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By Rochelle VanderHelm
For The Shafter Press 

Bus 110 makes college possible for some

Shafter students get free ride

 

Rochelle VanderHelm | For The Shafter Press

Inside bus 110 en route to Shafter and Wasco.

In the early 1980s, Kern County got some buses. Kern Regional Transit called the route that services Bakersfield to Delano and back North Kern Express, but now it's simply Route 110.

Along the way, the 110 bus stops in Shafter, Wasco and McFarland to pick up a few passengers. If you were to catch a ride on 110, there would probably be a good number of students filling the seats.

"We have a lot of people who go to Bakersfield College," said Bob Neath, engineering manager for the county's Public Works Department. A couple years back, Kern Transit acquired a grant from the State of California to fund free travel for any students with a valid Bakersfield College ID.

"When you graduate from high school, if you live in Shafter, and you're trying to further your education, and you don't have a way to get to, say, Bakersfield College, that could be the roadblock that keeps you from going to college," said Neath. The grant helps eliminate that roadblock, and since offering that service, Kern Transit has seen an approximately 50% increase in students riding the bus to school.

The grant will continue to fund these services for college students through the summer. Kern Transit and Bakersfield College are discussing options for continuing the service into the future.

"I had a student thank me for taking them to school because they wouldn't have had a consistent ride. They felt reassured they could take more courses and would be able to get to and fro," said Shaylinda Manning, a Route 110 driver.

The 110 bus moseys down Highway 43. Over the lull of the air-conditioning, occasional hums of conversation burst free: a cough, a man raising his voice to be heard on the phone, "Hello? Hello!"

Mostly, everyone remains perfectly silent, swaying to the beat of the potholes in the road and the unknown music in their ears. The bus stops, the passengers come unglued from their seats and toddle out the door.

"It's really a more quiet, reserved experience for most people," said Eva Lopez, a frequent 110 passenger. "I have met a few people who I will talk to once in a while, share a smile," said Lopez.

Once, the route was changed. It used to turn left onto Lerdo Highway and continue on to Highway 99. It wasn't a safe route; the bus would have to stop by the railroad tracks on Lerdo and Highway 43, practically parked in the middle of the intersection. When the overpass on 7th Standard and 43 was put in, the route went that way instead.

When the route change happened, Kern Transit had representatives on board to explain the situation to the passengers. Neath remembers how many began to panic when the bus didn't turn when it should have.

Rochelle VanderHelm | For The Shafter Press

Eva Lopez boards 110 to Bakersfield.

"It definitely illustrated that everybody was extremely well aware of the route that the bus takes," said Neath.

For many, besides college students, taking the bus is the most affordable transportation option to Bakersfield. The one-way fare for the route is three dollars per person or you can get a monthly pass for $65.

"You get to see that if you are not there how much they rely on you so much to get to work, home, to a loved one, or maybe their ride to the next move in their life," said Manning. "We have passionate drivers that love what they do and try to provide a safe and time-efficient trip to their passengers every day ... Don't be shy. Take a ride on any route. We are here to serve the public."

 

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