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Santa Maria City Council to consider significant changes to public transportation system

Santa Maria Bus
Santa Maria Area Transit buses arrive and depart from the city's Transit Center in this file photo. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The City of Santa Maria is looking into making several significant changes to its public transportation system, including the renaming of the entire system itself.

During tonight's regularly scheduled City Council meeting, council members will discuss a number proposed changes, including adjusted routes, increased daily fares, as well as the rebranding effort.

The proposals come in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has greatly impacted the city's public transportation system.

An update to the city's Short-Range Transit Plan (SRTP) was initially conducted by an outside consultant beginning in 2019. According to the city, the consultant spent considerable time in developing the initial plan.

However, the pandemic has necessitated an Addendum to the SRTP, which is what council members will consider next week.

Some of the highlights of the plan are the creation of 25 new bus stops, including additional transfer points at the Crossroads Shopping Center and Merrill Gardens/Suey Lane, reworking of routes so that most are on a 45-minute frequency, each route starts at 6:30 a.m., more concise and easier to understand scheduling and alignment with weekday and weekend routes.

In addition, a handful of fare adjustments are proposed. A new one-day pass would cost $3, while a new seven-day pass would cost $12. An existing 31-day pass would be reduced from $48 to $31.

If approved, those fare proposals would go into effect in January 2022.

The proposed plan would also increase a single-ride fare from from $1.50 to $2, which would be implemented in July 2022.

Perhaps the most significant change that is being discussed next Tuesday is a major rebranding of the entire transit system, which is currently known as Santa Maria Area Transit (SMAT).

The city is looking into changing the name of SMAT to Santa Maria Regional Transit (SMRT) in an effort to update and modernize the transit system.

According to the a staff report, the new name would align with the city's Smart-City, Safe-City initiative.

The Santa Maria City Council will meet to discuss these proposals and several other agenda items on Tuesday, Dec. 7 beginning at 5:30 p.m.

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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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