Free bus service to, from Mare Island through Feb. 14

Vallejo Times Herald
January 25, 2017
Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

For more than a dozen years, getting to Mare Island from the Vallejo mainland meant driving, walking or riding a bike. There has been no regular bus service to the island for at least that long.

But, as activity grows on the island, SolTrans, the Solano County transportation agency, has been hearing that bus service is needed to and from the island, so, they’re trying it out. Bus service to the island, which used to be run by the Navy, stopped in 1990, SolTrans officials said.

Bus service between the Vallejo mainland and Mare Island is available through the end of February, and, what’s more, it’s free until Feb. 14, SolTrans Executive Director Mona Babauta said.

Agency officials hope to gauge the need to keep such service going, she said.

“We will be bringing the issue to the board and discuss its future, whether or not there should be regular bus service to and from Mare Island,” Babauta said. “We’ll report on how the service performed and we’ll bring it to the board.”

Ridership data will help officials formulate recommendations for the board’s consideration during its February meeting, she said.

“The options are to continue to run it at a loss, though, we’re hoping performance will improve. Or because of low ridership, discontinue it,” Babauta said. “Or, if I can get a company or two to help fund service, continue the route for a specified period of time.”

A dial-a-ride option is also a possibility, project analyst Mandi Renshaw said.

SolTrans recovers some 35 percent of its operating expenses through passenger fares, Babauta said.

“Bottom line is we need to make sure we’re operating an efficient transit system,” she said. “To the extent the Mare Island service impacts (our recovery percentage), that will influence our decision to continue it or not.”

So far, officials are “pleasantly surprised” by the number of passengers there have been since the test run started a couple of weeks ago.

“We’ve been carrying people, in an area we have never served before,” Babauta said. “A couple people per hour on average.”

Primarily, riders are going into the island from the mainland in the morning, and back at the end of the day, she said.

“We suspect others are going to the Vallejo City Unified School District offices. We’re hearing there’s demand for direct service to the school district,” Babauta said.

Other places where a demand is assumed include the Veteran’s Administration center and Touro University, and the shuttle stops at each. It also makes stops at or near the Ferry Building and the Mare Island Museum, said project analyst Mandi Renshaw.

The shuttle offers free Wi-Fi, seat belts and a wheelchair ramp. It makes several round trips from the downtown transit center on Sacramento Street from 7 a.m. to about 6 p.m., officials said.

Aidan Tran, a recent Southern California transplant, caught the shuttle near the Ferry Building on Wednesday. It was his first ride, he said.

“I’m meeting someone at Touro,” he said. “I would have had to take my car, (if the shuttle weren’t available).”

SolTrans Officials are asking the public not only ride the shuttle but to provide feedback via an online survey card on the SolTrans website at: http://www.soltransride.com/planning/mare-island-survey/.

While a fare will be charged after Feb. 14, seniors over 60 and veterans will continue to ride free with proper identification, the women said.

For schedule times and locations, visit www.soltransride.com or call (707) 648-4666.

Contact Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824.