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ROTA Directors Mull County Takeover
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Riverbank Oakdale Transit Authority (ROTA) directors will delay raising their public bus fares, originally planned to become effective July 1, pending consideration of a Stanislaus County proposal to assume transit operations for the cities of Riverbank and Oakdale.
ROTA directors proposed last month hiking fares for the general public from $2 to $2.25 and for senior citizens, the disabled and students from $1.50 to $1.75. The county proposal would give local riders lower fares than the existing ROTA fares.
After representatives of both Stanislaus Regional Transit (StaRT) and Modesto Area Express (MAXX) made presentations to the ROTA board at the June 14 meeting in Riverbank, ROTA directors plan to ask the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) to consider taking Riverbank and Oakdale into the StaRT system.
Full implementation could take until July of 2012, but ROTA expects a grace period of at least another fiscal year before the state withdraws its Transportation Development Act (TDA) funding for ROTA failing to earn at least 10 percent of its operational costs from the fare box.
“We’re at 7 percent. We will not be able to make 10 percent if we do not raise fares. We do not have the ridership,” ROTA transit coordinator Donna Bridges told directors.
“But there is no time pressure. We are operating in the black,” Director Michael Brennan argued. “We do not need to raise fares at this moment. We have at least another year before the state steps in. We will not lose funds for this next fiscal year. Stanislaus County already has lower fares. Let them have the headaches and keep the fares down.”
According to a written proposal from County Transit Manager Brad Christian distributed at the meeting, Stanislaus County would require ROTA dissolve its joint powers agency and the county take over operations through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with each city and a rewritten contract with Storer Transportation.
Through a MOU, the county already oversees the transit services of the cities of Patterson (since July of 2000), Newman (since July of 2003) and Waterford (since July of 2004).
As with these cities, the county would handle all the paperwork at no additional cost to the cities or any requests for additional Local Transportation Funds for administrative fees. Since the new service would be part of StaRT, the cost would be included as part of the county’s annual TDA claim. The county would be responsible for reporting to state and federal agencies and audit requirements.
 Each city would have as much or as little input into their transit service, as they desired. County transit staff would work with city staffs and councils to insure an understanding of what could and could not be done. Patterson, Newman and Waterford have required minimal contact and appear to be well satisfied with their service.
The county already serves Oakdale and Riverbank with the Route 60 fixed route service and the Eastside Shuttle curb-to-curb service that goes between Oakdale, Riverbank, Modesto and Waterford Dial-A Ride that connects to east Oakdale, the proposal noted.
The county is very familiar with the two cities and their transit needs and desires. County Supervisor Bill O’Brien is a former ROTA board member. The county since the start of ROTA has spent many hours helping ROTA staff with planning and financial aspects of operation.
The county anticipates fare rates for the Riverbank and Oakdale service would be the same as the StaRT rates, which as of Aug. 1 will be $1,50 for the general fare, including students, and $1.25 for seniors and the disabled. There would continue to be a zone fare for east of Oakdale service.