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Update: Transit authority to be consolidated in county

The regional Transit Joint Powers Authority said it will assume management oversight of the combined transit operation for Merced County July 1, 2010, after a vote by the authority Tuesday.

The 11-member transit authority is comprised of one elected official from each of the region’s six cities and one supervisor from each of the county's five districts.

A Joint Powers Agreement has been in effect since 1995, when individually owned bus service was combined for cost-savings and greater efficiency. For the past 14 years, Merced County Public Works has administered bus service for fixed routes and dial-a-ride.

Because of numerous changes in transit requirements, the authority said in a press release, Public Works Director Paul Fillebrown, Transportation Manager Rod Ghearing and Merced County Association of Governments Executive Director Jesse Brown agreed that a more streamlined transit management organization would be possible by moving management to a regional board rather than continue with one local government as manager.

"THE BUS has accomplished much over the past years," says Transit Authority Chair John Pedrozo, also a county supervisor. He added that ridership has grown, service levels have increased to hour headways on rural routes and half-hour headways in Merced, there are more buses in the system and buses are converting to compressed natural gas.

The current transit staff members will become employees of the Transit JPA next year and maintain their current salaries and retirement benefits, the press release said. The JPA will continue to contract directly for bus drivers and dispatchers, for transit vehicle maintenance and lease the present transit office site from the county.