An unusual summertime race will begin next week in the Las Virgenes area, when the school year ends: Three rival bus lines servicing the beach are hustling to outdo each other in attracting teen-age customers west of the San Fernando Valley.
All three lines are hoping fare-paying teen-agers will help defray expenses. Costs of running the buses will primarily be covered by local shares of a countywide sales tax for transportation.
A shuttle originating in Calabasas and operated by Los Angeles County will get a head start Monday when it starts operating four times a day to a beach near the mouth of Topanga Canyon.
An Agoura-based line operated by the City of Agoura Hills will start four daily round trips Thursday to a beach at the far end of Malibu Canyon.
Shuttle to Zuma
A line starting in Westlake Village will be launched June 26, offering four trips a day to Zuma Beach.
Members of the municipality's City Council voted 5 to 0 Wednesday to operate the bus, the city's first, earmarking $24,800 for the program.
"I think there's enough Westlake Village youths to fill our buses," City Manager James E. Emmons said Friday. He said Zuma Beach was picked because of its proximity.
Agoura Hills officials said Friday that they are confident their city's beach shuttle, with $22,300 budgeted for it, will equal the success of its first summer last year, when more than 10,000 took 50-cent rides.
"I would think there will be enough customers," said city spokeswoman Pat Manning. "I think more students will ride it this year because of word of mouth from kids who took it last year."
Polly Tertocha, a transportation specialist for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, said a student fare of only 20 cents is expected to attract youngsters to the county's line from Calabasas, budgeted at $32,000.
She said this will be the third summer the county bus will operate.
Buses and drivers on all three lines will be supplied by private bus companies.
Youngsters in the Las Virgenes area predicted Friday that the Agoura Hills bus will win the race to the sea, primarily because of its destination--Malibu Beach.
"You can't surf at Zuma," explained Matt Giamela, 14, of Westlake Village.
"Zuma has no waves," said Danny Swick, 15, of Agoura Hills. "I took the Agoura bus four or five times a week last summer. If it hadn't been here, I might have been tempted to hitchhike," he said.
Melissa Jester, 13, said she boarded the county's bus near her Woodland Hills home last year but found few places to eat at the end of the line. She said she will opt for the Agoura Hills bus this year.
"It's a great service. Otherwise I'd have to stay home and watch TV or hang out at the mall," she said.