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Davis, California

Saturday, April 13, 2024

U-DASH makes last shuttle run today

According to the numbers, most of you never saw the inside of a U-DASH minibus, and probably never will.

The UNITRANS-run shuttle service began its first runs in the summer of 2009, and low ridership was an issue from the very beginning.

After several modifications designed with hopes of increasing the number of daily boardings failed to achieve desired results, the partnership funding and running the program decided that it was time to cut losses and discontinue the service.

Anthony Palmere, the UNITRANS assistant general director, mentioned unreliable data from a previous survey as a reason for overly optimistic ridership expectations.

“People responded more positively to the survey about the shuttle concept in 2007 when the economy was stronger and perhaps they were going out to lunch more often,” Palmere said. “It is always difficult to gauge what the potential ridership might be based only on surveys.”

In 2007, the survey results indicated that a campus-to-downtown shuttle service would attract close to 100 people per day, or 200 one-way boardings.

Based on this data and hopes of reducing car use, a partnership was formed between the Davis Downtown Business Association, the City of Davis and UNITRANS to fund and maintain the service. An additional grant was provided by the Yolo Solano Air Quality Management District, bringing the total budget to $92,000, said Geoff Straw, UNITRANS general manager in a previous interview with the Aggie.

As the program only lasted about three quarters of the planned duration of a year, about 25 percent of the budget is expected to be saved.

Far from achieving 200 daily boardings, U-DASH managed to average 12 riders per day once school began and the one-dollar charge was implemented. Even in the rainy winter season, with an extended route and no fee, the shuttle only averaged about 20 riders per day.

U-DASH was not only a service to students and faculty, however. Planners had hopes of increasing business downtown and felt that this academic year would be the perfect time.

“An underlying goal for the service was to encourage campus students, faculty and staff to eat at downtown restaurants and to shop at downtown stores,” Straw said. “It seemed like a good idea to try the U-DASH system in 2009 and 2010, since the ASUCD Coffee House was undergoing a major re-modeling construction project beginning in the summer.”

U-DASH was also an attempt to reduce air pollution as a side-effect of less cars driving between downtown and campus. The YSAQMD awarded just under $13,000 for U-DASH as part of its annual Clean Air Fund, which for 2009-2010 totaled over half a million dollars. The CAF money for U-DASH was secured because the mini-buses – originally used by Tipsy Taxi – ran on clean natural gas, and were otherwise dormant when Tipsy Taxi was not in service.

However, the low ridership and high level of intra-campus use – rather than from campus to downtown – further reduced support for the project.

BRIAN GERSON can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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