Mountain Bus Bill Gets To Next Rung

SACRAMENTO – Senator Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) announced on Tuesday, March 25 the passage in the Senate Transportation Committee of the measure to allow Amtrak to provide bus service to Frazier Park and the Mountain Communities by way of its Santa Clarita-to-Lebec "feeder bus" route. Senate Bill 1263 passed the committee on a vote of 11-0.

Feeder buses are used to extend travel service from Amtrak train depots to neighboring communities to extend passenger destinations to cities where passenger trains do not, or cannot stop. Federal law presently prevents Amtrak from providing bus service to communities along these feeder routes to prevent competition with bus companies such as Greyhound, but that law gives the State authority to make exceptions for isolated areas.

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. Senator Ashburn was subsequently contacted in January by Anne Weber of the Mountain Communities Family Resource Center and received petitions from local residents requesting a similar bill in order to provide bus service to Frazier Park.

Weber has received assurances from a Greyhound representative that there would be no conflicting bus company routes.

"It really makes no sense for half-empty buses to be passing through our Mountain Communities where willing passengers would gladly pay to travel on 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," said Senator Ashburn.

The next stop for SB 1263 will be a vote by the full Senate, and from there to an Assembly Committee hearing and then the floor of the Assembly. Barring any unforeseen hurdles or opposition the measure could pass both houses of the legislature by July or August and, if signed by the Governor, would take effect January 1 of 2009.

This is part of the March 28, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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