Members of the Ceres City Council were given an update on transit services in Ceres and throughout Stanislaus County during last week’s meeting.
In 2020 the city of Ceres turned over its public transit system over to the city of Modesto which operates the Modesto bus system. Since that time the Stanislaus Regional Transit Authority is a consolidation of the county’s bus system known as StART and MAX rebranded as ‘Ride the S.’
“Obviously it takes time to rebrand 80 buses,” said Adam Barth, CEO of the Stanislaus Regional Transit Authority. “But we’ll get there, most likely by the end of the year.”
The Authority is also tasked with examining the routes to see how to improve them and “make it easier for folks to get around.”
The task involves looking at all four MAX and StaRT routes and “make them into one cohesive network of routes” with the intent of increasing ridership and “to get more people on the bus, make sure that the buses are serving the right areas, making sure there’s an equitable distribution of hours throughout the network.
“We want to make sure that the system is right-sized, both on the fixed route but also the demand response side as well, which is the ADA para-transit system that we operate which is a crucial lifeline for those who need it.”
A number of public meetings have been held to collect input on proposed changes. Some of those suggestions included retiming routes, serving areas not presently served and to “create here in Ceres for routes that come down here,” he told the council.
One change is to offer Sunday services to all routes, something not currently offered in Ceres.
The frequency of routes will be increased to 15-, 30- or 60-minute intervals.
“We found that frequency (of buses) matters. Frequency is freedom in this sense – that it gives people a chance to ride the bus … if it’s just going to come every half-hour or less it gets people on the bus a lot easier than if comes every hour.”
New routes are being introduced while some “non-performing” routes will be trimmed. He said no routes in Ceres will be trimmed, saying service in Ceres will be increased. Barth said his agency is seeking to improve the connectivity to the Turlock transit system and better adding a new service to connect to the BART system on the weekend.
He said the analysis shows some need for connectivity between West Modesto and Ceres and down to the Stanislaus Community Services Agency and the new Walmart Supercenter.
Route 29 is proposed to travel between Modesto Transit Center and Ceres Walmart, via Howard Prep. Service west of Hwy 99 would be served on a new Route 42. Some stops in the Bret Harte neighborhood would no longer be served and may require riders to walk up to 0.35 mile to access service. The change should allow the bus to run every 30 minutes all day.
He also explained that a route from Hughson (Route 61) will come westbound on Whitmore and turn onto Mitchell to go to the Walmart and then onto the Modesto Transit Center in downtown. The change came about after hearing from Hughson folks who want the bus to take them to the Supercenter.
Route 15 is proposed to run between the Turlock Transit Center and the Walmart Supercenter in Ceres, with local stops in Keyes. Connections within Ceres would be made by transferring to the proposed routes 29, 36, or 44. Connections to downtown Modesto could be made on proposed Route 29. One change is to add weekend service. The bus would run every 60 minutes at its worst on all days.
Route 36 is proposing no change between the Modesto Transit Center and Carpenter Road but the bus would then travel south to Hatch Road to Mitchell Road in Ceres. It would travel along Mitchell Road terminating at the Walmart in Ceres. No changes in time or frequency are proposed.
Route 44 now operates hourly on weekdays but is not without issues. The transfer location at the Herndon Ave/Hatch Road is not ideal for bus operations and the deviations off of Hatch Road onto Glaslow Drive and Calcagno Street are confusing for riders. The route is proposed to serve the south side of Ceres between the CSA in Modesto, to downtown Ceres, and to the Ceres Walmart. Connections to Mitchell Road or Hatch Road would be made at Walmart by transferring to the proposed Route 36. Connections to downtown Modesto would be made on the proposed 29 in Downtown Ceres. Weekend service is proposed but no changes to the frequency.
More public outreach will be made this month with the goal of having the Stanislaus Regional Transit Authority adopt the changes in September and implementing the changes by July 2023.
“I see we are getting routes back, which is something we need,” commented Councilman Mike Kline.
Barth said the routes will run in both directions.
“Most of them, if not all, serve roads that we serve today so the stops already exist today. They just may not have the connectivity like we’re proposing here.”