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Dial A Ride Buses Take Over
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The big, green trolleys stopped running at the start of July but public transportation has not vanished from Riverbank and Oakdale. The Dial A Ride buses have taken their place. They run between and all over the two cities, picking up and dropping off passengers on demand and coming right to their doorstep.

"We've doubled our ridership on Dial A Ride. We're not quite at 10 percent (making from the fare box at least 10 percent of the operational cost with a state grant covering the rest). We still need to increase but we're getting there," said Riverbank Oakdale Transit Authority (ROTA) manager Donna Bridges.

With the demise of the trolleys, Dial A Ride is now available to the general public, not just the disabled and elderly.

"We encourage students to ride. They should call at least the day before or we can arrange a subscription ride and pick them up on a regular basis," said Bridges. "We're getting some grade school kids and quite a few junior high school kids. The high school students quite often have cars. We're not in competition with school buses. We pick up kids where the buses cannot."

The cost for the general public, one way, is $2 but only $1.25 for students, senior citizens and the handicapped. You can call for a ride the same day you need it but it will cost 50 cents more.

"The bus drivers tell me they see a lot of school kids riding ROTA and people coming to the new health center in Riverbank too, even heading there from Oakdale."

At the peak hours of early morning, mid afternoon and late afternoon, ROTA has three or four buses on the streets carrying five or six passengers each.

As for the trolleys that stopped running the fixed route between Riverbank and Oakdale on July 1, the first two were bought with federal funds and will be transferred to another public transit agency such as Lathrop. ROTA officials are thinking of keeping the third and newest vehicle to roll out for special civic occasions like the annual Oakdale Chocolate Festival.

"Why did the trolley system fail? We just couldn't get the ridership and were wasting taxpayers funds," said Bridges.

ROTA still has a fixed route available in the shape of the StaRT Route 60, she noted. This is a Stanislaus County service that comes through Riverbank eight times a day (about every two hours). It runs from Modesto through Riverbank to Oakdale and turns around at the K-Mart there to return to Modesto.

ROTA finances the Dial A Ride system mainly with state local transportation funds that come through the Stanislaus Council of Governments. Each year the county's five transit managers submit claims for what they expect to spend. While ROTA owns the buses, a private company, Storer Transportation, operates the service and manages the staff.