Local bus adds two stops next week, looking for more riders

Virginia Graziani

Redwood Times

The good news about Southern Humboldt’s local bus: new stops will be added soon. The bad news: the local bus is still about 200 riders a month short of meeting the number needed to keep it running.

Starting next week the local SoHum bus that goes from Garberville to Miranda via several stops in Garberville, Redway, and Phillipsville will also swing south to Benbow and make an extra stop in Redway in the Meadows Business Park.

A revised schedule will be available next week but will be as close to the current schedule as possible, said Greg Pratt, director of the Humboldt Transit Authority.

Preliminary tests - done by car - indicate that the new stops will add only about five minutes to the schedule each way, but until testing is done in a bus, which should happen this week, HTA can’t establish a firm schedule, Pratt continued.

Also, there are currently no official bus stops at either Benbow or the business park. HTA will wait to see what works best for riders before establishing stops. In the meantime, the bus will pick up riders who signal with a wave at any location that is visible and large enough for the bus to stop safely between the Benbow off-ramp and the golf course, and along Evergreen Drive in the Meadows Business Park.

These stops have been added because of requests and comments from people in the community, Pratt said.

Another change is that the bus will no longer go down side streets in Garberville. Riders seldom waited at the stop at Oak and Locust Streets and the bus often got into tight situations on the narrow street, Pratt explained.

From now on all buses will stop at the corner of Redwood Drive and Melville Road on the south end of Garberville and at the Humboldt House Inn (northbound) or near the Branding Iron and Calico’s (southbound) on Redwood Drive in Garberville. Other stops will remain the same.

Persons wishing to go south to Benbow should wait at Calico’s, Pratt said.

All HTA bus lines, including the SoHum lines, need to make at least 10% of their cost at the fare box, and the rest of the funding comes from a one-quarter of one percent sales tax dedicated to public transit in Humboldt County.

A bus line that does not make its 10% fare box share within two years may be granted a one-year "grace period." The SoHum local bus, which has never made the 10 percent share, began its year of grace last July 1.

An average of 900 riders a month use the local bus, Pratt said, but it takes about 1,100 to make the 10 percent share.

If a line fails to meet its fare box requirement after the grace period, it’s up to the county board of supervisors to decide whether or not the sales tax revenue that was going to support that bus line might better be used for another transit need, explained Marcella Clem, executive director of the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG).

HCAOG is a joint powers agreement made up of the incorporated cities in Humboldt County and the county itself representing the unincorporated areas like SoHum. One of its responsibilities is to receive and distribute the transportation sales tax funds. HCAOG also conducts yearly audits of all bus lines to see if they are meeting their fare box requirements.

Humboldt Transit Authority (HTA) is also a joint powers agreement, made up of all transit systems managed by the county and the cities. HTA actually operates the buses.

Redwood Transit System (RTS) is the bus operator for SoHum and for several other lines serving unincorporated areas of the county.

In addition to the local SoHum service, HTA/RTS also operates an inter-city bus that goes between Garberville and Eureka with five round trips a day, making stops in Redway, Phillipsville, Miranda, Myers Flat, the freeway off-ramp in Weott, Rio Dell, several stops in Fortuna, College of the Redwoods, and several stops in Eureka, terminating at the county courthouse.

The inter-city bus has been consistently meeting and exceeding its fare box requirement, Pratt said.

For more information and schedules, go to HTA’s website, www.hta.org, or call 443-0826. Schedules and fares are also posted at several bus stop kiosks along the route.