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Changes coming to Rossmoor bus system

Plans include reinstating fixed routes, new software and restoring weekend service

By Sam Richards

Staff writer

(Friday, Aug. 26): A number of changes could come in the near future for the Rossmoor bus system, which include reinstating two of its five pre-pandemic fixed routes, adding a new on-demand software system, testing a pilot autonomous shuttle program and restoring weekend service, GRF officials told the Board last week.

Also at the Thursday, Aug. 25 Board meeting was the unanimous approval of a new five-year contract for Securitas to continue to provide public safety services, including security and emergency medical technicians (EMT), to Rossmoor. There will be 3% increases in each of the first three years, with increases in the last two years as yet undetermined, but somewhere between 1% and 4%. The first year of the contract will pay Securitas, a worldwide company based in Sweden, $2,098,384.

Bus service restoration

The timing for the bus service changes, GRF Director of Resident Services Jeff Matheson told the Board, is dependent largely on two factors – implementation of the Spare Labs on-demand software for Dial-a-Bus and getting staffing back up to pre-pandemic levels. The software is expected to be up and running sometime in November.

While it isn’t known when full staffing will again be achieved, Jerrol Reavis, Rossmoor’s fleet and compliance manager, said the trend is positive; once down to three drivers in the depths of the pandemic, Reavis said eight drivers are now in the fold, and more are expected to be hired soon.

Rossmoor’s bus service, which in early 2020 included five fixed routes, the Dial-a-Bus service and paratransit catering to the disabled, was whittled down to only Dial-a-Bus (and runs to downtown Walnut Creek) by late 2020. Ridership, which had been at about 8,700 a month in 2019, had dropped to about 2,500 over the first six months of 2022.

The routes expected to return, Matheson said, are the two most used ones, the Red Line and the Blue Line, which together cover most of northern and western Rossmoor. The goal, he added, is a balance of fixed-route and on-demand bus service.

Also, GRF and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority are working on a pilot shared autonomous vehicle (DSAV) program that would feature self-driving minibuses holding six to eight people (and an on-board “steward” for safety) on runs between Gateway and the Tice Creek Fitness Center and Gateway and the Creekside complex. There is no set timetable for this pilot program.

There could also be improvements to the existing subsidized ride services, including Uber and Lyft, Matheson said, with help from $178,000 in Contra Costa County Measure J transportation funding through the end of 2023.

Securitas contract

GRF had handled its own security needs before hiring Securitas in October 2006. Public Safety Manager Tom Cashion told the Board that the hiring of former Walnut Creek police lieutenant Steve Bertolozzi as Securitas site manager in August 2021 has resulted in improved Securitas performance and has further galvanized what already was a largely veteran staff that serves both GRF properties and the Mutuals.

Securitas responds to an average of 7,800 calls for service each year, of which 2,000 are medical-related. Securitas also issues and renews 12,000 vehicle access devices and 1,400 identification cards per year.

Board member Ted Bentley said he recently came to the aid of a neighbor who fell, and that a Securitas EMT was there within moments. “I was totally impressed with how quickly they respond to things,” he said. And Board member Jill Alley added, “In my opinion, the cost of the (Securitas) contract is very worthwhile.”

Other action

In other action, the GRF Board on Aug. 25:

  • formally renamed Berm Park at Tice Creek Drive and Golden Rain Road to Iris Park. The GRF Policy Committee had chosen that name on Aug. 8 from more than 40 suggestions; after all, the park is home to a large iris garden.
  • approved spending $66,500 for hardware and software related to a GRF IT “co-location” facility in Las Vegas, and for network switches for the Rossmoor News, the fitness center and the IT server room.

Establishing a co-location facility outside of the Bay Area means replicating Rossmoor’s servers to a place that, in theory, would not be affected by a disaster that disables GRF servers in Walnut Creek. A second set of identical servers would enable GRF/MOD to continue operations with minimal interruption even in a local Bay Area emergency.

Las Vegas, Rossmoor CEO Tim O’Keefe said, is a popular place for Bay Area companies to set up backup IT facilities, as it is neither too close nor too far away and has the proper infrastructure.

“You really have to think of it as an insurance policy,” O’Keefe said.

The Board named, from among nine applicants, Tom Consoli, Anne Cooper, Catherine Herdering and Michael Parker, along with alternate Barbara Gamblin, to GRF’s newly formed Civility Task Force, joining Board members Bentley, Leanne Hamaji and Maxine Topper.

The Civility Task Force was created, at Hamaji’s suggestion, in response to multiple incidents of abusive behavior of Rossmoor residents, mostly toward GRF employees and staff. The abuse was serious enough to prompt some GRF employees to seek new jobs elsewhere. The task force’s goal is to “explore avenues of civility within the Rossmoor community” and advise the full GRF Board.

Rocklin-based Ralph Andersen and Associates was selected by the Board to lead the search for a new chief executive officer for Rossmoor, following the July announcement by O’Keefe that he plans to retire in November. The Board voted to spend up to $51,000 for that firm’s search efforts.