Possible changes coming to South County bus route

Lassen Rural Bus’ annual performance report revealed many changes. Changes include the loss of college student riders to the possibility of reduced services to the Sierra Army Depot.

Ridership and fares are down but the west county and city routes are afloat this year at LRB.

The overall number of passengers who have used LRB’s services this year has declined compared to the year before. In 2016-2017, LRB reported 88,419 passengers and in 2017-2018, there were only 85,828. That’s a loss of almost 2,600 passengers from the previous year and almost 2,500 less than 2015-2016.

LRB’s average passenger per day has also lost an average of nine riders per day.

The total collected from fares is also down from the previous two years. The fares dropped by almost $14,000 from the previous year and more than $40,000 from 2015-2016.                   Data from LRB’s performance report also reveal a striking statistical trend for south and east county commuters: They’re in rapid decline.

The south county route ­ also known as the depot route ­ lost more than 3,600 passengers from the year before, which is more than 25 percent of its ridership and the east county is down by almost 10 percent.

Agency staff David Knaut told the board, “Especially … coming back, the east county bus has hardly any ridership. We drive sometimes back and forth with nobody.”

In addition to these challenges, LRB has seen fuel costs increase by 20 percent.

The Lassen Transit Service Agency, in order to take action at cost-savings, is looking to save $30,000 either by having the Litchfield service be on-demand, reduce services or get rid of the bigger buses to use and purchase smaller vans.

With the ongoing trend, agency staff recommended changing how the south and east county routes are serviced and would like to pursue the idea of servicing the routes with one bus instead of two busses between Monday and Thursday.

The proposed option with one bus would service most of the same stops estimated to reduce vehicle service hours by half.

However, the changes, which could take place, will be discussed at future public meetings before the board makes its final decision.

Knaut, who reported all of the data to the board, also shared the changes in ridership by passenger type. Riders heading on a one-way trip ­ called general riders ­ increased by almost 500 this year.

However, “College (riders) went down by quite a bit,” said Knaut, who tied the trend to enrollment at the college, which Knaut says, “has been a little less over the last year.”

The agency sent a representative to the college earlier in the year.

Their goal was to be present when the students would receive their student identification cards so they would know the benefits of the free bus pass. Knaut said the representative shared the benefits of the pass, which is included for free with the Lassen College student identification card.

Knaut said the benefit, extended to the students, isn’t limited to strictly to and from school. Knaut said the students “can go down to the Bizz Johnson and even go to Lake Almanor if they want to.”