Valley Express: New inner-city bus service
celebrated with free rides
Published:  March 04, 2015

Valley Express might just offer two days of free rides after a lingering rainstorm kept people from trying the service that now connects different points throughout the city.

The inner-city bus system, which will continue to hook up with the Highway 126 option for farther travel, “Is a nice service… and another way to connect the dots,” said Ventura Councilman Carl Morehouse.

Morehouse is also president of the Southern California Association of Governments — his district includes Santa Paula — which advocates public transit and a Ventura County Transportation Commission director.

VCTC is the administrator of the transit authority offering the new system serving Santa Paulans with two fixed routes, seven days a week.

Interim Public Works Director Brian Yanez said there “Might be some bumps in the road,” as the system is implemented and demand and needs of commuters is tested. 

But, much like the system itself, the implementation will keep moving forward although subject to change, as it was created said Yanez, “For the public, to serve the needs of the community… ” 

The new bus system, part of the Heritage Valley Transit Authority also serving Fillmore and Piru with inner-city service, was the focus of a ribbon-cutting Monday at City Hall. 

The celebration was forced inside due to the inclement weather for which Santa Paula City Councilwoman and VCTC Director Ginger Gherardi blamed herself.

Gherardi, the former VCTC Executive Director, joked that during her time leading the agency “It rained on 80 percent of the groundbreakings,” she arranged. 

And, during the tenure of her successor Darren Kettle, Gherardi said, “There’s been zero rain,” at groundbreakings. 

Gherardi introduced the various elected and other officials that attended the groundbreaking including City Councilwoman Jenny Crosswhite and former Santa Paula Councilman Ralph Fernandez whom Gherardi credited with much work in forming the local transit authority and bus system.

After detailing the history of what is now Valley Express she asked Fernandez to say a few words.

A lot of hard work by many went into the new system said Fernandez who cautioned that the council will be a “A moving target,” for complaints by citizens as the service is implemented.

Vice Mayor Martin Hernandez was also representing Supervisor Kathy Long who sits on the Heritage Valley Transit Authority representing Piru and the unincorporated areas of the river valley.

He noted that the Santa Clara River Valley has the highest rider ship of public transit in Ventura County and inner-city fixed route transit was the logical next step in serving commuters.

Sara Martinez, a Santa Paula High School student, was presented with a $100 prize for submitting the winning name of the bus system.

Noting the rain, Gherardi said she would suggest that another day of free rides be offered to introduce the public to the new system.

Not only was their great support by officials and staff but “most of all it was the community” that helped shape the new system said Kettle.

Once funding was identified public meetings were launched and “The community said we want to see something new. We want all of you to jump on that bus… it’s critical that you ride the bus,” and use the service featuring new buses that were purchased by VCTC. 

Fillmore City Councilman Manuel Minjares said the transit system was already being studied and crafted when he was elected in 2012.

He added, “It was a privilege to participate in the system that will meet the needs,” of so many commuters.

“… I hope we have more of these kickoffs and Ginger attends,” joked Mayor John Procter, as her presence could help reverse the drought. 

The annual system cost for the three river valley communities is projected at $2.4 million and the local contribution of $1.5 million in TDA funding will be split evenly between Santa Paula, Fillmore and Piru.

Other state and federal transit funds as well as fare cash receipts will make up the balance. VCTC purchased the vehicles to create the fleet that will soon be a familiar sight in each river valley community.

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