jumped and that is why they opted for a private program. The Chamber partnered with RidePal, which is the service that hired Beau Wine Tours to be its carrier."