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Tuesday, Jul 29 2014 08:26 AM

Changes coming to Kern Regional Transit stops

Old Towne route discontinued

Riders will find new changes waiting for them beginning Aug. 4 as the Kern Regional Transit bus system institutes new changes across the board.

For the Tehachapi area, that means more times added to the stop at Kmart on its Mulbery Street side and the discontinuation of the Old Towne route.

Kern Regional Transit is a division of Kern County Roads, and serves the unincorporated parts of Kern County.

According to Ruby Horta, transit administrative coordinator, the elimination of the Old Towne route in Golden Hills boiled down to safety.

"Our 40-foot buses are too large to safely turn left into the plaza," Horta said on July 22.

She said the buses have a similar problem when turning out of the plaza as well.

"We've also received some complaints from the business owners in the plaza," Horta added.

To compensate for the loss of the Old Towne route, Horta said the transit system has made its Dial-A-Ride system available to take people to the transit stop at Kmart-Mullbery Street.

Dial-A-Ride is the transit system's local on-call transit system, though riders must schedule a destination well in advance.

As far as looking for a new site near the discontinued Old Towne, Horta noted that transit did take a second look.

"We didn't see any thing off the bat (for a new stop)," Horta said. She added there would be need to be significant consideration for things like wheelchair ramps, which take time and money to construct.

Schedule changes at Kmart stop

The new schedule for the Kmart stop has some adjustments. For those catching the bus to Bakersfield, times include 5:40 a.m., 7:50 a.m., 8:42 a.m., 12:20 p.m., 1:45 p.m., 3:49 p.m.; 6:13 p.m., 7:10 p.m. and 9:17 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Saturday and Sunday schedules will have 8:42 a.m., 1:45 p.m., and 6:13 departure times.

Those catching the bus in the direction of Lancaster should expect buses at approximately 4:50 a.m., 6:08 a.m., 8:48 a.m., 9:28 a.m., 10:43 a.m., 11:43 a.m., 2:07 p.m., 3:47 p.m. and 6:36 p.m. Monday through Friday. Buses will also be scheduled to depart to Lancaster at 9:10 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

New Saturday and Sunday schedules to Lancaster will be 4:40 a.m., 9:28 a.m. and 2:07 p.m.

The changes include renaming the routes to reflect their destinations, such as Bakersfield to Lancaster or Lancaster to California City.

The changes reflect a larger scale attempt to both streamline and improve the services for Kern Regional Transit, which has had a bad rap for rarely being on time.

"Our on time performance is awful and a lot of that has to do with the fact our schedule doesn't reflect traffic patterns," said Bob Neath, the transit system's manager, at a public meeting in Tehachapi on July 21.

Neath said that the county has spent the last five months re-evaluating the schedule, taking into consideration every detail, including the Golden Empire Transit system in Bakersfield and MetroLink in Lancaster, as well as equipment limitations, number of drivers and fueling stops.

"Putting this together is like a Rubik's cube -- you get one side done and the rest can be a mess," Neath said. "We've done our best to get all the sides to fit together."

Other fees target ridership, including the implementation of a reduced fare card and limitation of children who ride for free with adults.

Neath said the changes are to crack down on abuse in the system.

No more than two children ages 4 or younger can ride for free with a paying adult. Additional children would have to pay the normal adult fare. The Lancaster-Bakersfield does not have a reduced fare, while the local Dial-a-Ride system does.

The reduced fare card is aimed at senior citizens and people with disabilities. Neath said the transit's system's old policy could not allow drivers to question if riders were disabled.

A photo is required, Neath said, which can be emailed to the transit agency. The cards would be mailed to passengers who qualify for the reduced fare (seniors 62 and older and persons with disabilities) free of cost. Alternatives, such as a driver's license or ID, a reduced fare card from another agency, or a Medicare card can also be used.

Neath acknowledged the changes aren't perfect and that something has likely been overlooked. The changes will be evaluated through Jan. 5, 2015 and improved from there.

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