Benicia would have been forced to cut its already limited public transportation system if the city had insisted upon keeping its Route 75 service to Vallejo and the Pleasant Hill BART Station, Solano County’s top transportation official said last week.
Solano Transportation Authority Director Daryl Halls said Benicia opted to combine state transportation funding for the 75 with money from other Solano cities in 2008 to create Regional Route 78, which links Benicia and Vallejo with two BART stations in Contra Costa County.
But Benicians had to get used to bus service to BART that was much less accessible, since it made far fewer stops in town.
Halls said Benicia could not have sustained service on the 75 line for more than a year or two and would have had to begin cutting back its existing on-demand transit and paratransit service around the city.
“Their existing fund sources couldn’t continue to operate the 75 at the existing level,” Halls said. “If they had sustained the 75, they would have had to cut other services.”
Regional Route 78 runs from Vallejo to Benicia and makes four stops in Benicia before entering the freeway at East Fifth Street and continuing to BART stations in Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek. The return route is the reverse, but without the stop in Pleasant Hill.
“It’s a different level of service,” Halls said. “In our view, it’s a better service for getting Benicians to BART and the ferry.”
It also costs more than twice as much for a ride. Today's fare from downtown Benicia to BART is $4.50 while a ride from Benicia to Vallejo is $1.75.
The Benicia Transit Route 75 route it replaced ran from Vallejo to Benicia and looped around the city, stopping at Benicia Middle School and Southampton Shopping Center before traveling the length of First Street.
After First Street, the bus ran past Benicia Yacht Club and Rancho Benicia before entering the freeway at East Fifth Street, heading toward Contra Costa County.
Benicia Transit and the much larger Vallejo Transit were consolidated last year into Soltrans, a new Joint Powers Authority that is eventually expected to include most, if not all, of Solano County’s seven transit agencies.
“The goal we’ve had is to better connect their city with outside communities,” Halls said of Benicia, citing the 2005 decision to have Solano Express Route 40 stop in Benicia Industrial Park on its route from Fairfield and Suisun City to Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek BART.
The advantage of the new JPA is that it enables Benicia and Vallejo to tap into bridge tolls funds authorized by Regional Measure 2, lowering the amount of money each city has to commit from its transit allotments to the bus service.
“It’s less money for Benicia,” Halls said.
The new Soltrans board held its first meeting Dec. 16 at Benicia City Hall and plans to meet again Feb. 17 at 4 p.m. at the Vallejo City Hall council chambers at 555 Santa Clara St.