Calaveras County transportation planners are studying whether it might be possible to offer bus service to Stockton, Lodi or other Valley cities.
Calaveras County residents haven't had any direct transit connections to Valley cities since 2009, when funding cuts forced Calaveras Transit to halt its service to Lodi.
Since then, demand for transit has grown, particularly among young adults and college students, said Amber Collins, a transportation planner for the Calaveras Council of Governments.
"The cost of owning your own vehicle and the cost of gas has gone up so much, it has definitely provided an incentive to ride public transit," Collins said.
The results of a feasibility study now under way will be used to decide whether to apply in April for a federal grant that would cover 50 percent of the cost to expand transit service outside Calaveras County, she said.
If the county applied for and received the grant, service could begin in 2015.
Calaveras Transit does offer service that connects to two out-of-county locations: Jackson in Amador County to the north, and Columbia in Tuolumne County to the south.
Collins said the feasibility study will also consider whether the priority should be to strengthen transit connections to those counties.
One big concern is that it is difficult for Calaveras County residents to use transit to get to major inter-city transportation hubs such as train stations, Greyhound bus stations, or airports.
Collins said that so many transfers are required and routes run so infrequently, that a transit rider who started in Calaveras County could be forced to spend the night in Sacramento to get to the Sacramento airport.
"You wouldn't be able to make a day trip," she said.
Collins urged Calaveras residents who would like to be able to get to regional airports, train stations and bus stations to fill out a feasibility study survey on the Calaveras Transit website.
Meanwhile, some needs within the county will soon be met. On Monday, Calaveras Transit will begin offering service to a stop in the Rancho Calaveras housing development on Highway 26 southwest of Valley Springs.
The study for out-of-county service will consider why people need transit as well as where they want to go. People commuting to jobs, for example, would likely be served by larger buses that have Wi-Fi and that run early and late in the day. Shoppers and people headed to medical appointments, in contrast, would likely be best served by smaller buses running more frequently that offer midday runs, she said.
"Ideally, you would want at least three trips a day," she said of any prospective service to Valley cities.
In addition to Stockton, Lodi and Sacramento, the study also will consider whether service to Modesto is viable, she said. She said that once some initial proposals are developed, her agency will hold several workshops in November to get public feedback.
Contact reporter Dana M. Nichols at (209) 607-1361 or email@example.com. Visit his blog at www.recordnet.com/calaverasblog.
Copyright 2013 - The Record, Stockton, Calif.