Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Calistoga and Santa Rosa: We need bus connection

Sonoma County Transit bus parked curbside
Source of image: County of Sonoma
As a public-transportation advocate, newly returned to the area after living out-of-state, I want to advocate for commuter public-transit between Santa Rosa and Calistoga. This afternoon, I wrote to trustees for the Sonoma County and Napa Valley Transportation Authorities (SCTA and NVTA).

Commute-flow statistics, 2006 to 2010, showed 2,177 workers commuting from Napa to Sonoma County, with 2,002 more commuters arriving from neighboring Lake County. Statistics also show 3,941 workers commuting the other way​,​ from Sonoma to Napa County. ​


Some of the​ between-county​ ​commuters​ may be aboard public transit down-valley and out through Sonoma ​ -- but we need a direct connection between Calistoga and Santa Rosa.

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.)

I followed with interest as the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce attempted a shuttle service from June to early August 2016.

I was told (by the administrator of a Facebook account for one of the local newspapers) that the chamber explored working with transportation agencies in Napa and Sonoma counties, but that “regulations and restrictions were hurdles that couldn’t be jumped.” The chamber partnered with “RidePal,” which hired Beau Wine Tours to be its carrier.

Because local money can be used as a “match” for transportation grants, I can’t help but feel that the money could have gone further if a public-transit partnership were possible.​

I certainly feel the shuttle service may have been more attractive if the $15 fares were more economically priced. (At the time it closed, the shuttle service was offering rides free to riders, but the original proposal was that employer and rider would each pay $7.50 each way. This arrangement, of course, made no provision for riders who were not underwritten by an employer. Would that person still only pay $7.50 or have to pay the full $15 fare? Would that person even be able to get a seat?)

​A costly private shuttle service is no substitute for public transportation.

From the trustees’ perspective, what are the difficulties of public transit between Santa Rosa and Calistoga? Are the “regulations and restrictions” mentioned above, something that could be mitigated?

We​ need resumption of ​a ​public​-transit route​ ​like​ that offered by Napa VINE. Would trustees consider a joint-powers authority (or some other partnership) between Sonoma County and Napa Valley Transportation Authorities?

​I know SCTA serves a dual role as regional climate protection authority, while NVTA is responsible for congestion management. A shared bus connection between Calistoga and Santa Rosa makes sense with both of these mandates. It reduces the number of CO2 emissions that solo drivers would emit, and it also reduces the number of automobiles on the road.

I thank Transportation Authority trustees for considering my request.

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