City councils from Temple City to Pomona will be asked in coming days to approve a new transit plan that would allow private companies to begin operating 26 bus routes in June.
County Supervisor Pete Schabarum has asked 19 San Gabriel Valley cities to form the Foothill Transit Zone, which would contract with private bus companies. All of the cities have previously indicated their support for the plan but have not given final approval.
In a March 3 letter to mayors, Schabarum said it is crucial that the councils approve the transit zone's governing agreement by the end of this month for service to begin by late June.
The transit zone is a scaled-down version of a plan Schabarum first proposed in 1984 for 28 cities in the San Gabriel Valley.
Six Cities Dropped
Three cities declined from the outset to take part, and six other cities--Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, Sierra Madre, San Marino and South Pasadena--have been cut from the proposal to make it more acceptable to opponents concerned about the size of the transit zone.
The transportation zone would also include the Southeast-area city of La Habra Heights and all unincorporated areas in the San Gabriel Valley.
Under Schabarum's plan, 26 bus routes formerly operated by the Southern California Rapid Transit District would be turned over to private companies chosen through bids. The private companies would purchase, maintain and operate their own buses and be accountable to the transit zone's governing board.
The RTD would continue to run up to 55 routes in the San Gabriel Valley, maintain all bus stops and provide information on routes and schedules in the zone's service area.
Schabarum estimated that setting up the transit zone would cut transportation costs about $8.9 million a year. The supervisor has said the savings would be used to keep fares low and expand service.
In his letter to the mayors, Schabarum said a pilot project begun last summer is already providing cheaper and better service.
After the RTD indicated in June that it would drop some high-cost San Gabriel Valley lines, the county and the city of Los Angeles took over express routes from Glendora and San Dimas to downtown Los Angeles and local service in Pomona and Claremont.
So far, the routes have been operated for about half of what it cost the RTD, according to William P. Forsythe, the county's project coordinator for the proposed transit zone.
If any cities decide not to participate--something most transit zone supporters consider unlikely--implementation of the new service could be delayed.
But after meeting with city officials this month, Schabarum expects all of the cities to approve the agreement, according to Jeff Jenkins, a Schabarum staff member who has worked on the project.
"It seems to be very smooth sailing," Jenkins said. "We've got a document we think addresses everybody's concerns. . . . We've kept all the city managers and the mayors in touch, and we've asked them to schedule their approval before April 8."
On March 15, Bradbury became the first city to approve the agreement. The West Covina council deferred a decision last week. The remaining cities--Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Claremont, Covina, Duarte, El Monte, Glendora, Industry, Irwindale, La Habra Heights, La Verne, Monrovia, Pomona, San Dimas, South El Monte, Temple City and Walnut--are scheduled to consider the agreement soon.
Forsythe said it appears likely that all the cities will approve the project by the deadline.
"I don't see any issue with the revised agreement that would preclude it from being passed by the cities," he said. "Some people might still have questions, but it's mostly down to minor issues."
Last week in West Covina, two council members asked for more information and time to study the project. One councilman, Forest Tennant, expressed skepticism about the proposal and questioned the city's involvement.
Groundwork was laid for the agreement by city managers from Arcadia, Glendora, El Monte, Walnut and West Covina, who drafted the governing proposal.
Glendora City Manager James Evans, who headed the group, said he has not heard any city officials voice strong objections to the proposal. At a March 10 meeting of the San Gabriel Valley Assn. of Cities, elected officials and city staff members seemed to favor approval, Evans said.
"It looks fairly certain at this point," he said.
Bradbury Mayor John Richards agreed, adding that officials of other cities should find no surprises in the proposal.
"They've been involved from the creation of it," he said.
Under the agreement, the transportation zone would be divided equally into four clusters of neighboring cities. Population in each cluster would average about 200,000.
Each city would appoint a representative to the Foothill Transit Zone. That body would be governed by a five-member board.