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Davis

Davis, California

Monday, September 27, 2021

City of Davis plans to offer lunch-time shuttle by September

Traveling from downtown Davis to campus during lunch rush hour in the middle of the day can prove a harrowing task.

The city of Davis is currently communicating with Specialized Transportation Services on the UC Davis campus to develop a shuttle service that would take patrons from the downtown area to central campus during lunch hours.

“For several years, the city of Davis, the Davis downtown business association [and STS] … have identified the potential opportunity for a direct shuttle between core campus and downtown,” said Ken Hiatt, deputy city manager for Davis.

Hiatt and the city of Davis have been working closely with multiple groups in order to organize a means of funding and a feasibility plan for this shuttle service, he said.

“Over the past year, we’ve been working with Unitrans fairly closely [in addition to working with] a graduate student class on campus in the Institute of Transportation Studies program,” Hiatt added.

Within the past year, Hiatt, with the help of the Downtown Davis Business Association, conducted a survey in order to determine the most appropriate and effective route for the shuttle. The survey also provided information on potential user groups of the shuttle, Hiatt added.

“We concluded that there appears to be sufficient interest for a shuttle that would run between about 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. [on weekdays] during the academic school year,” he said.

The benefit of taking this shuttle as opposed to a Unitrans bus includes routes that might not stop at the more commercial areas in downtown. This shuttle is specifically designed to go from downtown to core campus and back.

“The model that we’re looking at and that was evaluated is one that is more direct and more frequent,” Hiatt said. “Every 10 minutes at designated stops, you could expect the shuttle to pick you up.”

Coordinators working on the shuttle project, including Hiatt, are still seeking options for funding of the project. Despite this, Hiatt said he hopes the shuttle will be up and running in the near future.

“Our goal or target would be to have an operating shuttle by September,” Hiatt added.

While Unitrans is helping with the details of what the shuttle program might look like, the actual shuttles being used will be chartered through STS, which also runs the Tipsy Taxi service, said Anthony Palmere, assistant general manager with Unitrans.

“[The city of Davis] will be paying STS to operate [the shuttle] as if they were operating a charter … although it is not strictly a charter because it is open to the public,” Palmere said.

If this shuttle is successful, STS will have a source of funding which will help them sustain the tipsy taxi operation, Palmere said. The STS tipsy taxi service has faced recent struggle because they have lost other sources of funding, he added. The vehicles used for the shuttle service will be the vehicles that STS uses for their Tipsy Taxi service. These consist of two 20 passenger shuttles, Palmere said.

“The Unitrans version of that is [a vehicle] used for the Amtrak shuttle,” he added. “That [vehicle] will serve as a backup.”

Most of the planning process for the shuttle service has been worked out, it is just a matter of gaining the proper funding to run the program, Palmere said. Unitrans and STS have suggested the city of Davis look for funding at the university level rather than the ASUCD budget, he added.

There may also be positive environmental impacts to operating this proposed shuttle service, said Susan Handy, director of sustainable transportation center and professor of environmental science and policy.

“While I probably would not use the shuttle, because I ride my bike [to work daily], I think it is a great idea,” Handy said. “I think it’s beneficial environmentally and economically.”

This shuttle service would make it easier to take transit from campus to downtown for those who would otherwise need to drive their cars downtown to run errands, Handy added. It encourages people who do drive to campus not to use their cars so much during the day.

“It also enables people who would not otherwise go downtown during lunch hour to do so,” Handy said.

Coordinators hope to have this proposed shuttle service functioning and open to the public by September upon finding sufficient funding. E-mail unitrans@ucdavis.edu for further information.

CAITLIN COBB can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com .

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