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Residents Air Their Gripes at County Transit Hearing : Government: An official says their concerns will be considered in deciding how to spend $13 million in state funds.

March 22, 1994|SARA CATANIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Metrolink train service was extended to Camarillo in February, Leisure Village resident Mimi Chuntz was ecstatic.

But Chuntz's enthusiasm was quickly squelched when she discovered that the trains only ran in the early morning and evening, not in the middle of the day when she needs to travel.

So on Monday, Chuntz took her concerns to the annual Ventura County hearing on unmet transit needs held at Camarillo City Hall.

"All these things are little minor problems, but they're big to us," Chuntz told the county's Transportation Policy Planning Committee, made up of elected officials from the county and each of its 10 cities.

More than 100 Ventura County residents packed the hearing to air their gripes about getting around, commenting on everything from seat belts to potholes to bus service.

But the hearing was more than just an exercise in letting off steam, said Mary Travis, spokeswoman for the Ventura County Transportation Commission. "We take these comments very seriously," she said. "Many good ideas come out of this."

The committee will compile residents' concerns and present them to the commission, which will consider them when figuring out how to spend more than $13 million in state transit funds for the next fiscal year.

Hearings over the past several years have prompted the commission to launch a new bus service linking cities throughout the county. The federally funded service, called the Ventura Intercity Transit Authority, or VISTA, is scheduled to begin in July.

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It will replace Interconnect, the county's existing service. VISTA will consist of four new bus lines connecting cities in Ventura County and western Los Angeles County.

"A lot of people were unhappy with the bus service, so this is what we came up with to address that," Travis said.

Bus service was just one of the concerns on the minds of residents who attended Monday's hearing.

Mike Saliba, executive director of the Ventura County Taxpayers Assn., appealed to the committee to divert transit revenue to pay for improvements to roads and highways instead.

"We're looking for a bang for our buck, and that means spending as much as possible on roads and highways," Saliba said. "The savings will help everyone because it will not only help cars, but also will reduce wear and tear on buses."

But Nancy Smith, president of the Ventura County chapter of the National Federation for the Blind, said she was offended by Saliba's comments because they imply that people who take the bus don't pay taxes.

"Most blind people do pay taxes," Smith said. "I think it's reasonable for blind people to have public transportation to get groceries."

Meanwhile, Russ Smith, executive director of the Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau, asked the committee to consider running a trolley service from the city's train station to the harbor.

"It would be great for the city's appeal and great for getting to and from the train," Smith said. "Right now, unless you call a cab or have a friend come get you, you have to schlep your suitcase yourself."

FYI

Residents who were unable to attend Monday's transit hearing but would like to make a comment, complaint or suggestion should call the Ventura County Transportation Commission at (800) 438-1112. Written comments should be sent to the commission at 950 Country Square Drive, Suite 207, Ventura 93003. The deadline for comments is March 31.

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