The end of last week was a busy time for me. The Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA) has been proposing a fare increase for several months. Their reason’s for the increase was a shortfall of $200,000 and a low fare box ratio. The fare box ration is determined by fares collected divided by operating costs. This ratio has fallen below 15% which is a magic number. If you drop below it you set off bells and whistles and the bus system would go on probation and could lose funding from various transportation agencies therebye forcing reduced services. The MTA was asking for a 20% increase for all fares.
The MTA has not raised fares since June of 2010, over 4 years ago. I was not riding the bus at that time so this was my first experience with a rate hike. The first MTA Board meeting to address the fare increase was on April 24th. I had been hearing from the drivers about the meeting. I could not attend that day but enough public comment was received that a ad hoc committee was formed to clarify and make adjustments to the various rates they charge. This last Thursday, May 29th, I was able to attend after my SOS Survey at Virgin Creek Beach.
The board meeting takes place in two places, Ukiah and Fort Bragg. It is “Vide-Conferenced” so you see a bunch of people who are over in Ukiah on a TV in front of us here in Fort Bragg. I was in high company at the Fort Bragg part. There was Dan Gjerde, a Mendocino County Supervisior and a bike rider, Meg Courtney, a Fort Bragg council member, and Dan Baxter, MTA’s General Manager. Word got out that the blogging guy who used the bus to do a “green” birding year was in the house. Mr. Baxter mentioned that my five part series on the “Psychology of Bus Riding” was well worth reading.
During the public hearing on the fare increases a new rate structure was announced which had some rates raised less than 20% and some were more than 20%. Bottom line as far as my rates were concerned is that my Senior 16 punch pass would cost me $8.50 instead of $7.50, a dollar increase. That means that my fare for a “round trip” from Mendocino to Fort Bragg will cost me $1.06 up from .94¢. A trip over to Ukiah round trip will be $5.20 instead of $5.00.
I spoke in favor of the rate increase basing my opinion on not wanting a reduction in service (we have already lost Saturday buses here on the coast) and actually wanting an increase in services to make it easier for people to use the bus and get their cars off the rode. I spoke of the need for a bus going to the south coast of Mendocino in the morning so that people could get there and back in a day instead of two.
I had to leave before the meeting ended. I told them the “public” had to catch a bus.
On June 3rd, I noticed that I got 40 hits on my blog, most of which were for my “Psychology of Bus Riding” series. The MTA had linked to my blog on their Facebook page. It pays to be involved.
On Friday I attended a public tour of a planned logging harvest at the Little River Airport. North of the airport on county property there is an old growth Redwood Forest. The county has logged the area in the pass but doesn’t clear cut and has mostly left the “core” of the Redwood area alone. The logging area is pictured below. The orange arrow points to near my house.
There were ten of us in the tour. Included were Linda Perkins and her husband Bill of the Sierra Club, Tim Bray of Audubon, the Register Professional Forester, Roger Sternberg, Bob Morgan, with the county, myself and 4 other public members.
We were given a handout listing what was planned and who (many of the names I knew) was involved. 59 plant species were found with 6 identified as sensitive and special mitigation required for Bolander Pine, Pygmy Cypress, and California Sedge. 39 bird species were identified with Cooper’s Hawk, Purple Martin, Northern Harrier being on the “California Bird Species of Special Concern” list. I told him to add Olive-sided Flycatcher which is common at the airport and was observed during the tour. Two years of Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet surveys still needed to be finalized before logging could start. I think we added a bird during our tour when two Gray Jays flew in looking for a handout. They have been rare this year and I’ve never seen them at the airport.
The area that’s going to be logged is not a part of my weekly bird walks at the airport so I was surprised to learn that there were five class ll and five class lll watercourses on the site. We visited a running creek (stream).
We were told that a whole knoll of trees would be cut because it was in the safety profile for the airport and the FAA Regulations ruled. Picture the airport as a football field–open at the ends and the seats gradually getting higher on the sides and you will get an idea of this profile.
Also learned that there had been several plane crashes at the airport. I glad that where I live is in the airport noise abatement area with few flights over my house. It did remind me of my flight lessons in 1973 at the Torrance CA Airport when practicing touch and goes. My instructor, just as we were about to touch ground, said, “oops” as we bounced a few feet back into the air.
I have great confidence that the harvest plan will be a good one. Seeing the back and forth between Linda Perkins and the forester I realized that Linda knows what she’s doing.