Riverbank Oakdale Transit Authority directors on April 10 again discussed the public bus system’s failure to meet state funding requirements by recovering at least 10 percent of their costs in fares and talked about possible options such as handing over its operation to Stanislaus County Regional Transit.
They declined, however, a recommendation from their transit coordinator Donna Bridges to raise the local system’s fares by 25 cents. Fares are currently $1.50 for seniors and the disabled and $2 for the general public. Encouraged by news the fare box recovery figure had climbed from about 7 percent in 2010-2011 to 9 percent in the current financial year, they asked for more information and postponed action to their next meeting in June.
Funding for ROTA comes from Local Transportation Funds derived from one-fourth cent of the general sales tax collected statewide. For ROTA to continue receiving state funds it must collect 10 percent of total operating costs in fare revenue, Bridges reminded the board.
Since ROTA did not achieve the 10 percent fare box ratio in fiscal year 2010-2011, it incurred a penalty of $14,000, the difference between the mandated fares and the actual fares, and ROTA will lose this much in funding for the fiscal year 2012-2013.
In addition, ROTA is currently not being charged for approximately $18,000 in costs. The Local Redevelopment Authority, for example, which manages the Riverbank Industrial Park where buses are stored and the transit coordinator’s office is located, does not charge for rent, water and electricity. The city absorbs ROTA’s costs for technical support, office supplies and Bridges’ use of a city vehicle. Storer Transit in addition has not increased ROTA’s costs for the past two years to help meet the fare box ratio.
Presenting several options to achieve that, Bridges noted Stanislaus County has proposed merging ROTA with its Stanislaus Regional Transit (StaRT) system which already provides services to smaller cities like Patterson and would offer a simple transition through an agreement to serve.
In another option, Bridges suggested Oakdale and Riverbank could consider dissolving the JPA and submitting separate claims to the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) for transit funds. Oakdale might be able to continue functioning because it provides about twice the riders that Riverbank does including many students (about 700 per month) who ride the buses in Oakdale. (Oakdale school buses do not pick up students within the city limits). But it would be limited by vehicle service hours and see its operating costs increase. Riverbank, she felt, would not be able to support its own transit system for lack of riders.