Fuss about the bus

Public weighs in on the B-line’s new schedule

Travis Dowdy and Bridget Ross are not happy with the new bus schedule as they wait at the Second Street Transit Center.

Travis Dowdy and Bridget Ross are not happy with the new bus schedule as they wait at the Second Street Transit Center.

Photo By kyle delmar

Get involved: The public has been invited to give input on the new B-Line schedule. A meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, at the Chico City Council chambers, 421 Main St.

Eva Caddick is a developmentally disabled Chico resident with a knee devoid of cartilage. She used to catch the bus for her doctor appointments three to four blocks from her home. For the past month, however, because of B-Line’s new schedules that skip her Chapmantown neighborhood, Caddick must walk 10 blocks to snag a ride.

Sitting in the living room of her small Boucher Street home during a recent interview, Caddick, who works at the ARC of Butte County, explained that the extra distance is hard on her and how she wishes the old route was back.

B-line’s new schedule that started Nov. 1 for Butte County was designed to serve the public better, but it has many riders up in arms. Complaints primarily concern the eliminated bus lines and routes.

The good news: B-Line management is listening to its customers and working on a new, improved route schedule to begin in February. There will be other major improvements.

Jim Peplow, a senior planner with the Butte County Association of Governments, which oversees Butte Regional Transit, explained that to increase the frequency of many bus runs to every 15 minutes instead of every half-hour or hour, several less-used stops were cut. But he noted that there are still four stops on the edges of Chapmantown, at Fair, C, Mulberry and 20th streets.

The idea for the new routes began almost two years ago, at the start of the recession, with talk of impending massive budget cuts, explained Peplow.

“After a massive, 1 1/2-year study asking the public if they wanted either later bus service with fewer stops or shorter hours with more stops, the second choice won out,” he said.

The large budget cuts never came, but a new schedule was nevertheless created to streamline service. Riders traveling from north to south Chico can now do so without transferring, and student routes were extended to later hours on weekdays. Stops on other, little-used routes were greatly reduced or cut, making room for more runs in other areas.

Among those negatively affected is a group of approximately 15 developmentally disabled employees of the Chico Work Training Center who live in Paradise and Oroville. The B-Line used to pick them up shortly after work in front of the facility on weekdays. Now, due to a scheduling mix-up, those workers must take a private WTC shuttle approximately 10 blocks to catch their buses home.

Peplow said this mistake will be corrected when the new schedule is produced in February. He also noted that a myriad of improvements will be coming soon. Early this month, a new GPS system will allow the public to call B-Line operators for accurate estimated arrival times.

In February or March, this system will allow the public to see all arrival times on their computers and cell phones, and on a screen inside the downtown Second Street Transit Center booth. Route schedules will also be posted on many bus stop poles.

Peplow said the transit service is open to specific feedback on the new schedule. In fact, it’s in the midst of a series of public meetings in several Butte County locations to do that very thing.

Meanwhile, several improvements have already been made due to rider input, Peplow said.

For Rose Sprague, the biggest issue with the new routes is the elimination of a stop on Rio Lindo Avenue in front of her home at a senior complex.

Sprague, an energetic, good-natured 80-year-old, rides the bus three to four times weekly. She moved to Rio Lindo largely due to the nearby bus stop, but since her route was cut she must walk almost five blocks to catch a ride. She noted that three bus lines that served parts of north and south Chico were dropped and replaced with the No. 15. She likes this replacement bus because it goes straight to Walmart, but says she must walk approximately eight blocks to catch it.

“I’m one of the lucky ones—I can walk,” she said. “But there are four or five low-income seniors in this complex who have walkers and can’t afford the $2.25 shuttle for constant appointments with doctors and such.”