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Expanded Auburn-Sacramento bus service on the way

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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With its popularity growing in a time of skyrocketing gas prices and a major highway improvement project threatening to clog roads further, Placer County’s rush hour express bus service is expanding. A fourth bus is moving toward being added to increase commuter capacity from the current limit of 150 riders to 200 on the Auburn-Sacramento route. The goal is to have the bus up and running by mid-May. “Commuter Express buses in Placer County are already overflowing at peak hours and the temporary closures of Interstate 5 for downtown Sacramento reconstruction in May will only increase the need for additional mass-transit options,” Caltrans Director Will Kempton said. The Placer County Transportation Planning Agency and Caltrans are rushing through approvals to add one more bus to the run. The Transportation Planning Agency is taking a creative approach to a situation that has resulted in multi-ticket pass sales for the bus route being restricted because of high demand. Stops along the way from Auburn are in Penryn, Loomis, Rocklin and Roseville. Dubbed the “Temporary Train,” the new bus would also serve as a pressure valve for the Capitol Corridor commuter train, which is restricted to one round trip a day from Auburn to Sacramento and back. The train is running at 75 percent capacity despite its limited departure and arrival schedule. As part of the plan, the “temporary train” will be decorated with a bus wrap to denote its status. “The agency is committed to providing mass transit opportunities for commuters and is pleased to work collaboratively with Caltrans to expand service,” Executive Director Celia McAdam said. “We had to get creative to find the funding but just like we did with the Lincoln bypass and efforts to relieve the Interstate 80 bottleneck, we found a way to make it happen because we are prepared, aggressive and have a reputation for getting things done.” With Caltrans not controlling any funds that can be used for traditional bus transit operations, and Caltrans and the agency working together to bring additional Capitol Corridor rail service to Placer County, the two are dipping into another funding source – the Intercity Rail Program – for what they’re calling a temporary train. The new bus would be funded with $220,000 over the next two years – until additional rail service is established along the same corridor. No commitment has been made to add more trains but it’s a long-term goal of the county and Caltrans. Caltrans will pay up to $100,000 this year and another $85,000 in the second year. The Transportation Planning Agency would contribute matching funds totaling $35,000. Transportation Agency directors will consider the expenditure at a board meeting Wednesday. “From mass transit to roadway maintenance and expansion, we are committed to doing everything possible to provide for Placer County residents,” McAdam said. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.