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OSC Transporation Committee Speak Out Again, December, 2010

posted Jan 4, 2011, 10:13 PM by Unknown user

Services jammed at cash-strapped Dial-A-Ride

By Mike Harris

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some Fillmore High School students motivated enough to take early morning zero period classes have been turning to Vista Dial-A-Ride vans for rides instead of school buses.

But they have been finding reservations hard to come by because area farmworkers also use the vans and tend to book them in advance.

Managed and operated by the Ventura County Transportation Commission, the Dial-A-Ride program provides modestly priced vans that offer curb-to-curb service in Fillmore, Piru and Santa Paula.

Commission Executive Director Darren Kettle said there simply isn’t enough funding for additional vans to satisfy the demand of both students and agricultural workers. The program is funded with contributions from the county and the cities of Fillmore and Santa Paula.

“The challenge is that there is the demand from the students, there’s the demand from the ag workers and there’s just not enough service,” Kettle said. “We would love to have more service when there’s the greatest demand, but it just boils down to not having enough resources to do that.”

Because of the sluggish economy, Kettle said, sales tax revenues that fund transit throughout the state are down.

“Throughout the county, we’ve seen a 25 percent reduction in that revenue stream,” he said. And that has led to service cutbacks, he said.

Fillmore High School Principal John Wilber said he was unaware of the students’ frustrations with the Dial-A-Ride program. But he said school buses offer transportation to the school for the zero period classes that start at 7 a.m. Monday through Thursday.

Wilbur said students voluntarily sign up for the zero period classes to enable them to get out of school an hour early at 2:05 p.m. The normal six-period school schedule goes 8:05 a.m. to 3:11 p.m., Wilber said.

Currently, there are about 60 students enrolled in two zero period classes, economics and drivers education, he said.

Kettle met late last month with a group of the students who are members of the transportation committee of One Step A La Vez, a Fillmore/Piru youth mentoring program associated with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County. Kettle said what he took away from the meeting was the students “are not able to use the school busing that is available or they choose not to use it,” finding it not as convenient as the Dial-A-Ride vans.

Jessica Ramos, 17, a senior at Fillmore High who sits on the transportation committee, said she used to take Dial-A-Ride to school but because of frustrations with the service, she switched back to the school bus.

“The van would be packed with field workers and sometimes there would only be like one seat available,” said Ramos, of Rancho Sespe. “And one of the field workers would give me his seat and he would sit on the floor. Sometimes, there were as many as four people sitting on the floor.”

Sam Cruz, 18, of Piru, graduated Fillmore High in June. The Ventura College freshman said while in high school, he would turn to Dial-A-Ride when he missed the school bus.

“And they would never answer on time,” said Cruz, who is also a member of the transportation committee. “It was always busy. And by the time I got through, the shuttle would be sold out, and I would have no way to get to school.”

Kettle acknowledged the service could use more people to answer phones and take reservations, but reiterated the funding isn’t there.

© 2011 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online

Ventura County Star