Grant raises hopes for FAST-like service

The San Diego Association of Governments (Sandag) accepted five  California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) grants, including a $100,000 grant for a coordinated plan for rural transit and vans. The grant raises hopes that a FAST-like service will be restored in Ramona.

The original application included improving public transportation between Ramona and the Santa Ysabel Reservation Indian Health Center and service from Ramona through the Barona reservation to connect with the bus line that runs from El Cajon to the Viejas reservation. When the Reservation Transportation Authority did not receive all of the money it applied for, the proposal was scaled down to eliminate those routes.

A second grant, for $250,000, will be used to study the region’s aggregate supply. Aggregate materials include sand, gravel, and crushed stone, and the use of aggregate includes foundation base materials under roads and rails.

Sandag’s Executive Committee, which has the authority to approve acceptance of such grants, OK’d the grants Nov. 14 without opposition.

In September, Caltrans informed Sandag of plans to award four transportation planning grants totaling $738,728.  Caltrans also has a Special Studies grant program to study issues of interest to Caltrans, and, since aggregate supply is an element of highway construction, Caltrans informed Sandag of the $250,000 grant award in October. The grants have local match requirements, which Sandag will fulfill through Transportation Development Act (TDA) funding.

The Rural Coordinated Transportation Planning Project is intended to provide a more in-depth analysis of transit and van opportunities in the rural areas.  The plan includes developing solutions designed to improve coordination of the limited transportation resources allocated to rural areas.

“When we do the next update of the plan, we can do a more detailed plan,” said SANDAG senior transit planner Dan Levy.

In addition to the $100,000 Caltrans grant, the project will be funded by $12,956 of TDA planning and administration revenue.

Because work will not begin during Fiscal Year 2008-09, no budget adjustments were necessary.

“We got the grant, so now we can start planning how we’re going to spend it,” Levy said.  “We’ll certainly have outreach meetings throughout the rural areas.”

Those outreach meetings may include chambers of commerce and community planning groups, and they will also include Indian reservations and health and human service agencies.  

“It’s not just transit.  It’s also human service transportation,” Levy said.

In August 2007, the Reservation Transportation Authority (RTA), which includes 20 member tribes in San Diego and Riverside Counties, applied for a $928,000 Tribal Transit grant to enhance services between reservations and towns, transit centers, and health centers.  

In March 2008, the Federal Transit Administration awarded $425,104 to the RTA, and the funding will be used to turn the North County Transit District’s Route 388, which  runs between Escondido and the Pala Indian Reservation, into a loop.  The routing of the new segment along Interstate 15 would result in express service between Pala and Escondido, and the enhanced service is expected to begin in January 2009.

Ridership on the lines funded by Tribal Transit money is not restricted to tribal members.  “We’ll be looking at what other improvements can be made,” Levy said.

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