CERRITOS — After two years of studying local public transportation needs, the City Council has agreed to pursue proposals to establish a bus center at the Los Cerritos shopping mall and to start a city dial-a-ride system for the handicapped and elderly.
Even though nearly 90% of the community's employed residents work out of town, the council last week chose to ignore staff recommendations that the city concentrate on developing low-cost commuter services and steer clear of the comparatively expensive mall and dial-a-ride projects.
A two-part consultant's report commissioned by the council found little demand for public transit in Cerritos, where surveys indicate that 94% of the households have at least two cars. More than half the households have at least three cars sitting in the driveway. And while the consultant concluded that the three bus companies serving the city do not adequately meet the needs of the elderly and handicapped, the report noted that only a small number of elderly and handicapped live in Cerritos.
Councilwoman Ann Joynt nonetheless argued that a dial-a-ride system--in which a van or small bus provides door-to-door service for callers--is badly needed in Cerritos. "I think this is something we owe as a community" to older and disabled residents, Joynt said.
However car-rich the city may be, both Joynt and Councilwoman Diana Needham have insisted that Cerritos start spending its mass-transportation money on public transit. Since 1982, Los Angeles County has been collecting an extra half percent of sales tax earmarked for public-transit improvements and then given part of it to cities. Cerritos gets $500,000 a year of the so-called Proposition A funds, some of which have been kept in reserve and some of which have been traded for federal street improvement money.
Commuter Aid Urged
"I feel very strongly it's time to stop trading our Prop. A funds," Needham said.
Citing the low demand for bus service, City Manager Gaylord Knapp and his staff recommended that the city continue to trade its transit money while taking some steps to help commuters. He suggested the city set up some park-and-ride facilities at existing parking lots and join a computerized car-pooling program that matches commuters traveling in the same direction.
But Mayor Barry A. Rabbitt was adamant that the city's car-poolers "do well enough on their own" finding places to meet and leave their cars.
The council gave the staff two months to examine alternatives for establishing a trial dial-a-ride system and a bus center at the Los Cerritos Center, located east of the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway between South and 183rd streets. Rather than buying equipment and hiring drivers, the council wants to tie into a neighboring city's dial-a-ride program or contract with a private operator for a few months to see how the program works.
Given the staff's opposition, Needham said in an interview that she was "really thrilled" with the council's embrace of the dial-a-ride and transit-center proposals. As for commuter programs, Needham said she would continue to argue for them. "It's certainly something I won't give up on."
The consultant's study, conducted by SR Associates of Costa Mesa at a cost of about $37,000, estimates that it would require about $356,000 to build a transit center at the mall and another $5,000 a year to maintain it. A dial-a-ride system would cost about $50,000 to start and as much as $200,000 a year to operate, according to SR, which predicted 1,000 people a year would patronize such a service.
Rabbitt balked at the transit-center estimate, which calls for the relocation of the mall's two bus stops to a parking area north of Robinson's. A bus layover lot, benches and shelters would be built and the transit center would be landscaped.
Bus Companies Represented
Representatives of the mall management and some of the three companies that run buses to the mall attended last week's council meeting to express their support of the proposal, saying they would be willing to discuss the transit center's design and funding with the city. There are 180,000 bus boardings a year at the mall, according to a mall spokesman.
Several people, some of them residents and some of them wheelchair-bound shoppers from nearby cities who patronize the mall, also urged the council to adopt a dial-a-ride system.
"We don't want the moon; we'd like some equality," Karen Crabtree of Cerritos said from a wheelchair. She said she had spoken to several older, handicapped city residents eager for the freedom and mobility a dial-a-ride system would provide.