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Council Members Grapple With Transit Costs, Needs

Whether to continue providing both a fixed route and DAR – Dial A Ride – service for city residents was a question facing Escalon City Council members at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night, May 15.

The council heard a report from Daniel Costantino, a senior associate with Jarett Walker & Associates regarding the current state of the eTrans city bus service along with possible changes that could be made in the future. City Transit Coordinator John Andoh was also on hand to offer input and take questions.

Currently , the city works in cooperation with RTD, the Regional Transit District, in San Joaquin County and has the fixed route to Modesto multiple times a week, in addition to limited hours for the ‘door-to-door’ type service offered by Dial-A-Ride.

Options for the future such as contracting out with Uber or Lyft drivers was discussed but there was some concern among council members about going that route, especially in light of the county also attempting to work out contract language with the private providers.

The eTrans system is not cost-effective, council members learned, and concerns about possible delays along the fixed route with the construction project on McHenry Avenue have also had officials looking for alternate routes to get passengers to Modesto.

Council members noted that, with relatively few riders, an average of five or six a day, the system is in need of some type of overhaul. Those that do use the service, however, are very dependent on it and the council agreed they don’t want to do away with the transit service completely; they just want to make it more palatable financially for the city.

A portion of the funding comes through Measure K and additional financing through other sources, but the city also provides a subsidy.

The report presented on Monday night, Andoh said, was designed to get the discussion started and offer up multiple options for the council to consider. While those options are being studied, the service will remain at status quo, with buses running Monday through Friday on both the fixed route to Modesto’s Vintage Faire Mall and the dial a ride option for residents needing to get to appointments and services in town.

The San Joaquin RTD, meanwhile, will be providing free rides to local senior citizens for the upcoming Senior Awareness Day, scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24 at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. There will be exhibitors, a classic car show, wellness walk, senior art show, entertainment, Bingo, food and more. Those attending do not have to stay for the duration of the event; shuttle buses will run every half hour. Call for more information, 209-468-1104. No charge for attendance.