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Bus study will ponder rate hikes

Kristofer B. WakefieldA rider gets on the Gold Country Stage in Nevada City. A study just got under way to determine whether bus fares will need to be increased and whether a bus could go to the town of Washington.
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Should it cost more than $1 for a one-way ticket to ride western Nevada County’s bus service, Gold Country Stage?

Should “low-performing” bus routes such as Route 10 to Camptonville and Route 12 to Colfax be changed?



Those are some questions to be considered by a $25,000 study just getting under way.




Gold Country Stage operates under a five-year plan that was adopted in 1997 and now needs to be updated. On Jan. 25, the Nevada County Transportation Commission – which oversees the bus service – hired a Tahoe City consulting firm named LSC Transportation Consultants, Inc. to do the update.

Funding is one issue the consultants will consider.

Gold Country Stage hasn’t increased its rates since 1992. Yet riders have asked for such things as Sunday bus service and more evening routes, said Dan Landon, the county transportation commission’s executive director.

“In order to do that, we may need to look at increasing fares,” he said.

That’s because not much growth is expected from the bus service’s main source of income: a quarter-cent sales tax which generates about $1.6 million each fiscal year. That money is used for operations and capital improvements, such as buying new buses.

Another $300,000 comes in annually for operations from state and federal grants, but those funds could be reduced.

“They’re a little bit volatile,” Landon said.

Fares currently generate roughly $225,000 annually and pay just under 20 percent of the bus service’s operating budget, Landon said.

The other issues the consultants said they’d study in a 20-page proposal include the effects of growth, increases in the population of the elderly and disabled, whether the town of Washington could be served by buses, what other sources of revenue might be tapped, and how bus service in Nevada County can best be coordinated with bus service in Placer County.

The study will include rider surveys and a public workshop. A draft study for public comment should come out in April, and the final study should be complete some time in May.


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