Friday, August 1, 2014

Celebrating Evening Bus Service in Petaluma

Today, I have good news about transit and bicycling.

Three months back, I wrote that Petaluma Transit was considering evening service.  Much progress has been made since then.  The proposal moved through the city approval processes expeditiously, the new schedule went to the printer this week, and evening service will begin on Saturday, August 16.  As a member of the Petaluma Transit Advisory Committee, I had a front row seat to the approvals.  (A small fare increase will be implemented on the same day.)

For those who ride Petaluma Transit and are familiar with the different service levels, the evening service will be similar to the weekend service, with few routes in operation and greater headways.  (Many of us might wish for more routes and reduced headways, but the nature of transit funding requires that argument to be made in Sacramento and Washington, DC, not at the local city halls.)

Regardless of routes and headways, the important things about evening service are that students at the Petaluma campus of Santa Rosa JC can, for the first time, catch a bus after evening classes, that the folks who rely on public transit for their daily lives will be able to shop or to meet friends in the evening, and that the youths who don’t yet have a license or a car will be able to explore their communities after doing their homework.

All of those new opportunities are great, but it’s the last that most pleases me.  I like youths using the transit system in the evening because it broadens their social horizons, leading to more well-balanced adults, and also because it introduces them to transit at an early age when it can change how they view the world.  Getting youths onto buses before age 18 is a great way of creating the next generation of transit riders and transit advocates.

(While doing chores earlier this week, my wife and I came across a group of youngsters, with adult chaperones, awaiting a Petaluma Transit bus along E. Washington Street after an outing at the Petaluma Swim Center.  The thought of the kids having a day of fun at the pool brought back memories of our own youths and induced smiles from both of us.  Teaching them at the same time about the power of transit to expand their worlds made it even better.)

Because of this personal interest in youthful transit use, I’m thrilled by an event that Petaluma Transit has planned for the evening of Monday, August 18.  Any youth with a valid Petaluma Transit student pass or a Petaluma Transit transfer dated August 18 can get discounted admission to Boulevard Cinemas.  Rather than the regular evening admission of $9.75, the bus-rider admission will be only $7.  Hearty thanks go to Boulevard Cinemas for being a partner in this effort.

(A note on the use of transfers for reduced admission.  Transfers weren’t originally part of this program, but were added at a later date.  As a result, there are posters around that don’t mention transfers.  Nonetheless, transfers will be honored for reduced admission.)

With the first day of school on August 20, a movie outing on the 18th can be a great way to update with old friends after the summer break and perhaps to meet a few new fellow students.

However, an event like this can fall short without broad participation.  If you know students who might enjoy the gathering, please encourage them to take part.  Or pass along the information about the event to parents you may know.

Lastly, if you have children who may want to participate, but you’re unsure about letting them ride the bus, you’re not alone.  Although ridership surveys consistently show that riders feel very safe on Petaluma Transit, the same surveys show youths reporting that their parents are wary of letting use the bus as much as the youths might wish.

To assuage your concerns, you might consider riding the bus with your children on the 18th.  (Yes, they’ll be embarrassed, but it’s part of being young.)  I’ll likely hang out at the theatre that evening.  If you find yourself at loose ends while your children attend a movie, perhaps we can grab a beverage and talk about transit, urbanism, or whatever else might be on your mind.

As one final thought, I’d be thrilled if 150 students took advantage of the reduced admission offer on the 18th.  But what would really make me happy is if a group of twenty students, now educated about what transit can do for them, were to come downtown for dinner and a movie during the fall semester.  That would be building the power of transit.

I’m pleased with this evolution of Petaluma Transit.  Now, let’s all help make it successful.

In other non-auto transportation news, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition will be hosting a Family Bicycling Workshop at Lucchesi Park in Petaluma on Saturday, August 30.  Equal parts instruction on safe riding and a practice ride around the local neighborhood, the workshop requires that parents attend along with their children.  It can be a great way to jumpstart a plan for biking to school.

Registration is free.  Participants may register on-line or call 707-545-0153 for more information.  Early registration is recommended because space is limited.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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