If the communities of La Crescenta, Montrose, Sunland-Tujunga and the city of La Canada Flintridge have their way, Southern California Rapid Transit District buses on Foothill Boulevard will soon travel expanded routes.
Banding together in an unusual show of solidarity, leaders of the four communities have asked the RTD to begin bus service along a mile-long strip of the boulevard. Two bus routes run along Foothill, but both turn south, one at La Crescenta Avenue and the other at Ocean View Boulevard, leaving an unserviced corridor in between.
The gap leaves one of the area's busiest thoroughfares without public transportation, creating hardships for students, senior citizens and others, civic leaders say.
In the past week, representatives of the La Crescenta, La Canada Flintridge, Montrose and Sunland-Tujunga chambers of commerce met with elected officials and then with the RTD to draw up a proposal for the expanded service. At a third meeting today, the group's representative, Judy Marley, will formally present the drafted proposal to RTD officials.
Private Line Considered
Besides lobbying for more RTD bus routes, chamber representatives say they are thinking about contracting with a private shuttle service to run the length of Foothill.
"We desperately need additional public transportation," said Marley, manager of the La Crescenta Chamber of Commerce. "We have great after-school programs at the YMCA, but the kids have no way to get there. Our senior citizens have no way to get to meetings."
Marley said she has received hundreds of complaints from residents, especially the elderly, who call the public transportation system in the four communities inadequate. About 11% of the area's 110,000 residents are over 65, according to the 1980 census.
Local merchants also favor expanding bus service, saying it would stimulate retail trade.
"A lot of stores are hurting. I've seen them come and go. Some of them are just hanging by a thread," Marley said.
RTD officials concede that better bus service is needed, but say the district lacks funding to implement new routes.
"Ridership has gone up over the years, and there's a definite need, but we've never been able to figure an equitable way to service the area without disenfranchising people already served by those routes," said Steve Perry, RTD manager of bus planning.
Six years ago, an RTD study recommended installing a bus route along Foothill Boulevard from Pasadena to San Fernando but it was never implemented. "We just didn't have the money," Perry said.
RTD officials told Marley on Monday that they would consider restructuring existing routes. But they estimated costs for the change could go as high as $200,000 a year and might inconvenience existing riders.
A less expensive option, according to the RTD, is contracting with a private company to provide a shuttle service using Proposition A funds. The 6-year-old county measure earmarks an additional half-cent sales tax for public transit use. Glendale, for instance, used Proposition A funds to set up its Beeline Shuttle program, which operates downtown.
Chuck Reever, president of the Montrose-Verdugo Chamber of Commerce, said he favors a privately operated bus that would shuttle between Foothill and the hilly areas north of the boulevard to bring people down to the commercial area.
In recent years, population has grown and several apartment projects have sprung up along Foothill Boulevard. One is a 62-unit, federally subsidized apartment building for senior citizens in the unincorporated part of La Crescenta. According to Marley, many of its residents do not drive.
A number of small businesses also are clustered along the unserved corridor, including an Alpha Beta, clothing stores, delicatessens, real estate agents and fast-food restaurants. More businesses may soon follow, depending on whether La Canada Flintridge decides to encourage commercial development along Foothill under a hotly debated proposal.
Civic leaders say expanding Glendale's Dial-a-Ride program for senior citizens and the handicapped would also ease transportation problems. Using Proposition A and county funds, Glendale contracts with a private firm to run four buses that serve Glendale, La Crescenta, La Canada Flintridge and Montrose. Service is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
But Marley and others say the Dial-a-Ride program is less flexible than they would like. Medical visits receive priority and reservations need to be made seven days in advance, according to Kerry Morford, a senior executive assistant with the city's Department of Public Works. Two days' notice generally is preferred for other appointments.
Morford said the city is already considering expanding program hours and service areas. La Canada Flintridge, for instance, has expressed interest in obtaining two buses to service its own community, he said.