Gold Country awaits new buses, hopes for new riders
Riders soon will hop on new buses in Nevada County, and a marketing campaign to attract more riders for Gold Country Stage is coming, too.
On Wednesday the Transit Services Commission of Western Nevada County approved the purchase of three new buses this year, as well as five more to replace existing ones – all totaling $600,000. The fleet now stands at 18. The plan also includes a bus replacement schedule for the next five years and a reserve fund to help buy them.
Within a few weeks, Gold Country will also begin an outreach program, urging people to ride the bus to work or other destinations. The buses run throughout Grass Valley and Nevada City and also to Penn Valley, North San Juan, Colfax and Auburn.
“We’re trying to encourage people to use the Gold Country Stage to go shopping or to the movies – there’s a lot of stops,” said Interim Transit Services Manager Steve Porter. “We want people to get out of their cars and reduce emissions.”
The program will be funded with a $22,000 grant from the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District, according to spokeswoman Bobbi Coulter.
The new buses are Chevrolets with diesel engines that will be two sizes: 29 feet long for 20 riders and 32 feet for 24 passengers. The buses will have two secure wheelchair spots and a bicycle rack.
“It will mean more efficient buses on the road, which will make service more pleasant for riders,” said board chairwoman Ann Guerra.
Board member Josh Susman said the bus purchase should mean fewer breakdowns and better consistency for riders.
He also said rising fuel prices could give Gold Country Stage a boost in ridership in coming months.
According to Porter, “We can lower our maintenance cost dramatically and slowly phase out the seasoned buses” with the replacement program. “We budgeted $70,000 less for maintenance costs this year,” knowing the buses were coming.
Susman said he hopes the new buses will sustain Gold Country Stage, which has experienced a bumpy ride in recent years.
In 2003, routes to North San Juan, Colfax and between Grass Valley and Nevada City were curtailed because of budget restraints and declining ridership. The routes were restored last year and ridership increased to almost 284,000 passengers in fiscal year 2005-2006.
Porter said the numbers for fiscal year 2006-2007, which ends in June, show another increase, but he did not have those figures available.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4237.
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