bus privatize, 3/14/13

People board the Fairfield and Suisun Transit route 3 bus at the Fairfield Transportation Center earlier this year. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic file 2013)

Solano County

Fairfield could study bus merger with SolTrans

By From page A1 | October 12, 2013

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield could look at the pros and cons of merging the Fairfield and Suisun Transit bus service with SolTrans, the bus service in Benicia and Vallejo.

SolTrans began in 2010  and was born out of a discussion led by the Solano Transportation Authority on consolidating bus services in Solano County. At the time, only Benicia and Vallejo decided to go ahead, creating a joint powers authority to run a single south county bus service.

The Fairfield City Council on Tuesday will vote on having Management Partners do the merger study for $45,000, with the Solano Transportation Authority paying. It meets at 6 p.m. in its chamber at 1000 Webster St.

FAST provides bus service in Fairfield and Suisun City. It also offers express buses to Bay Area Rapid Transit stations in El Cerrito and Walnut Creek, paratransit services and a reduced fare taxi program.

The impacts of bus service consolidation on FAST and on Fairfield have never been studied, a city report said. The Management Partners report will look at how consolidation would work financially, how it would affect local bus services and how the regional transportation system would be governed.

“Consolidation of public transit within the Bay Area has been going on for years,” Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said Friday. “In some cases, it works very well. We don’t know if it would work well for us or if it would work at all.”

City Councilman John Mraz had a blunt response to the idea of a SolTrans merger.

“It stinks. It stinks,” he said. “There’s no way we want to incorporate ourselves with the bus system in Vallejo. It would clear a lot of our jobs that are in the public sector working on these buses. We would lose employees. As far as I’m concerned, it isn’t going to happen.”

But he’s willing to do a study that he said the Solano Transportation Authority has wanted to see done for years.

“Let’s get it over with,” Mraz said. “And let’s put it to bed.”

Management Partners should finish its study in three months, the city report said.

Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls described his agency’s role as working on coordination between the various local bus system operators in the county. The public wants to be able to make connections between the bus systems, he said.

For example, he mentioned talk of implementing the Clipper system in Solano County. Clipper is a transit card that can be used to pay fares on various Bay Area mass transit systems, including BART.

The Fairfield City Council would have to vote on any proposed merger between FAST and SolTrans, city Assistant Public Works Director for Transportation Wayne Lewis said. The city can’t be forced to join the SolTrans joint powers authority, he said.

Halls said SolTrans would also have to agree to a merger.

“Like a lot of issues, there’s probably some benefits and there’s probably some obstacles,” Halls said. “It’s a local decision.”

FAST buses are operated under contract by MV Transportation. That contract expires in 2014.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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