As gas prices exceed $4.50 per gallon in much of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) announced today that it has added a Clean Air Express route between Lompoc and Goleta. Funded by Measure D, the new service will expand the number of Clean Air Express round trips-which include routes to Santa Maria-to 12. Currently, the line has become so packed that many riders miss their preferred bus. There will now be five Santa Maria routes, and seven Lompoc routes. Currently, these buses carry about 200,000 commuters per year between the northern and southern regions of the county. SBCAG and the Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) also operate the Valley Express and the Coastal Express-similar commuter services between Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Valley, and Ventura.
“Every day gas prices don’t go down, more and more people are realizing the benefit of a nice comfortable bus ride that’s a lot cheaper than driving,” said Scott Spaulding, SBCAG’s regional transit coordinator. “Commuters from Lompoc and Santa Maria are spending $500-$600 a month on gas alone. When you compare that with $140 for a monthly Clean Air Express pass, it’s easy to see why the service is so popular-and that’s before factoring in all the other benefits, like being able to sleep, read, or surf the Web with our free Internet access. It’s like giving yourself a $6,000 a year raise.”
The Clean Air Express is wholly funded by Measure D, the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1989, but defeated in a ballot measure in 2006. Voters may have objected to the extra quarter cent added to the existing half-cent sales tax, and the measure failed to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary for passage. Set to expire in March 2010, Measure D could be replaced by Measure A, a renewed version of the half-cent sales tax that will come before voters this November. “If Measure A doesn’t pass and we can’t find any alternative funding, the project will go away,” Spaulding said. “The likelihood of getting alternative funding for regional transit is slim. There just aren’t a lot of sources for it.” Measure A would provide funding for regional transportation for the next 30 years.
For more information about the Clean Air Express, visit cleanairexpress.com.