Paso Robles merges transit services with countywide RTA

In June, users of Paso Robles mass transit will be picked up by a new bus under a new transportation consolidation agreement.

On Tuesday, the Paso Robles City Council signed off on a joint powers agreement to amalgamate their transit services with the countywide Regional Transit Authority, handing off services that will save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council finalized a move recommended by the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments in 2012 that suggested the city merge its fixed-route public transportation services with that of the larger provider, essentially combining all North County public transit systems into one regional system.

The Atascadero City Council previously signed on to the agreement Jan. 14 in a move recommended as part of SLOCOG’s North County Transit Plan of 2012.

It was a fairly smooth decision; the city has been talking about the merger since 2012, and the Paso Robles council approved the plan in concept at its April 3, 2012, meeting.

According to city transit coordinator Michael Seden-Hansen, the handing-off of services will not impact those reliant on the previous city-run systems and will save Paso Robles up to $325,000 a year.

“The idea with the consolidation is to maintain the current level of service to riders with the most minimal impact as possible,” Seden-Hansen said.

The savings do not benefit the general fund, as transportation operations were funded primarily from state and federal funding. However, there will be savings in non-transit staff time, as director of administrative services Jim Throop will no longer need to oversee transit operations.

There will also be minimal savings from financial services staff who will no longer need to assist in accounts receivable and payroll.

Under the agreement, the cities’ A and B routes will remain the same, with existing Paso Robles Express buses operated by SLORTA drivers, and Route C will be combined with SLORTA’s current Route 9.

Paso Robles Express drivers will have the opportunity to apply for positions with SLORTA.

Both Paso Robles and Atascadero will transfer all transit equipment and facilities, such as bus shelters, to SLORTA, as well as any Transportation Development Act (TDA) funds not needed for transit improvements. Any future TDA funds received by the cities not required by SLORTA to provide the city transit services will be kept on hand for discretionary uses ranging from improvements of the North County Transit Center on Pine Street to road, bike path or trail maintenance.

The new agreement will go into effect on June 1.