Letter: Dependability Key to Increase Public Transportation Ridership

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As a 20-year TOW resident, I have been a frequent user of Laguna’s bus service, which is only becoming more essential in this time of increasing traffic and climate pressures.

Around the time the city started the trolley service, however, they removed the stop at Fire Station 3 near TOW elementary and changed the route in response to pressure from neighbors on Zell, who thought the trolleys were too noisy. This made taking public transportation less convenient for me and my neighbors on Chillon and Chateau, who met with Shoreh Dupuis to discuss this as well as the first version of the unreliable trolley tracker app. At the time, I suggested the service could become more efficient and less costly with smaller buses or passenger vans. This would also eliminate the noise concern voiced by Zell neighbors. Although an attempt was made to improve the trolley tracker, as far as I know, the idea of using smaller vehicles has never been considered.

Because I need to walk a distance to the trolley stop now, I have not been as inclined to use it from my neighborhood. Because the schedule seems to change without notice, I can’t rely on it to get to events and appointments downtown. While it’s more reliable as a way to get home to TOW from downtown, the last time I tried to take it, the other drivers informed me it was out of service. (The tracker showed it at the depot.) Apparently there is no substitute trolley to fill in when this happens. I ended up taking a ride service, even though as an environmentalist, I am opposed to this solution. Ride services, like private vehicles, simply worsen pollution and traffic problems. Especially in a city where residents cite traffic as a leading concern, eliminating public transportation is a disastrous idea.

Improving the reliability of our public transportation by standardizing schedules and making it more efficient is the key to rebuilding resident confidence in the system. Recognizing that residents and tourists are separate markets with very different needs is vital to this effort. Engaging with a resident task force that can evaluate the system’s success in meeting our needs is another necessary step. Having smaller, more efficient buses would be another way to cut costs and reduce traffic and emissions. Substitute vehicles must also be available in the event of breakdowns.

Ellen Girardeau Kempler, Laguna Beach

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