In a unique move, a portion of a Glendale bus line that faced elimination due to high operating costs will be replaced by a taxi service.
“This is totally out of the box,” said city Transit Manager Kathryn Engel.
Prior to the move, Beeline Route 13 extended up Glenoaks Canyon. But that portion of the route has faced low ridership and low revenues, city officials said.
Rather than completely eliminate transportation service up Glenoaks Canyon, the City Council on Tuesday approved replacing it with a taxicab service contracted to run a six-person shuttle five times a day for the roughly 3.5 miles roundtrip. The service is expected to cost the city about $14,000 annually, far less than the roughly $50,000 it costs for the bus service, according to a city report.
Eliminating a portion of Route 13 had been one option for reducing costs as the city’s transportation fund faces a $516,000 deficit, even after the City Council voted for rate hikes in August, which closed the gap by $2.9 million.
A portion of sales taxes dedicated to transportation pays for Glendale’s transit system, but sales tax revenues have been depressed by the recession, throwing operating costs out of line with revenues, according to the city.
The taxi service will pick up at Route 13 bus stops in the Glenoaks Canyon and have a last stop near Glendale and California avenues. Taxi shuttles along the line may be denoted by a window card or other sign, Engel said.
In addition to the taxi program, the council also decided to implement a $22 monthly fare pass for students, or about 55 cents a ride if a student takes the bus to school two times a day throughout the school week.
Last month, the council voted for rate hikes that would boost fares to 75 cents from a quarter starting Oct. 1, with another increase to $1.25 scheduled for July 1, 2013.
The discount approved on Tuesday came after education officials said the fare hike would be detrimental to students.
“My students are literally in a panic,” said Chris Coulter, principal at Allen F. Daily High School, adding that increased fares could boost truancy.
City Council members said they felt for the students, but didn’t think the city should carry all the burden of busing students to school.
Glendale Unified School District does not help pay for the Beeline. Of the 34 transit systems in Los Angeles County, 10 offer student fares and most of those systems have an average base fare of $1.10, Engel said.
About 30% of the Beeline's 2.7 million riders in 2008 used the bus system to get to school, according to a city report.
“I hear the students. I know times are tough and people are suffering and I’m not at all deaf to that,” said Mayor Laura Friedman. “But I maintain that it would be crueler to cut service than it would be to do nothing.”
The student fare and the taxi service are expected to cost the city about $96,000 a year, increasing the current projected deficit to about $612,000. It costs about $7 million a year to operate the Beeline, said Public Works Director Steve Zurn.
The city may have to make other Beeline service adjustments in the near future to balance the fund, he said.
Friedman asked city officials to think of other options beyond cutting more services in the future.
“Something has to give,” she said.
Zurn said grant funding is out there, but tough to get.
“We’ll turn over every rock,” he said.