Amid inflation and high gas prices, people in Santa Maria are turning to other options to get around town.
People we spoke with Thursday at the Santa Maria Transit Center said they don't bother filling up their cars anymore. They say spending $3 every day for a Santa Maria Regional Transit (SMRT) bus pass ends up saving them hundreds on fuel every week.
Changes to two of SMRT's popular bus routes are presenting another option.
"We are introducing Route 12X, which is kind of like an express line from downtown out towards the Santa Maria Public Airport and Orcutt," said Mark van de Kamp, City of Santa Maria Public Information Manager.
"The 6 (route) doesn't come here anymore, so they have to take two buses to go to Orcutt instead of being able to get on a bus here and go all the way to Orcutt. I think [riders] miss that," said longtime city bus driver Brenda Miller.
Santa Maria Regional Transit's Route 2 is also being changed due to input from locals. The heavily traveled route will now stop along Cook Street instead of Main Street to accommodate transportation for riders heading downtown.
"We kind of took a hit with COVID and [riders] are starting to come back," Miller said. "I think they like the new routes."
Consistently high local gas prices are also sending Santa Maria bus ridership surging.
"It is just an exorbitant amount of cash just to fill up any type of vehicle," said Rudy Castellanos, a frequent bus rider.
"It is just easier to pay what, $4 down to Buellton from here in Santa Maria, and it is just like $6 to get from my town from here," added bus rider Canyon Varni.
While the City of Santa Maria says it did not specifically make the changes as a result of high gas prices, city leaders say expanding their routes may present some financial relief to the community.
"This is an extremely viable option," added van de Kamp. "We have seen it before when gas prices were high and we are seeing it now that people are taking a second or third look and saying, 'Let's just go and ride on SMRT.'"
Route 2 and 12X operate Monday through Friday, with their first pickups at 6:30 a.m. at the Regional Transit Center.
SMRT's new Route 12X will begin in August, while the new stops on Route 2 are already in service.
You can find more information about the City of Santa Maria's updated routes by clicking here: https://cityofsantamaria.org/city-government/departments/public-works-services/public-transit-services-