Getting on bus in Atascadero will cost more

The Atascadero City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved fare increases and route changes to the city’s transit system.

The changes were prompted by Paso Robles’ action earlier this year to discontinue the North County Shuttle.

The deal, in effect since 2006, had Atascadero and Paso Robles providing one bus each to carry both cities’ riders along the North County Shuttle route from Cuesta College’s campus off Highway 46 East in Paso Robles to Paloma Creek Park in southern Atascadero.

The termination results in keeping each town’s bus within its respective city line and changing the route in each city to fit its own needs.

Atascadero city staff expects the loss of the shuttle deal to decrease its ridership, resulting in a $25,000 dip in fare revenue this year and jeopardizing its federal funding.

Rider fares must account for at least 20 percent of operations costs, according to federal funding guidelines. If they don’t, the city has to pay for its transit out of its general fund. That fund pays for city services such as parks, police and fire, which have already been hit by declining sales tax revenue.

Dial-A-Ride fares for seniors and the disabled will go from $1.50 to $2.50 per ride for those living in the city’s core and from $3 to $5 per ride for those on the outskirts. Regular Dial-A-Ride fares will go from $2.50 to $5 per ride for those living in the city’s core and from $5 to $8 per ride for those on the outskirts.

All fare increases go into effect July 1.

The route changes are to the weekday fixed route service, also effective July 1, and an expanded Saturday fixed route service, effective May 28.

The new route will now go from Paloma Park to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton in a one-hour loop, instead of ending at Cuesta College off Highway 46 East in Paso Robles.

Those wishing to continue to Cuesta can transfer to the Regional Transit Authority’s Route 9 bus at the Park-n-Ride at the intersection of Las Tablas and Bennett Way. Cuesta students can still ride for free, without a transfer fee on the RTA bus.

Atascadero’s new Saturday route will have stops at the Colony Park Community Center, Atascadero Lake Park, Veterans Memorial and Charles Paddock Zoo on extended hours. The new stops will take the place of a Saturday stop in Templeton that city staff said was underused.

Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi asked that adjustments be allowed to the new route as needed, based on community requests. The council approved her suggestion.