A reliable source of transportation for Central Coast commuters faces an uncertain future.
Now-bankrupt Coach America, which provides the VISTA bus service for the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) — including the Coastal Express running from Ventura to the South Coast — suddenly announced last week that it was selling its fleet. “Sudden is an understatement,” said VCTC Executive Director Darren Kettle. “It certainly caught us by surprise … to get the news that they wouldn’t be moving forward with the one-year extension that VCTC had approved in February.”
Coach America filed for Chapter 11 in January, but according to Kettle, its senior management assured VCTC that bankruptcy proceedings would not impact service. A spokesperson for Coach did not respond to inquiries before press time. VCTC is holding an emergency board meeting on Thursday in order to hammer out a one-month extension with Coach and hopefully buy enough time to find a replacement. (Coach has auctioned off its Ventura buses to two other companies, Stagecoach and Transportation Management Systems.)
Meanwhile, Gregg Hart of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, which chips in half the cost of operating the Coastal Express, said that if nothing gets worked out, they will try to at least keep that line or something similar in operation. The Coastal Express makes 250,000 trips per year, and Hart estimates it serves about 125,000 passengers annually.