(Article updated on June 10 to clarify that the one- to two-vehicle mircrotransit proposal was an option in the study and that the study did not include a recommended fare for the microtransit.)
Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – Transportation experts are recommending that McKinleyville have more frequent bus service for out-of-town travel and a couple of Uber-like vehicles to help people get around in town.
The proposals are included in an interim McKinleyville Transit Study prepared by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University in conjunction with Colin Fiske, executive director of Humboldt’s Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities.
McKinleyville is now served by the Redwood Transit System, with northbound and southbound buses picking up riders at bus stops once an hour from roughly 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (All of the bus stops and departure times can be viewed at hta.org/agencies/redwood-transit-system/.)
To make it more convenient for people traveling from McKinleyville to other communities such as Arcata and Eureka, the study recommends that the frequency of stops be increased to every half an hour. This would reduce wait times, specially for those who miss their bus and now have to wait an hour for the next one.
Redwood Transit runs buses with stops on Central Avenue, with spurs out to McKinleyville High School and the California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport.
This leaves many residents of the sprawling community a half mile, a mile or even further away from the nearest bus stop.
Rather than create an in-town fixed-route bus system, the study recommends what’s called a microtransit system. One of the option is to have one or two vehicles with drivers that would be available and could be booked online or with an app.
It would be like Uber, but significantly less expensive because the microtransit vehicles would be part of the Redwood Transit System, which charges a $2.10 fare for its buses. The study did not include a recommended fare for the microtransit rides.
The microtransit vehicles would shuttle passengers to and from their destinations in town or could take them to a bus stop, where they could take Redwood Transit north or south.
The microtransit option would cost about $300,000 to $400,000 a year to operate and would be paid for with transportation dollars allocated by the Humboldt County Association of Governments.
The study recommends that the microtransit service be operated as a pilot project for one to two years.
The proposal was discussed at the May 26 meeting of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC).
McKMAC member Kevin Dreyer said that one of the challenges will be getting people to consider not driving their own cars. He said this will require marketing of the service if it is approved.
The study indicates that McKinleyville is less walkable than comparable communities such as Arcata, Eureka and Fortuna. McKinleyville residents are also more dependent on their vehicles.
The study says that 82.3 percent of McKinleyville commuters drive in their cars alone, compared to 56.1 percent in Arcata, 71.5 percent in Eureka and 79.8 percent in Fortuna. The average for all of Humboldt County is 71.3 percent.
David Kack, director and program manager of the Western Transportation Institute, said that part of the marketing campaign would involve teaching people about the true cost of owning a car, which averages $8,500 a year.
The report was prepared for the Humboldt County Association of Governments and the Humboldt Transit Authority, which operates the Redwood Transit System.
The study is being paid for with a $53,000 grant from the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility at Montana State University, $27,000 from the County of Humboldt and $35,000 from HCAOG, according to HCAOG Executive Director Marcella May.
Before the study is finalized, its authors want to receive additional public input. The fill interim study, as well as a survey, can be found at mckinleyvilletransitstudy.com.