Locals weren’t sure what to expect when they heard that San Mateo County had decided to switch bus service providers and handed the contract for South Coast transit to a private company.
After all, SamCoast isn’t just another bus service. Apart from bus service that runs once in the early morning and once in the early evening, t’s the only appointment-based transit option for far-flung South Coast residents who don’t have access to a car or cannot get a drivers’ license because of their immigration status. It’s their only lift to groceries in Half Moon Bay or doctors’ appointments in Redwood City. Bus drivers are available by appointment to pick passengers up from home or work, by appointment. The service is an essential lifeline for the isolated, rural South Coast community.
MV Transportation Inc. took over SamCoast service in early November from the Pescadero Foundation. MV Transportation is able to serve the South Coast with a larger fleet and round-the-clock dispatch service,
A big part of the old SamCoast service involved transporting locals to and from Puente programs. MV Transportation has promised to keep these services whole. For example, although MV Transportation normally stopped service at 8:00 p.m., Puente Program Director Rita Mancera negotiated later bus service for students in evening ESL classes. In addition to ESL, which occurs two mornings and two nights a week, Puente pays around $1,300/month to transport people to and from La Sala, Story Time, SAAGE classes at Stanford University, and its Edible Afterschool program.
On the South Coast, new MV Transportation drivers are still learning the locations of farms or camps where people live in shared housing, often at the end of a long dirt road. Some camps allow the buses to stop on their property, and some don’t, according to Mancera. Fortunately two former SamCoast drivers joined the MV Transportation team which helped ease the transition between services.
Although the county subsidizes the service by more than $88,000 per year, the service isn’t free to riders. Adult riders pay $3.75 for a one-way ticket, the same price as before. That means a trip for a single person to the grocery store costs $7.50, which adds up quickly for someone earning a minimum hourly wage of $8.00. There is an additional fare for each family member — adults and children. As always, Puente covers the cost of transportation to and from Puente programs.
MV Transportation is a national company that operates everything from airport shuttles to city buses in 28 states and three countries.