Study suggests fixed bus routes

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

A feasibility report recommends the city’s public transportation provider switch to a fixed bus route system because it would reduce operating expenses, expand service and accommodate growth.

The report by a Scottsdale, Ariz.,-based mass transit consulting firm recommends the Clovis Area Transit System implement three bus routes snaking through city to replace a demand-response service as its primary service. The report recommends a $1 fare for one-way trips.

CATS provides 5,000 one-way trips a month using the demand-response service, according to the report.

A study session regarding fixed bus routes will be scheduled after the March 4 municipal election, according to City Manager Joe Thomas.

The report, compiled over a five-month period by Lazaro & Noel, based its findings on public forums, surveys and comparisons with cities similar in size to Clovis.

“I think Clovis is ready for it,” CATS Director MaryLou Kemp said. “I think we’re looking at this at the right time. The public is asking for it a lot more.”

To comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, the city will have to maintain its demand-response service, but will limit it to the disabled and senior citizens 60 years old and older.

Kemp said the demand-response service is costly to operate. She said the current service costs the city $9 per trip.

The study suggests increasing the one-way fare for demand-response service from 75 cents to $2.

The transit system has a budget of about $450,000 a year including $40,000 revenue from fares, according to the CATS Web site. Last year’s expenses were about $600,000, according to CATS Executive Assistant Mitzi Barrows.

Kemp said since the transit system is a public service, it is not expected to be a revenue generator.

The fixed routes could help the city break even and generate some revenue only if the route is marketed well and the public fully utilizes the service, Kemp said.

A fixed-route system is estimated to bring in about $70,000 in fare revenues and have an operating cost of about $380,000 a year, according to the report.

The report recommends using four 16-passenger buses to service the routes.

Kemp said 16-passenger buses cost about $65,000 a piece. She said the city could apply for grants from the Federal Transit Authority to pay for the vehicles.

Kemp said items in the report are only suggestions. She said the Clovis City Commission will make the final decision on fares and bus routes.

The study cost about $12,000 and was paid for through a grant from the Federal Transit Authority and a donation from the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, according to Kemp.