Agency seeks regional public transit ideas

Council of San Benito County Governments looks at future transportation

Highway 25

Do you have something to say about regional public transportation? You have until March 1 to share comments with the Council of San Benito County Governments.

The county’s regional transportation agency held a series of meetings earlier this month to take public comment on unmet needs in the public transportation system.

There are two main transit programs that the government council oversees: County Express, a local bus service with a route that travels around Hollister and the surrounding area, and Specialized Transit Services, which offers options like dial-a-ride or bus service to Gavilan College and the CalTrain station in Gilroy. There are additional paratransit services for seniors and those with disabilities.

“It is a small system, but it is serving a lot of people who have a real need for transit,” said agency Executive Director Mary Gilbert. “For the most part, our transit users may not have another option for a ride.”

According to Transportation Planner Veronica Lezama, 129,695 passengers used County Express and Specialized Transportation Services in 2017.

Service is not perfect, however. During the public meetings, typical comments included requesting extended hours and asking for more seating at popular bus stops. In addition to that, County Express currently has a gap in service from 11am to 2pm. due to a funding cut several years ago, Lezama said.

“Over the last few years we’ve seen a steady stream of funding,” she said. “During the Great Recession of 2008, we did see some funding cut and had to make some changes during that time. The good thing with Senate Bill 1 is we are looking at receiving some additional funding for public transit.”

In 2017, the California legislature passed SB 1 to increase state gas taxes and vehicle license fees in order to raise funds for the state highway system and local roads. San Benito County received over $650,000 from the state bill this fiscal year, and it is projected that revenues will increase over the years to $2.68 million by fiscal year 2020/2021.

Gilbert said some services could possibly be extended with money from SB 1 and the California Cap and Trade Program, an effort by the state to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“Cap and trade dollars right now are funding services going to Gilroy,” Gilbert said.

Other potential improvements to the system include working on enhancements to the fleet, purchasing new buses to replace high-mileage vehicles, and looking at a systemwide round of improvements to bus stops.

“Once we receive all public comment for these public transit meetings, we bring recommendations to the transportation and social services advisory council that is composed of public transit riders, people with disabilities, of a lower income, minorities, and providers of health and human services,” Lezama said. “We bring the recommendations to them, evaluate the comments received and provide a recommendation to the board.”

A draft will be presented to the board in April, where they can make changes and include their input. Potential adoption of changes could come as soon as May.

To provide input on unmet services relating to regional public transportation, send comments to the Council of Governments office at 330 Tres Pinos Road, C7 Hollister, CA 95023 with attention listed as Transit Needs, or email [email protected].

2 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Friends, The best thing for us would be to abolish COG, privatize transit, return to our free enterprise, capitalist roots in transportation, reject the radical socialists in Sacramento, insist that local elected leaders be accountable and transparent, not like the COG Directors who are unaccountable because they are appointed, and thus govern us without the consent of the voters. They use non-transparent “off book” accounting like Enron did, like Bernie Madoff did, omitting their capital and fixed costs so that they hide the true extent of their boondoggles losses. The violate the Unfair Business Practices Act by setting prices for transit below cost. They sacrifice motorists’ safety so that they can make boondoggle transit their #1 Top Priority. Transit doesn’t pay for itself in the biggest cities LA & SF, and in a rural, ag related County is a fiascoe compounded by fraud, misrepresentation and deceit by local government, who abdicate their mandate from the voters to joint power authorities like COG, VTA, TAMC, SCCRTC, etc., where they never saw a tax/fee that they didn’t fall in love with. Their lunacy has us on the Road to Serfdom, the same route taken by the USSR, and they back-slap themselves silly crowing about their “success.” They are a failed experiment in radical socialism by any rational measure, as I told them from their podium for ten years straight. They have a double standard, one for motorists, who are paying about 102% of the cost of our transport, and transit riders, who are paying only about 1% of the fully amortized cost of theirs. Without the massive diversion of gas&diesel taxes from roads and streets and highways to transit boondoggles, then they would instantly come to a halt. Instead, COG Directors reward waste, to feather the nests of their special interest friends. Until we stop them, they will forge ahead with unsound, unsustainable, unfair and unconstitutional governance abuses. I urge every motorist to sign the petition to repeal the New Gas Taxes SB-1, and join in recalling the local elected officials who aid and abet COG in violating the civil and constitutional rights of due process and equal protection. If COG was a horse, we would shoot it. The “Full Cost Recovery” policy of the SBCBOS, which they insist they must enforce, becomes “Fool Cost Recovery” at COG, where the taxpayers are made the Fools by the COG Directors. For details on COG’s lunacy, see my testimony before the Assembly Transportation Committee on legislation to defund the Bullet Train on You Tube, or read my policy paper, “ISTEA Reauthorization and the National Transportation Policy: Overlooked Externalities and Forgotten Felt Necessities,” 25 Transportation Law Journal, pp. 87-et seq. (1996). Joseph P. Thompson, Esq., Past-Chair, Legislation Committee, and Member, Transportation Lawyers Assn., Past President (2x), Gilroy-Morgan Hill Bar Assn., Charter Member, SBCCOG Citizens Transit Task Force; Charter Member, SBCCOG Citizens Rail Advisory Committee; 408-848-5506; e-Mail: [email protected]; Tres Pinos, California

