With the recent demise of our second car, I’ve had to rely on the bus to get downtown. As an occasional passenger over the past 20 years, I’ve always found our city bus convenient and reliable.
This changed last summer, when the city rerouted the Top of the World bus and discontinued convenient stops at either end of our street with no notice whatsoever. To catch the bus now, I need to leave my house 20 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. My timely arrival at the bus stop made no difference last Thursday, however, because, contradicting posted schedules on the city’s website and at the bus stop, the 5:20 p.m. bus did not show. A trolley finally trundled by at 6:10 p.m., too late for me to salvage plans I’d made to meet friends before Art Walk. During my 40-minute wait in blowing fog, I downloaded the Laguna Beach Visitor’s Bureau trolley app and tried tracking a few of the buses. It appears the buses it tracks aren’t the ones that serve my neighborhood, because the one I eventually caught didn’t show up on the map.
Trying to catch a bus at the library the next day proved equally frustrating. The posted schedule shows a lunch break between noon and 1 p.m., but a lady sitting on the bench told me some buses now run during lunch hour. I called the visitor’s bureau to check the schedule, and the one they had was outdated. I called the transit center to ask where I could get a current schedule and they said they didn’t have any. I caught the bus, along with two ladies helping a blind woman, simply by waiting until it arrived. The friendly driver gave me a new schedule, but I know service is scheduled to be curtailed after summer.
As noted in last week’s Indy, more than 6 million tourists visited Laguna in 2016. The article reporting this ran alongside another quoting city residents bemoaning reduced, rerouted and inadequate public transit service.
With traffic and parking the primary concerns of most city residents, how can our city government justify curtailing a program that gives people an alternative to driving through town? Two groups currently rely on city transit: teenagers not old enough to drive and people unable to drive either for financial or physical reasons. A reliable transit system is essential to reducing traffic and pollution and maintaining our quality of life. Rather than curtailing transit service, our city should be fixing its broken system by providing updated schedules and routes that serve riders’ needs, then advocating bus ridership for all residents, just as they have promoted the service to visitors.
Ellen Girardeau Kempler, Laguna Beach