Advisory council divided on Sonoma Valley bus route issue after flurry of public comment
Wednesday night’s first-ever in-person meeting of the Springs Municipal Advisory Council drew considerable public interest related to public transportation outside of the Sonoma Valley.
During the March 8 meeting, members of the public responded strongly to a presentation from Sonoma County Transit that specifically addressed Sonoma bus routes to and from Credo High School in Rohnert Park.
This topic was previously addressed at the Dec. 14 Springs MAC meeting, where parents and Credo High School administrations first addressed the insufficiency of the current bus route, explaining that the commute can take up to two hours.
Most of the public comments came from parents of students attending Credo High School, a tuition-free, college prep public charter school roughly 20 miles away from the Sonoma Plaza.
Sonoma County Transit Transit Systems Manager Bryan Albee’s 10-minute presentation discussed the two bus routes that run from Sonoma to Rohnert Park and Petaluma. An afternoon route was added Dec. 11 that leaves at 3:45 p.m. from Sonoma Mountain Village, just outside Credo High School, and arrives at 4:14 p.m. at the Petaluma Transit Mall. The same bus then continues to Sonoma and arrives at 5:10 p.m. at the Plaza.
Getting to the high school in the morning is a place where the transit options to the school are deficient, with students having to get on the 6:15 a.m. bus from the Plaza, which then takes them to the Petaluma Transit Mall to transfer to another bus and arrive to the Credo campus at 7:42 a.m. The school day begins at 8:30 a.m.
According to Albee, the transit center is working on efforts to add a more efficient morning route in August, before the new school year.
“But we’re not just serving school kids. Public transit has to serve everybody. There is a route network that all the routes are based upon. We can run service to schools, but we can’t just exclusive school service,” Albee said during the March 8 meeting.
Since the route change in December, however, there haven’t been many riders, he said.
“We have Valley schools, and when you make a choice to choose a different school outside of the Valley, you’re making a choice to take on the additional responsibility of transportation,” said Celeste Winders, a member of the Springs Municipal Advisory Council and a Sonoma Valley Unified School District trustee.
“It is not Sonoma County Transit’s responsibility to provide bus services to the school; schools have their own transportation and if charter schools want to take that on, they are welcome to do so,” she added.
Winders reminded the public that the Springs MAC doesn’t make decisions about these issues. Instead, it is an advisory body that represents the best interests of the entire community while acting as a bridge for communication between the county and local residents and businesses.
There were 12 written comments submitted by members of the public prior to the meeting, according to Winders, who said some pointed to the bus route issue being related to equity.
“Equity is about creating opportunities in your local area to access, and there are public schools in our local area to access with bus transportation to them,” she said.
Public comment from those in attendance, largely from Credo High School parents, further expressed the need for more and direct county bus routes from Sonoma Valley to academic institutions in Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Santa Rosa, including Credo, Technology High School, Sonoma State University and both Santa Rosa Junior College campuses.
The Valley’s isolation makes it difficult for young people and students with regard to access of more specialized and higher academic opportunities, and because it limits their independence and exposure to experiences outside of the valley, according to comments made during the meeting.
The council remained divided on their support of adding a more direct route. Council members Jesus Yeuri Alcaraz and Iris Lombard were in favor of an additional route — because of the current lengthy route and the county’s goal of reduced carbon emissions. Council member Joe Hardeman backed Winders in calling the existing route sufficient.
Contact the reporter Rebecca Wolff at email@example.com.