City Council approves Transit Plan update that recommends neighborhood shuttles, free/reduce transfers

A city bus returns from its morning route at the Transit Maintenance Facility on Constellation Road. Gilbert Bernal \ The Signal
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The Santa Clarita City Council unanimously adopted an update Tuesday to the Transit Development Plan, which offers 14 recommendations, such as neighborhood shuttles, a local transfer policy and improvements to late-night transportation. 

“The Transit Development Plan is a living document that we use as a roadmap for the operation of transit services here in Santa Clarita,” said Adrian Aguilar, the city’s transit manager, “and it is also a tool that we use when applying for grant funding from either the state or the federal level.”

Each plan covers a planning period of five to 10 years, with the last one created for 2013-18. To update the document for the coming years, Moore and Associates, a local consulting firm contracted by the city last year for $200,000, spent the year conducting outreach efforts that include surveys and public workshops in and around Santa Clarita to help analyze demographic shifts and future developments. 

More than 4,000 people took part in the project, according to Jim Moore with Moore and Associates. 

Neighborhood shuttles

Santa Clarita Transit is experiencing a ridership decline, and so is “the vast majority of operations in the United States,” according to the plan. Councilwoman Laurene Weste said she has observed “huge, empty buses during the day” and hopes to see smaller vehicles that “meet the demands for the city, but not just create just these large buses in and out of traffic running empty.”   

That’s where neighborhood shuttles would come into use.

“Shortening distance and time on key arterials would likely enhance service reliability. Smaller vehicles would be used to go deeper into neighborhoods to provide connections with ‘trunk routes’ traveling along key arterials, such as Soledad Canyon Road, Bouquet Canyon Road, Valencia Boulevard, Newhall Ranch Road, and Lyons Avenue,” the plan read. 

Local transfer policy

Right now, Santa Clarita riders have to pay for each ride individually per local service. 

But one of the recommendations was to offer a free or reduced transfer fare between all local fixed-route services to “encourage riders to take advantage of a ‘hub service’ approach’” and “encourage current riders to utilize the service more, and give potential riders a better incentive to use public transit,” according to reader feedback in a survey. 

Late-night options

A community survey showed “service hours” was the lowest-ranked attribute. One option the plan recommends to improve this is to offer taxi or rideshare vouchers as a replacement for bus service during early mornings, late evenings and Sundays. 

“Providing alternatives to traditional bus service during low ridership periods could also help the city re-allocate its resources to potentially provide increased service during these days and times with high demand,” the plan stated. 

Other recommendations included enhancing bus stops, bus/signal prioritization along Soledad Canyon Road and bringing Flyaway bus service to the McBean Regional Transit Center to provide access to LAX. 

Mayor Marsha McLean, a longtime advocate of public transportation, commented on exploring Metrolink services from Santa Clarita stations to North Hollywood. She was unavailable Thursday to discuss the implementation of the overall plan. 

The plan is a guiding document and not binding, according to Moore.  

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