Economical, eco-friendly ride

More people are riding the bus than ever before—and for good reason

Aaron Rakes is one of the many folks who have ditched commuting for the bus.

Aaron Rakes is one of the many folks who have ditched commuting for the bus.

Photo By vic cantu

Aaron Rakes says he saves hundreds of dollars per month by riding the bus, rather than driving each weekday from Chico to his job in Oroville.

“It would cost me $300 a month for gas and upkeep if I drove a car,” he said.

With the uptick in fuel prices, taking the B-Line Transit buses around Chico and other parts of Butte County is becoming an ever more popular way to travel. At he same time, this upsurge is helping the environment.

“Riding the buses is economical and helps cut pollution by greatly reducing the number of cars on the road spewing carbon monoxide,” said Jim Peplow, senior planner for the Butte County Association of Governments, which oversees the bus lines. “We’re on a pace to set the all-time record for the most bus riders ever this fiscal year.”

Peplow said the previous record for ridership came during another spike in fuel costs back in 2008 and 2009.

However, he also attributed the increase in passengers to more efficient bus routes, times and schedules. In 2010, the B-Line began schedule changes that incorporated technology such as Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking. This permitted more exact stop times by identifying those that were running longer or shorter than their stated times.

This streamlining has helped the environment by cutting down the time buses spend idling at stops.

Another eco-friendly change came in 2011, with the purchase of 11 buses that run on clean diesel fuel. They replaced older, less fuel-efficient models. All B-Line buses now run on either eco-friendly clean diesel or compressed natural gas.

That same year, many stops shortened their intervals from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.

More than 500 B-Line bus stops are now made daily throughout Butte County. The record ridership seen in the first eight months of the current fiscal year has also been enhanced by 75 new bus shelters built in the last two years countywide. Each has colored, easy-to-read route schedules.

For anyone who hasn’t ridden B-Line, there will be an opportunity to do so for free during the upcoming “Spare the Air Day” on Thursday, May 3. The special promotion is meant to encourage new riders as well as thank current ones, Peplow said.

Regular rates are $1.40, students ride for $1, and the fares cost 70 cents for seniors and the disabled. Regional fees to travel from Chico to Oroville or Gridley cost $1.80. Frequent riders can save by buying a 30-day pass for $35 (or $43 for the regional pass).

“It’s great for commuters, and you don’t have to worry about driving, breaking down, crashing, or wear and tear on your car,” Peplow said.

A much-anticipated future improvement will be the GPS updates on the B-Line’s website (go to to learn more). Expected as early as this summer, the service will allow the public to view minute-by-minute updates on the exact whereabouts and expected stop times of their buses. This information will be available on smart phones, tablets, laptops or home computers.

“If you missed your bus’ stop time, you can check the GPS updates, and if it’s running late you’ll know you can still catch it,” explained Peplow.

In the meantime, riders like Rakes continue to enjoy the buses not only for the economical benefit, but also for the friendly service.

“The drivers are extremely polite. My young son loves them,” Rakes said. “When we take our regular bus, he says, ‘He’s my favorite driver!’ because the driver gives him candy each time.”