Santa Rosa unveils plan to revamp city’s bus routes
Santa Rosa hopes to boost flagging bus ridership numbers by making its CityBus service faster and more convenient along the city’s busiest corridors.
But it also wants to maintain a system that offers convenient service for residents across the city, including lower-density neighborhoods.
Just how daunting a challenge it is to strike a balance between those two goals became clear Tuesday when city officials unveiled their nearly complete plan to revamp the city’s bus routes.
Bus riders, many of whom rely on bus service as their primary source of transportation, are distressed by some of the changes.
Dozens of residents signed a petition asking the city not to eliminate at a stop in Fountaingrove near Keysight Technologies, one of the city’s largest employers.
A route that goes right past Memorial Hospital will be eliminated in favor of beefing up service on nearby Sonoma Avenue.
And residents of neighborhoods that haven’t had bus service and don’t want it decried having buses traveling through their quiet streets.
Dawn Barbieri, a school teacher, said there are too many hills and Piner High students using Appletree Drive to make it a good place for a bus route. “This a dangerous area,” she said.
Over the past year, the city has held more than 100 meetings and events with residents over what it’s calling Reimagine CityBus. It has received more than 350 comments on its proposals.
Many of the negative comments have been about the route proposed to go past Barbieri’s home. The new Route 11 was only recently revealed, compared to the yearlong process, and has had little public input.
The route is designed to pull residents of the northeast and northwest areas of town into the central corridor, where the frequency of rides along Mendocino Avenue, Bicentennial Way and Range Avenue will be increased from 30 minutes now to every 15 minutes.
Sebastopol Avenue and parts of Third Street will also get the new speedier service, which is designed in part to better connect the city’s bus lines with Sonoma County Transit and the city’s two commuter rail stations that Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit expects to begin operating by the end of the year.
Route 11, however, is going into two residential neighborhoods that haven’t had service in the past. The Appletree area on the west side of town and Leete Avenue and Aaron Drive area off Parker Hill Road on the east side would be neighborhoods where the city’s shorter hybrid bus would perform a loop before returning to the Coddingtown Mall area.
The fact that the bus would only operate every 75 minutes with a smaller bus during work hours meant the city didn’t initially notify the residents of those areas about the proposals, said Rachel Ede, city transit planner, who took responsibility for the oversight.
“We certainly could have done a better job out of the gate,” Ede said.
Overall, however, the City Council gave Ede and her team high marks for how they handled the challenge of concentrating coverage in key areas without scaling it back so much in other areas that too many riders are affected.
Some areas that will see a reduction in service include parts of Montgomery Drive near Memorial Hospital, Colgan Avenue, and Highway 12 near Brush Creek. In these and other cases, the city reasoned that low ridership in those areas, short distances to other stops, or the existence of other transit options made eliminating the routes tolerable.
The vulnerable nature of the population served by CityBus was made clear by the riders who came out to fight for it. One woman asked the city to try to restore the stop near the new Cleveland Avenue home of The Living Room, a day service for homeless women and children.
If OK’d by the City Council next month, the changes would likely take place in November, she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @srcitybeat.