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Weekend bus service returns

Dial-A-Bus rides to Rossmoor Shopping Center available on Saturdays and Sundays

By Sam Richards

Staff writer

(Monday, March 6): It’s back by popular demand, made possible by hiring enough drivers to make it happen.

Weekend Dial-A-Bus service is set to make its return on Saturday, March 25, available to take residents to and from points within Rossmoor as well as to the Rossmoor (Safeway) Shopping Center. The revived service will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Jerrol Reavis, Rossmoor’s Transportation Department operations manager, said this restoration constitutes “limited” weekend service, as Rossmoor buses still do not travel to downtown Walnut Creek. But March 25 will begin the first weekend bus service in Rossmoor of any kind since February 2022, when a shortage of drivers prompted a retreat to weekday-only service.

Now, with full Dial-A-Ride staffing of eight drivers and a full-time dispatcher soon to be in place, what has been considered an essential service by residents will get a needed shot in the arm.

“We have people making queries daily about getting the weekend service started again,” said Kim Harper, Rossmoor transportation foreman. “I’m excited to put the Transportation Department out there in hopes that more people will use our system.”

At its lowest point, Reavis said, Transportation had four drivers. Some left during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the “Great Resignation,” which to this day has limited the hours of some retail and service businesses in the Bay Area and beyond, has made the hiring process slow and hit-and-miss.

The lack of drivers also spelled an end to the Rossmoor Transportation Department’s fixed routes, five of them altogether, soon after the pandemic began in 2020. Harper said that, as with many public transportation systems, the pandemic adversely affected demand for those services, which in many cases still has not recovered.

Each of those Rossmoor fixed routes, Harper said, carried approximately 100 riders daily; about 200 total riders per day are now served by Rossmoor Dial-A-Bus, she said.

But Reavis said that regardless of what improvements come in the future, the structure of the Rossmoor bus system has changed, likely for good. It isn’t anticipated that the fixed routes will ever return, and there’s no reason to believe weekend County Connection service between the Rossmoor Shopping Center and downtown will ever come back, either, having ended in March 2019.

That route, the 301, “ended because of low ridership, and given financial constraints and the ongoing operator (driver) shortage, it’s unlikely that service will return,” said County Connection Manager of Planning Melody Reebs.

Reavis said he hopes that “full service,” including Rossmoor buses taking Rossmoor residents directly to downtown Walnut Creek, will return sometime in the future, but funding for that will likely require approval by the GRF Board. Reavis’ department operated with 12 drivers pre-pandemic, when fixed routes and direct Walnut Creek service were in place.

Along with the return of weekend service, he said, will be new Spare Labs bus dispatch software, and an app will soon be available to allow requests for a ride to be made over residents’ smartphones once that dispatch software is ready for everyday service. Of course, ride arrangements will still be fielded the old-fashioned way, too, by calling 1-925-988-7676.

The thought of gaining back riders, Reavis and Harper said, is exciting. “You form really strong bonds with the people you interact with every day,” Harper said. “Those bonds, you get a lot out of that. I love my residents.”