Amtrak Bus Bill Goes to Guv’s Desk for Signing

  • 906 people signed Daran William's petition.

    906 people signed Daran William's petition.

906 Mountain Signatures On Petition

By Patric Hedlund

You did it, mountain folk, with a very long petition, a lot of logic and a little help from a senator and his staff.

Daran Williams, 45 of Frazier Park is planning a party. The one-time trucker who used to haul strawberries from Oxnard to New York City knows a thing or two about travel.

"Why does the Amtrak bus pass us empty on the Interstate 5 several times everyday, while we struggle to find a way to get to Bakersfield and Los Angeles?" he asked.

He was encouraged to start a petition and in a flick of an eyelash was inching toward a thousand signatures from Frazier Park alone.

The staff for Senator Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) announced the final passage of Senate Bill 1263 last week, explaining that the bill now goes to the Governor. The measure will allow Amtrak to provide bus service to Frazier Park and the Mountain Communities by way of its Santa Clarita-to-Lebec "feeder bus" route.

According to their press release, "Feeder buses are used to extend travel service from Amtrak train depots to neighboring communities [extending] passenger destinations to cities where Amtrak trains do not, or cannot stop.

Federal law presently prevents Amtrak from providing bus service to communities along these feeder routes to avoid competition with bus companies such as Greyhound, but that same law gives the states authority to make exceptions for isolated areas such as the Mountain Communities.

Anne Weber, coordinator of the Mountain Communities Family Resource Center, talked with Williams and Barbara Loomis of Ashburn’s staff about the idea. Then she spoke to Greyhound officials to confirm they had no plans to serve this area. They said they did not.

Last year the legislature passed a bill by Senator Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) to allow similar stops along an Amtrak route between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, as long as no competing bus service was available.

In January Weber provided Ashburn with the Frazier Mountain Community petitions requesting a similar bill to allow bus service to the Frazier Park area.

"It really makes no sense for half empty buses to be passing through our Mountain Communities where willing passengers would gladly pay to travel to the next destination. Allowing this service is just plain common sense, and I look forward to doing my part to see it through for the convenience of our local residents," Ashburn said.

The Governor has 12 days to act on the bill. If signed, the new law will take effect January 1, 2009.

Williams says he is already planning a big party at the Flying J, near where the buses will stop. "Hey, if you can get the people there and the bus at the same time, they will know how to use it," he said, adding that his vision is even larger: "If people stop buying so much gas, the gas prices will drop. I know so. If people stop driving, the market will change."

This is part of the July 11, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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