Fate of Shuttle in Council's Hands

On July 10, the Thousand Oaks City Council will meet to address transportation issues. Among the subjects for discussion and consideration will be a recommendation from staff to discontinue the Smart Shuttle Pilot Program. The implementation of such a directive would strike a serious blow to the present and future fortunes of public transportation in Thousand Oaks, most particularly to senior citizens, but in general to our entire citizenry. Sure as night follows day, an issue that adversely affects such a large segment of the population will eventually cause a negative impact on the rest of the community.

By discontinuing Smart Shuttle, our local transportation system will revert to the failures of the past. We simply cannot continue to impose a traditional system of service on our nontraditional street grid and expect the apples-and-oranges mix to be functional. Forty-foot-long buses restricted by their size to the main arteries serenely pass by the enclaves of thousands of potential fares on a daily basis. In our neighborhood-oriented, cul-de-sac dominated, T-intersection street grid, those behemoths just don't cut it. Since Mohammed is not coming to the mountain, it's time we bring the mountain--in the form of the Smart Shuttle--to Mohammed. A 14-month trial period restricted to a narrow corridor in central Thousand Oaks and an artificially low fare schedule hardly constitutes a comprehensive effort for change.

The primary motivation for the staff's recommendation is financial. It is universally accepted that local public transportation will not be paid for by the fare box.

The target was to recoup 20% in fare box revenues, and Smart Shuttle was around 10%. Not surprising, said the O'Melia consulting firm, in view of the extremely low fare schedule. Other methods of fare recovery have been tried successfully elsewhere. In Camarillo, Leisure Village pays the city $16,000 a year to provide a scheduled service for its 3,000 residents. Not for exclusive use, but for regular availability and convenience.

The city gets a guaranteed sum and fewer cars on the street. The consultant's report also pointed out that in spite of a restricted area of service, Smart Shuttle reached a ridership of 2,000 per month, and in March of this year boarded 2,779.

Why don't we bring the same creativity that gave us our libraries, our Many Mansions, our Civic Arts Plaza, on this issue of lasting importance to our city? Let's start thinking outside the box to make this work. Let's commit our resources for an additional two years of Smart Shuttle, instead of shortchanging this program and our public.

Marshall Dixon

Member, Board of Directors

Oaknoll Villas Homeowners Association

Thousand Oaks

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