Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shuttles and buses


Last week, Bauer's Limo introduced a new luxury commuter bus service between San Francisco and some of the employements sites in the South Bay. Bauer's is no stranger to the South Bay market: it runs long distance charters shuttling Google employees from San Francisco; it also run numerous employees shuttles for other companies to and from Caltrain. The company believes it can attract high-income customers with its luxury buses, which stands in strong contrast to the regular transit buses VTA use for its express routes.

Some people questioned whether it is elitist for a private company to cater its services to high income commuters, while regular transit services are being starved of funds. What the critics don't realize is that private shuttles, unlike regular transit, do not require subsidies from taxpayers for operation. If transit operators were to provide these services instead, there would be even less funding available to serve those that private sector won't serve.

Unlike corporate contracts, brand new public service does not bring in guaranteed revenue and requires more time to build ridership. However, because the next best transit alternative would require one or more transfers, the potential is certainly there  For the service to be financially sustainable, Bauer's would have to aggressively market its service to the corporations and their employees, and to encourage companies to pay fares for their own employees. 

CNG ACE shuttles

El Paseo Limo, which is the contract operator for the ACE shuttles in the South Bay, recently introduced new CNG shuttle buses. El Paseo won the shuttle contract last year with its low bid and commitment to purchase CNG shuttles. In fact, El Paseo took over the shuttle operation last September, four months before the contract was supposed to began, when VTA dumped New Century Transportation because of various performance and payroll issues. New Century was also charged with tax evasion and fraud two years ago. Before the CNG shuttles came on-line, El Paseo used recently retired VTA buses for the service.

Santa Cruz Metro defends low-floor buses on Highway 17 Express

In response to criticisms of the lower capacity low-floor buses, Santa Cruz Metro released a statement asserting that it had to purchase low-floor buses because high-floor suburban buses are no longer being manufactured.

Without a doubt high floor buses are a dying breed. New Flyer, which made the low floor buses for the Highway 17 route, no longer make high floor buses. Even so, at least one manufacturer still makes high floor transit buses.

Despite availability, the agency might have ordered low floor buses due to the strong desire to operate and maintain buses common to the rest of the system. Obviously for this type of operation, over-the-road buses (used by AC Transit on transbay routes) are even more appropriate because of the comfort and higher capacity.

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