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Is new transit option too big?
Willows residents have a new ride around town — and to Orland and Chico — but the new 40-foot bus needs plenty of room to maneuver.
The Willows City Council Tuesday said it's pleased the Regional Transit Committee has put the new fuel-efficient bus on the streets, but is not sure the city can accommodate all of the bus's needs.
The City Council agreed Tuesday to move the bus stops in front of the Glenn County courthouse and Veterans Memorial Hall a block west, but tabled the request to sacrifice parking for a new bus stop on Sycamore Street in the downtown.
The route utilizes the Willow Walk Mall parking lot — a sharp turn the new bus can't make, officials said.
"The bus needs a total of about 95 feet," said City Manager Steve Holsinger.
The new bus is one of two 40-foot busses recently purchased by the public transit agency at a cost of about $423,000 each.
The other bus is not yet in operation, but Glenn County Senior Planner Mardy Thomas expects each new 40-foot coach to provide 5,000 to 6,000 rides per month, many of whom are students attending Butte College.
The new buses hold about 42 passengers and replace the agency's 30-foot buses.
The larger capacity buses will reduce the need for the transit agency to send a "tripper bus" back to pick up excess passengers, Thomas said.
Thomas asked the Willows City Council to give up four of parking spaces on the north side of Sycamore Street at the corner of Butte Street, so that those waiting for the bus can still utilize the shade tree and bench installed by a local service club for the riders' comfort.
"We want to have a spot that is inviting," Thomas said. "Not a concrete bench with a little sign. We want to do something that adds to the community."
The other option was to remove the only parking from Willow Walk Floral Shop and Chamber of Commerce on the south side of Sycamrore Street.
Although council members immediately agreed that taking the florist's parking was out of the question, they didn't readily agree to losing the downtown parking across the street.
"I can't see taking away four spaces," said Councilman Larry Mellow.
It was also suggested the little-used parking along side former Daughtry's Department Store be utilized for a bus stop, but Thomas was concerned about reconfiguring the route, which could alter the schedule.
"It could take precious minutes off the route," he said. "Timing is always critical."
Exposure to the heat at that site was also a concern, as well as the high curb for wheelchair accessibility.
Holsinger said with limited parking in the downtown, putting in a new 95-foot bus stop would be a challenge anywhere.
"It's difficult to find an ideal spot," he said.
Councilman Larry Domenighini acknowledged Willows has far less downtown parking from when he was a boy, but was not entirely opposed to the Sycamore Street location.
He said, if utilized, he would like the Transit Committee to improve the planters, walkways and handicap access to encourage ridership.
Domenighini and Councilman Bill Spears represent Willows on that panel and the Glenn County Transportation Commission.
The City Council will make a decision on the downtown bus stop at its March meeting, officials said.
Meanwhile, Thomas was given the green light to move the Memorial Hall bus stop to Memorial Park and the courthouse stop directly across the street from the park.
Thomas said Wednesday he will have to go through the same process with Orland officials, as some parking may have to be sacrificed on Highway 32.
Because it is a state highway, Caltrans will also have to be involved in the process, he said.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.