Oct 26, 2011 9:20 PM by Ariel Wesler

Residents rally to restore bus service

Hundreds of people in Santa Maria are fighting to restore bus service to their neighborhood. The Santa Maria transit center opened in June and bus routes changed throughout the city. Among the differences, Route 20 used to run on Western Avenue and was replaced with Route 2, which runs on Railroad Avenue. Santa Maria area transit leaders say they made the original changes the community wanted, but the changes didn't go over well with everyone.

Before the transit center opened in June and bus routes changed, transit leaders held six workshops to get input from the community. They wanted more direct service, but now people say pulling out some of the stops is stopping them from getting where they need to go.

These bus stops at Cook and Western in Santa Maria are no longer in service. It's a huge loss for the riders who depend on them.

"That bus stop was actually used for most likely for a lot of students and elderly people for them to go to church every Sunday," said Janett Morales, a 12th grader at Santa Maria High School. "I got tired of people's needs not being met."

So, she decided to make a difference. In the past two weeks, she and some of her friends collected 300 signed complaints from neighbors frustrated by the changes. Transit officials say they welcome the feedback.

"It's not unusual for us to make a change, see how it goes, and then make some tweaks at it. It's a giant system," said Santa Maria Transit Manager Austin O'Dell.

Working with Pueblo, a community advocacy group, Morales personally delivered those petitions to transit leaders.

"People had called and called and complained but I guess we just needed some signatures," Morales said.

"I'm happy that we have 300 people who are going to be interested in helping on the service, that they've got some input, but Thursday was the first time we heard about this," O'Dell said.

Santa Maria Area Transit will hold two more workshops in november to hear from the community.

Another big complaint has been the bus bay numbers. They don't correspond with the bus routes, and some people have found that confusing. SMAT plans to change that before the end of the year.

The dates for the community workshops are:

Wednesday, Nov. 16 6-8 p.m. Santa Maria Library.

Saturday, Nov. 19 1-3 p.m. Santa Maria Library.



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