When was the last time you took the bus? And why is that? Convenience, right?
Many people argue that it takes too long to use the bus system for everyday types of travel. I mean, if you’re busy like me and you’ve got various errands and meetings to squeeze into your day, it can really slow you down to ride a bus. So instead, we hop in our cars. I do it. And you probably do, too.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, our country has nearly two automobiles for every registered driver. Unfortunately, there are still many here in Ventura County who don’t own a car and must rely on our current public transportation system to get to work, school, the grocery store or the doctor’s office.
Late last month, Ventura County held its First Annual Public Transit Forum (put together by ASERT — Alliance for Sustainable and Equitable Regional Transportation). The event drew at least 200 attendees and a plethora of elected officials and other local leaders from Ventura, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties.
We all listened intently to a panel of speakers on the underlying issues and then broke out into different groups so we could discuss the particular challenges of bike commuting, bus commuting, rail commuting, peak oil and more.
I attended this meeting because I was concerned about the effects of CO2 emissions on our environment. But what really got my attention was hearing from women — single mothers — who live at a place called Prototypes (a place for women who are trying to get their lives back on track). Prototypes is located off of Victoria Avenue at Gonzalez, and these women have to walk two miles (45 minutes) along a busy stretch of highway with their small children in tow, just to get to a bus stop. And when they get home, they have to do that all over again. Right next to Prototypes is Via Victoria — a housing complex with a lot of stay-at-home moms who also have to take that same route to a bus stop.
Can you imagine what it must be like for them to try to get to work, the doctor, the grocery store? Can you imagine how scary it must feel to have to walk along that stretch of road at dusk with a stroller and possibly another small child or two? In my mind, the issue here is one of safety and equity, not merely convenience or saving the planet.
The Transit Forum culminated with “Next Steps,” a list of direct actions we need to tackle in order to help fix our current transit system in Ventura County. The main message: “Be visible/Be heard!”
Contact the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) with your transit needs and/or concerns. VCTC has agreed to extend citizen input on where transportation money will go, with a deadline of March 20.
So send your transportation requests to: vkamhi@goventura.org or Ventura County Transportation Commission, Unmet Transit Needs Process, 950 County Square Drive, Suite 207, Ventura, CA 93003.
Be as specific as possible; include routes, times, locations, features, etc. And remember that funding is tight — so go for practical priorities.
Also: Write to Governor Schwarzenegger and your elected representatives to let them know that you don’t want TDA (Transit Development Act) funding cut since it is specifically earmarked for public transit.
The time is coming when we’ll all have to figure out how to get around without our cars. Are you ready?   
Tea Silvestre, of Planet Good Group, provides strategic business and marketing planning and consults on sustainable management practices.