BY ANNA BURLESON Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A report released Wednesday has finally put a number to how effective -- or ineffective -- public transportation is in Kern County.
While 71.1 percent of the jobs in Kern County are in neighborhoods with public transportation services, only 35 percent of workers can reach those jobs in under 90 minutes.
These statistics come from the Brookings Report, a statistical analysis put together by a private nonprofit research facility in Washington, D.C.
The author of the report, Adie Tomer, said the results of the survey are similar across the country.
"We consistently find the same kind of results where transit does a good job serving employers, but it fails to connect that employer to large shares of the metropolitan labor force," he said.
Essentially, the bus is stopping in front of businesses, but not many people are on it.
Planner Linda Wilbanks of Kern Regional Transit said this is most likely because Kern County is a large area to cover.
"It takes awhile sometimes, even in a car, to get from one place to another," she said.
Kern Regional Transit serves all of Kern County and to compensate for long ride times, some buses run in the early hours of the morning so people can get to work on time.
Golden Empire Transit's fleet of 88 buses serves 473,348 people within the city limits of Bakersfield and some outlying areas. While GET's service area does not encompass all of what the Brookings Report refers to, spokeswoman Gina Hayden said GET is addressing service issues by changing bus routes in October.
"GET's current system is not as efficient as it could be," she said.
The new plan will have more direct routes with shorter ride times and fewer stops.
Tomer said he hoped the report would show people that all aspects of city planning should sit together at the proverbial table because if Bakersfield continues to grow and public transportation isn't taken into consideration, the consequences could be dire.
"We hope that this report can be used as a tool to better understand how transit interacts with other decisions at the local level," Tomer said.
Kern Council of Governments is in the process of working with the public, nonprofits and local officials on a plan to improve transportation in Kern County.
Robert Phipps, it's administrative services director, said road upkeep and developing quicker public transportation are the main focus right now.
"There is more of an emphasis on roads, but it's understandable," he said. "It's a large county."
As for public transportation, the long-term plan is to focus on refining routes, acquiring more buses and offering more express services, but that all depends on funding.
"There will be some trade-offs," Phipps said. "Instead of placing an emphasis that every resident is a quarter of a mile from a transit stop, we're going to speed up service."
Faster routes will hopefully take more people to jobs in under 90 minutes and therefore draw more customers.
"The bottom line is we're very aware of this situation and the concerns people have," Phipps said.
People interested in the regional transportation plan can visit directionsto2050.com for updates, meeting times and more.