Bus line makes history
“Spare some change for the bus?” asked a man sitting on the curb at the downtown Chico Transit Center Monday (April 30).
“No dude, the busses are free this week,” said his mark, a backpacked fellow walking toward the Chico State campus.
Then the man, whom we’ll call Ivory because he could have used a bar of soap, stood up and walked toward the bus in front of him. Risking olfactory overload, I tapped him on the shoulder and explained, “It’s B-Line’s Spare the Air Week. It’s a promotion they’re doing for a clean and healthy environment, and a lot of the routes have guest speakers to entice riders.”
“So, you got a dollar?” Ivory asked.
“Sorry,” I chuckled, stepping onto the Route 10 bus.
Monday’s Route 10 speaker was historian David Nopel, son of famed Chico historian John Nopel, who died last November at the age of 92.
The title of his talk was “Bidwell and The Esplanade.” This was fitting, since Route 10 leaves the transit center, drives the length of The Esplanade, then returns to the transit center.
Accompanying Nopel was his host, Jeanne Ertle, who works for the Butte County Healthcare Coalition and represents the OneCareNow campaign, which advocates for universal single-payer health care in California. Each speaker is accompanied by a host.
Also on the bus were City Councilman Larry Wahl and his wife, Mary—friends of Nopel’s—along with many other Chicoans, several of whom were old enough to remember some of the history Nopel provided.
One 82-year-old woman, who got on the bus at the transit center and exited when the bus returned, said she remembered the electric rail car that used to travel down The Esplanade and present-day Park Avenue to about 16th Street near the Diamond Match factory.
The bus seemed more crowded than usual, and the driver, Robert O’Neill, agreed that a lot more people had been riding.
That’s the point.
“We’d love it if everyone would ride the bus or at least walk or bike at least three times this week,” said Linda Furr, of the League of Women Voters. The league has designated her to monitor meetings of the Butte County Association of Governments, which operates the B-Line system.
Furr first heard of the Spare the Air Week plans last December from Jim Peplow, who is the senior planner of transit operations at BCAG. Almost immediately, she went to work, coming up with the idea for the speakers and hosts to get more people to ride and make the trips more fun.
With speakers ranging from historians to geologists, from naturalists to Chico Mayor Andy Holcombe, it’s been a hit, and “ridership has been heavier than normal,” Peplow said.
Spare the Air Week was made possible not only by the hard work of Peplow and Furr, but also by Gail Williams and a $15,000 grant from the agency she directs, the Butte County Air Quality Management District. About half the grant went to advertising to get the word out and people to ride the busses, Peplow said.
Ivan Garcia, program manager at BCAG, said plans are already in the works to do it again. “We’ll be requesting more funds,” he said. “We’re going to try to do it once in the fall and one time in the spring.”
For a list of the Spare the Air Week speakers, go to www.BLineTransit.com. David Nopel will speaking again on Route 10 Saturday (May 5) from 1:27 to 4:27 p.m.