Providing public transportation in a rural area isn’t easy … and Escalon officials are looking for some ways to make the system work better for all concerned.
A trial Uber/Lyft system has had its ups and downs, often cost-prohibitive for the rider depending on the destination and also some riders have unexpectedly had drivers cancel when they realize the fare is in a rural part of San Joaquin County that is much farther than they had envisioned driving.
It’s not an exact science, Escalon Transit Coordinator John Andoh told members of the Escalon City Council on Monday night, as the service grapples with meeting the unmet transit needs of residents while not getting into a cost-prohibitive hole to provide that service.
There are subsidies and funds available but Andoh and council members agreed they would like to see the ridership of the system cover more of the operational costs.
Escalon’s eTrans service is provided through a partnership with the San Joaquin Regional Transit District, RTD, and has both a fixed route and a dial-a-ride system operating in Escalon. The dial-a-ride has limited days and hours, while the fixed route also connects riders to transit services in surrounding communities and also goes to Modesto.
Andoh provided a comprehensive review of the transit system’s past year and also outlined some recommendations for this fiscal year.
Among the top recommendation from eTrans for 2017-18 are to: continue monitoring the existing service and an ongoing operation and maintenance contract with RTD, continue to increase farebox recovery and reduce operational costs, as well as increase ridership among senior citizens, students and working families.
Measure K, Section 5311 matching funds and LTF funds provide for the bulk of funding for the service in Escalon, and Andoh said the city hosts an unmet transit needs hearing every year to help determine the needs of residents.
A proposed cutback to 12 hours per week for the dial a ride service is being considered, though Andoh said that could be adjusted up slightly to accommodate those senior citizens who attend the Tuesday and Thursday exercise class at the city’s Community Center prior to the senior lunch program.
For the past year, Andoh said the Escalon eTrans system averaged 8.4 passengers a day, with 1,416 passenger trips through Dial-A-Ride.
“We have continued to market the transit system,” he said.
Council members approved a 10-year Short Range Transit Plan for the city following the presentation by Andoh and some questions from the audience.
“It really does serve an underserved immobile class,” Andoh said of the eTrans service providing transportation for those who otherwise would not be able to have access to it. “It’s a constant battle – to reduce cost and provide the service.”