2013-city-of-santa-maria-logo-colorSanta Maria Area Transit (SMAT) is rolling out expanded service for some holidays, fare increases, and improved evening service. The changes will be effective Monday, February 13th. SMAT will be providing new transit maps and schedules.

SMAT will begin offering weekend service on these holidays and other days: Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Wednesday, Thanksgiving Friday, Christmas Eve, the day after Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.

Evening route changes will eliminate Route 61 and 62 due to extremely low ridership. Instead, daytime routes will be extended into the evening on weekdays. Routes 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 will run until approximately 9:30 to 9:45 p.m.

SMAT fares are increasing for the first time since 2004, and only the second time since 1995.  A regular ride will cost 25 cents more, rising from $1.25 to $1.50. Student fares will become $1.25, and the single fare for seniors/disabled/Medicare will increase from 60 cents to 75 cents.

SMAT monthly pass fares (unlimited rides) will become $48 regular, $31 student, and $24 for seniors/disabled/Medicare. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cash fare (the Dial-A-Ride service) increase is being phased in over three years. The rate will go up to $2.00 on February 13th, then to $2.50 next year, and to $3.00 in 2019.

All of these service changes were approved on a 5-0 vote by the City Council on August 2, 2016. That decision followed numerous public workshops and evaluations by staff.

The bus fares are increasing for two reasons. As a State requirement, the City must achieve 20 percent farebox revenue or it could be denied State transit funding. Second, operating costs (fuel, purchase of new busses, maintenance) continue to rise. Because SMAT has not increased fares since 2004, cash fare prices have, in effect, decreased by 25 percent due to inflation.

The first step staff took to evaluate the service changes was to conduct outreach. Staff performed ride-checks, spoke with riders to gather information about service needs, and held 12 workshops for public input. In an effort to reduce operating costs, staff restructured the contract with First Transit, the City’s transit provider, to provide for one rate base on hours operated for all services. Staff also installed an ADA paratransit computer to aid in dispatching ADA busses more efficiently.

Also, fares charged by other transit agencies were evaluated. This review included agencies that are similar in size and have similar demographics such as very low-income households and a large Latino population. They included Merced, Modesto, Monterey-Salinas, and Ventura County. All four agencies raised fares more recently that SMAT. All four peer agencies had a higher farebox recovery ratio than SMAT.

Questions may be directed to the Department of Public Works/Transit Division, 925-0951 ext. 2480.

Department:                             Public Works/Transit Division

Contact Person:                      Austin O’Dell, Transit Manager

Telephone Number:                  (805) 925-0951 ext. 2225

E-mail Address:                        aodell@cityofsantamaria.org