Buses are in high demand. Santa Maria Regional Transit found a 31% increase in ridership in 2022 when compared to 2021.
“Particularly, we saw an increase in high schoolers, so when we saw where those families originated from and where they were trying to go, we adjusted our routes accordingly,” said Gamaliel Anguiano, Santa Maria Regional Transit Services Manager.
That would be Route 2 serving mostly those attending Pioneer Valley High School.
College students like Abel Monreal rely on this means of transportation.
“Much cheaper than paying $20 for gas since gas is so expensive nowadays,” explained Monreal.
Carmen Maganda says she has a car at home but she prefers to take the bus. She said gas prices are very high so this is a way to save money.
Santa Maria Regional Transit believes the increase in gas prices this year is just one of the reasons why ridership is up.
“There are a number of factors attributing to that — the cost of living, higher fuel prices, but also credit to the improvements we’ve brought to our transit system,” added Anguiano.
One of them was a cost reduction for riders.
“Our city council approved a temporary discount on many of our passes. We introduced two new types: an all-day pass for just $3,” said Anguiano.
And a $31 monthly pass.
“We introduced a mobile ticketing app, a live, real-time, data tracking app and of course our first two electric buses,” said Anguiano.
While riders like Maganda enjoy those spacious, electric buses, she said there is still room for improvement.
Maganda said she would like to see bus drivers arrive on time because sometimes they are either delayed or they leave before the scheduled time.
That's something the agency is working to address.
“As we’ve seen this tremendous rise in ridership, we are now experiencing delays in our buses, so we will be adjusting, and we will be reacting to that in a way that is favorable to the rider, but for now we just want to keep helping families get about the city in an affordable way,” said Anguiano.
The agency is expecting more electric buses with the goal of becoming 100% electric by 2024.
Santa Maria Regional Transit has also noticed a favorable response to its Route 12 Express running on Broadway.
Two more routes are being designed and expected to roll out in the next six months.