By The Bakersfield Californian
As gas prices rise and Bakersfield's geographic footprint continues to grow, public transportation becomes an increasingly important part of this city's future. But the all-too-common sight of a near-empty Golden Empire Transit bus isn't exactly an inspiration to those who might otherwise be inclined to consider that transportation option.
What's keeping riders away? A big part of it is undoubtedly California car culture -- the deep-seated conviction that when one sacrifices one's vehicle, one sacrifices freedom and spontaneity. Convenience is another big factor, however, and it is on this count that GET must make some big strides if it hopes to win over new potential riders. Some routes are circuitous and unnecessarily long. Some transfers require lengthy waits at uncovered bus stops, and some trips are most efficient when they involve walking several blocks between stops. That's hardly the type of arrangement likely to make new ridership inroads.
That's why we're encouraged to see GET taking preliminary steps toward a revision of its Bakersfield bus routes and schedules -- the first such undertaking since 1987, when the city was half its present size.
Among the proposals: Redirect more buses to popular routes to eliminate long transfer wait times at uncovered and unfriendly bus stops; create a new hub at Bakersfield College; and add Sunday routes.
Creating an efficient transit system that better encompasses the layout of the city can only encourage more people to commit to public transportation. The fewer the commuters using personal transportation, the better our iffy air quality.
Kudos to GET for its willingness to take this on, and kudos to the transit system's management team for its decision to incorporate the opinions of both typical riders and local leaders, such as the Kern Council of Governments, in formulating a master plan that makes sense for us all.