As a two-year transit rider who must rely on the neighborhood trolley to get to work, I think I may have some insight as to why the program didn’t achieve the “numbers” the city was hoping for:
- Poor publicity for Neighborhood Trolley program prior to launch, and not much ongoing marketing since then.
- Inconsistent functionality of the Trolley Tracker feature on the Visit Laguna app.
- No effective means of broadcasting last-minute route changes or significant traffic delays to riders. I won’t count the times I’ve been stranded by very late or no-show trolleys on a workday.
I could go on. Essentially, the program had a last-minute, slapped-together feel to it, and now the city wonders why the ridership didn’t meet expectations. Limited-income seniors and residents like me depend on local transit to get to work, appointments, errands and activities. Not everyone in town is fortunate enough to own a car. Transit is our lifeline in many ways.
The upcoming cuts will leave the ridership scrambling for an alternate means of transportation. Ride-hailing apps aren’t affordable or accessible to everyone, particularly fixed-income residents such as seniors and people with disabilities. Bumming rides from friends and neighbors gets old quickly for all involved and isn’t always possible.
One thing I’d like to see before any cuts are implemented for the city to convene a riders’ task force. We may lack the financial wherewithal to grease palms at City Hall, but we are a valuable source of information and feedback about the transit service because we actually use it. If the city wants seats on trolleys and buses occupied, feedback from people who use those seats will provide valuable insight from which new policies can emerge.
Some immediate minor tweaks (piloting a rider alert system to notify riders of real-time route changes and significant delays; a more aggressive marketing approach to locals, fixing the Trolley Tracker feature once and for all, for example) can go a long way in making the transit program a viable option.
Transit is vital for people like me who need it. I am fortunate enough to be able to borrow a car on occasion, but not every transit rider is so lucky. Transit reduces isolation by allowing us to still get to work and other commitments. Cutting such a vital service can isolate otherwise contributing members of the community, and that’s a cost the city can ill afford.
Elaine Nadalin, Laguna Beach