Major changes to the Ceres city transportation system will be taking place on Thursday, Dec. 1.
The state forced the city's hand in making the changes because farebox revenues have been falling far short.
Members of the Ceres City Council made the tough decision in September.
Ceres Area Transit (CAT) bus routes A and B will be combined into one shorter route while routes C and D will be eliminated. Service will operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays with no weekend service. CAT currently operates 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
Dial-a-Ride services will be limited to only seniors aged 65 and older, and persons with disabilities. Fred Cavanah, director of the city Transit Services, explained that the CDAR service is being limited to ridership of seniors and the disabled because the city is then only required to meet a 10 percent fare box ratio as opposed to the 20 percent it would have to meet by serving the general population. He said dial-a-ride systems rarely generate the 20 percent fare box ratio.
Riders cut out of CDAR service have the option of riding CAT's fixed route bus system.
Ceres Dial-A-Ride will continue operating seven days each week, except holidays, but will reduce hours of service. CDAR service will start at 6 a.m. and end at 6 p.m. on weekdays instead of 8 p.m. Saturday service is offered 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. while Sunday service runs 8 a.m. to at 3 p.m. (instead of 4 p.m.).
Fare changes are also being enacted for both systems. Fares will be lowered for general public rides on CAT from $2 to $1.50; and for students in elementary and high school from $1.80 to $1.50. Currently a child aged five or younger may ride CAT buses for free with a paying adult but that will be expanded to two children riding free.
Senior rates for CAT stay the same at $1.50.
Transfers from CAT to the Modesto Area Express and StaRT bus systems cost 25 cents.
Fares for Ceres Dial-A-Ride will increase from $1.50 to $3 per trip for all riders, with the exception that one child age 5 or younger who will continue to ride free for each fare paying passenger. Care attendants for persons with disabilities will also continue to ride free.
The city is selling a $39 pass that will allow unlimited rides for 31 days on the fixed route bus. Current fares range from $1.50 to $2.00 for CAT and $1.50 to $2.15 for CDAR.
The changes are designed to increase the ratio of fare revenues to operating expenses (fare box ratio) to meet the State Transportation Development Act (TDA) requirements. The state requires the city to collect enough fares to cover at least 20 percent of operating costs for CAT and Dial-A-Ride. During the 2014-15 budget year Ceres Dial-A-Ride had a fare box ratio of 10.96 percent while Ceres Area Transit buses posted a 12.88 percent ratio. A financial penalty of about $100,000 a year would be imposed on the city by the state for failing to meet fare box ratio requirements.
The changes also will result in an estimated $286,000 savings with the Storer Transit Services, the city's contractor.
"There will be people who will not find it convenient to ride," said Cavanah. "Hopefully there will be more people who will ride on a regular basis because service is consistent and it's direct and the travel times are reasonable."
The consolidated service will add to the length of time it takes to get across the city.
In August, Ceres resident DeEtta Perdue protested the changes.
"For us, this bus is very important, especially for me because I don't drive," said Perdue. "So the only way I get around, especially to go to the doctor, and take (my service dog) to the vet is by the bus."
The council reluctantly went along with the changes.
A link to a brochure on the changes is available online at www.ci.ceres.ca.us and clicking on the red letters, PROPOSED CHANGES TO CERES TRANSIT SERVICES, toward the bottom of the home page.