Lake Transit Route Cuts from Hell

The recently proposed transit route cuts are substantially different than what was proposed at the June Transit Authority meeting. Possibly the amount of cuts are the same but a low use route was restored at the expense of additional cuts on North Shore, the City of Clearlake, Lakeport, and Middletown. Middletown may have broke even on the route exchange.

Originally, a little used Saturday route and an early run was cut in Clearlake. North Shore was to give up two mid day runs each way. But the biggest planned cut was the complete elimination of Route 2 which connects Kits Korner to Cobb and on to Twin Pines Casino. The reason for Route 2 taking the big hit was because ridership never returned after the fire. Even before the fire, when I got on the bus at Anderson Springs there was never anyone else on the bus until Cobb.

Due to permanently losing a funding source, the Transit Authority had to cut about a hundred total route hours. I indicated to the authority’s general manager, Mark Wall, that although his original proposal based on ridership was rational, cuts could be reduced by making changes in the routes themselves. Specifically, cutting the unused parts of Routes 2 and 4A while rerouting Route 4 thru its original journey. But when I saw the official list of bus runs to be cut, as part of notice for Public Hearing on August 9th, I was shocked.

Additional cuts to those proposed were demanded from Route 1 and all three Clearlake local runs. Note that a majority of the bus trips are within Clearlake. These reductions were offset by restoring 7 of the planned 8 run cuts on Route 2 that would be made if the Route 2 were axed.  This sudden change from a rational to an irrational plan would only make sense if considerable pressure were brought to bare from a County supervisor. I assume that the North Shore and Clearlake sups didn’t call up Wall to demand more transit cuts in their District.

Beyond simply giving low ridership areas a break at the expense of higher use runs, while consequently increasing the cost per passenger trip in the system, there are public safety and financing liabilities that are created by this negative reversal. Most of this collateral damage is for Clearlake’s residents while one cut threatens the eligibility for a grant that could end service for the whole county to Napa.

The flagship of bad ideas has to be cutting the Westbound 7pm Route 1 from Clearlake. This particular run is designed to connect to the last Route 3 coming in from Calistoga. These four trips a day to Napa County and back are made possible by a 350,000 dollar grant. This grant has two strings attached. The first one is there cannot be any reduction in the 4 runs to and from Napa using this grant or we lose the whole grant. The second condition is the Route 3 runs using this money have to connect with a specific Lake County route. The 6pm bus from Napa County has to connect with that 7pm Route 1. Suddenly we plan to cut it to appease someone. What’s wrong with this picture?

Public safety suggests we should not be forcing the disabled, women, and the elderly to make hazardous trips on foot if its not absolutely necessary. But three of the last minute deletions do exactly that. The new 8pm Route 11 cut in the Highlands will force passengers coming in on the 6:30 Route 4 to make their way home at night on foot across a long distance of hills, no sidewalks, and dirt roads while being menaced by psyco tweekers and packs of feral dogs. I know this about the Highlands from being a taxi driver in Clearlake.

The most vulnerable won’t even have Dail-a-Ride to fall back on. Cutting the last two local runs across the city allows Lake Transit to legally whack off two hours a night of Dial-a-Ride service, even though Route 1 and Route 4 regionals are still coming in. Cost savings: Ten hours per week. Some grumpy people will say, “ What a bunch of whiners. Take an earlier bus.” For many people this is the earlier bus. When we lost our night time reverse commute grant people who used to take the 8:30 Route 4 from Lakeport now have to take the 6:30 Route 4 or brave the howling wilderness. This new 8pm Route 11 cut means that both night inter county Route 4 runs are now decapitated. Could this  be population control by transit?

Unbelievably, it gets even stranger. After the original planned reduction of Route 12’s lightly used Saturday and 6:27am runs, the new plan calls for adding the 4, 5, and 6pm Route 12’s to the chopping block. Cutting the weekday 4pm and 5pm Route 12’s to Lower Lake means what? Think! Think! It means that moms pushing baby carriages and non dial-a-ride disabled will be struggling down Highway 53 to make their 4:30 appointments at Social Services, in the hot sun and pouring rain. Did the Republican Central Committee suggest this cut?

Do I have a solution? As a matter of fact I do. Given the fact that we have to come up with a hundred hours of cuts, I have crunched out a plan that is not only better than this train wreck but is an improvement over Mark Walls original “cuts only” proposal. Adding back the new run cuts that are egregious monstrosities and doing a once over on 7 of the County’s routes gives us about 70 hours of cuts with roughly 30 to go. These remaining cuts will have to come from cuts and “changes” to Routes 2, 4, and 4A. My cuts are from segments of Routes 2 and 4A that riders don’t use while preserving segments where people are getting on and off a bus.

Adding up the net bare bones net cuts from these three routes I come up with another 34 hours and 40 minutes, for a total of over 104 route hours of cuts. Since this is over the required 100 route hours of needed cuts I’ve come up with four hours of options.

Summarizing these changes:  4A as a stand alone route would be eliminated with pieces of the route added to the Route 4 and Route 2. Route 2 would shift, running between Cobb and Clearlake Riviera. Route 4 would detour to service Konocti Vista and Finley for non Ukiah “Express” runs. Routes 2 and 4 might want to exchange bus number routes between Clearlake and Kits Korner for the non express Route 4 runs. As a bonus, since we have a little slop, we could continue the Route 4 non expresses on Saturday to Konocti Vista and Finley for an additional 40 minutes of route hours and bump out to Cal Packing and up East Finley six days for an extra three route hours per week. Both options would reduce total route cuts to 101 hours.

The bump out of the Route 4 would not be an option for the one run each way for the Hance School detour. The 2:10 Eastbound would now be the 2pm and the Eastbound Route 4 would not turn into Route 7 until 3pm straight up. I also suggest leaving off the Mendocino College detour in Ukiah off the Saturday schedule. Most drivers skip it anyway or go off route.

As for servicing Konocti Vista and Finley, there are 3 current, non cut runs, Monday thru Friday to and from this 4A segment. There are 3 non cut Route 4’s running each way that aren’t Ukiah expresses. Some combination of Running round trip Route 4’s from Walmart to Kits Korner and Running a Route 4 to Kits, doing the shorty Route 2, and continuing on as the Route 4 to Lakeport can be worked out for the non Ukiah expresses.

So that’s the informed opinion of a member of the public. I’m requesting that the Lake Transit Board reject the hastily assembled political proposal that is clearly against the public interest. Furthermore, I suggest the Board direct Mark Wall to inform the intruding supervisor that he may represent his district but a supervisor works for the County – the whole County.

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