  2. PUBLIC COMMENT: NEXT MEETING, REGULAR, SPECIAL, STUDY SESSION, PRIVATE RETREAT, PUBLIC WORKSHOP, AND/OR
    NON-BROWN ACT COMPLIANT MEETING OF SO-CALLED “MOBILITY PARTNERSHIP”

    Dear Mr. Holtzclaw,
    If you believe opponents of Prop. 6, roads and bridges are deteriorating in California because we don’t pay enough in taxes&fees.
    Could the reason be that our leaders divert massive amounts of taxes&fees from highways and bridges to boondoggle bankrupt transit
    fiascoes, which are conceived insolvent, born bankrupt, and kept running by ever-increasing transfusions of gas&diesel taxes and vehicle
    fees by bad public policy?
    Take SBC for example. What percentage of annual passenger trips are taken by private vehicles? Answer: 99.6% based on the last
    COG data I reviewed for one of your predecessors. What percentage of annual passenger trips are taken by public sector transit? Answer:
    Less than one-half percent. What percentage of total cost is paid by transit riders? Answer: 1% using legal accounting, not transit agency
    accounting. What percentage of total transport costs do motorists pay? Answer: 102% including highway construction and maintenance,
    on about 4.2 T annual passenger miles nationwide, SBC’s motorists included.
    If you doubled COG’s “ridership” nine times, how much money would COG spend on its boondoggle passenger fiascoe? Answer:
    An amount greater than SBC’s annual budget based on the last COG data I reviewed. I gave all this to your predecessor, when I served
    on COG’s Citizens Transit Task Force and COG’s Citizens Rail Advisory Committee.
    My friends in SBC said, So Joe, what is the answer? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Privatization.
    If you want to take a bus ride, then you pay for your fare, and you don’t ask your neighbors to pay for your ride.
    Rail: same answer.
    Lunar Escalator: same answer.
    I traced the consequences of the unsound, unsustainable transport policy in a paper I wrote while studying transportation law and
    policy at the Norman Y. Mineta International Institute for Surface Transportation Policy Studies at SJSU, “ISTEA Reauthorization and
    the National Transportation Policy: Overlooked Externalities and Forgotten Felt Necessities,” 25 Transportation Law Journal, pp. 87-et seq.
    (1996), published in shortened version in Transportation Lawyer in 1996.
    We are subjected to unaccountable, non-transparent governance abuse by unelected “directors” at the transit agencies, e.g., COG,
    VTA, etc., who govern without voter consent because they are appointed, not elected, to the agency. They cover up the full extent of
    their boondoggle losses by using non-GAAP accounting methods like Enron did, like Bernie Madoff did, called “off-book” accounting,
    where capital and fixed costs are omitted from their financial reports, making it look like they are not as deep in deficit spending as
    they really are. They violate the Unfair Business Practices Act by pricing services below cost, thus forcing taxpayers to make-up the
    difference. They call it “success.” In reality, it is just the opposite.
    So, they have us on the Road to Serfdom, and so long as they reward their special interest friends who make out like bandits
    with the insolvent transit operations they refuse to reform.
    If you want to know where this will end, just take a look at the history of the USSR.
    Why don’t you report truth in transportation? We don’t get it from our local leaders.
    Caveat viator.
    Joseph P. Thompson, Esq.
    Past-Chair, Legislation Committee, Transportation Lawyers Assn.
    Past-President, 1999-2001, 2006, Gilroy-Morgan Hill Bar Assn.
    (408) 848-5506
    e-Mail: [email protected]

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