In the early 1980s, when I lived in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, I was a regular bus commuter. I'd get on the bus with my Washington Post and have a virtually undisturbed 45 minutes to read on my way to work. Similar thing on the way home.
On weekends, we'd take the car to the Pentagon, park and then ride the Metro subway to our destinations within the District of Columbia. This saved us both time and the cost of parking. I was a champion of mass transit.
In 1985, I moved back to California, the place where you go by automobile to every destination more than two blocks from your home. Five years later, I was elected to the Fillmore City Council.
I soon realized that Fillmore had too little money to do the required annual repair and desirable maintenance of the streets. My idea of "public transportation needs" became patching potholes. Nothing else was of value--trains, buses and bike paths seemed like a complete waste of good road repair money.
My days of commuting by bus and Metro had faded from my memory.
More recently, I've experienced a metamorphosis of thinking. In 1999, I was selected to represent Fillmore as an alternate member of the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC).
Not too long ago, Fillmore really didn't have any public transit options. When VCTC started the Fillmore Dial-A-Ride, which provides curb-to-curb transportation, and the Ventura Intercity Service Transit Authority (VISTA) Highway 126 bus, I initially treated them as something we were forced to run. They used money that could have been better spent on street maintenance.
Over time, our Dial-A-Ride and the VISTA 126 bus service have become vital parts of our community, highly successful and providing many residents with a way to get to work or to school, to shopping or the doctor. Fillmore's city engineer rides the VISTA 126 bus to work two or three days each week. He says the time he spends using his laptop computer on those trips keeps his "in" basket under control.
I now again realize that transportation isn't just roads; one mode doesn't fit all people.
I don't know whether I became exposed to new ideas as a member of VCTC or if I suddenly realized that not everyone can drive or will be able to for the rest of their lives.
The truth is that I am nearing an age at which my ability to drive could be impaired. In a few years, these publicly supported transportation networks could have great importance to me.
I have an opportunity to listen to ideas from citizens and from other elected officials. I'm in a position to help implement transportation solutions that go beyond simply fixing streets and roads.
It was through the annual Unmet Transit Needs process--a forum for citizen input--that the VISTA 126 line and VISTA Dial-a-Ride were created. This year's Unmet Needs hearing will take place at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Camarillo City Hall.
If you are aware of unmet transit needs but can't attend the hearing, there are other ways to make your request known. You can write to the Ventura County Transportation Commission, Unmet Transit Needs Process, 950 County Square, Suite 207, Ventura, CA 93003; send a fax to (805) 642-4860; use the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 438-1112.
Last year, a Fillmore resident presented a request to add a midday bus to serve half-day Ventura College students. She presented the need on behalf of a number of students served by the VISTA 126 line. That service was added last summer.
Next year, we're expanding northward. Finally there will be a regular bus link between Ventura and Santa Barbara County--good news indeed for cross-county commuters, students and others.
Public participation is directly responsible for the creation and continued improvement of city and intercity bus systems, dial-a-ride services, the establishment of and access to Metrolink commuter train service, installation of sound walls, and the development and maintenance of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
We also have had the opportunity to preserve and restore a bit of our transportation heritage in Ventura County, including the railroad depots in Fillmore and Santa Paula.
The voice of citizens--whether in Unmet Needs testimony, as a member of the VCTC's Citizens Transportation Advisory Council or as one of two citizen members of VCTC--is essential to achieving the transportation goals of serving all citizens of Ventura County.
The Board of Supervisors is preparing to select a new citizen member and alternate to VCTC. If you would like to be considered, contact your supervisor's office.
Curious about bus options to meet your needs? Get transit route and schedule information by calling VCTC's Dial-A-Route Center at (800) 438-1112 or by logging on to the Web site www.goventura.org.