Stranded: Why is the VISTA bus service ending on July 1, 2012?

On July 1, 2012, VISTA (Ventura Intercity Service Transit Authority), which serves the basic needs of working-class Ventura County commuters, is scheduled for a “possible service disruption.” All 7 routes will grind to a halt and the buses we now use will permanently end service in the region.

These buses provide an essential service and economic lifeline for thousands of workers, students, disabled, and elderly who will be stranded in their cities if the service is grounded. Commuting in Ventura County without a car is already difficult enough, but the threatened disruption will force commuters both inside and outside of the county to resort to expensive trains and charter buses. The city of Santa Paula provides one example where commuters will become almost completely isolated from neighboring cities.

How did this situation come to pass? Well, the outside contractor for the Ventura County Transit Commission (VCTC), Coach USA, decided to declare bankruptcy. Unlike Gold Coast Transit, LA Metro, TO Transit, and most other systems, Vista buses are NOT owned by the County or a local municipality. Instead, the service has been outsourced to a major investment group headquartered in the UK. Coach USA, the holding company which operates VISTA, is owned by the private New York-based investment managers Fenway Partners, who act on behalf of an international corporation called Stagecoach Group. The CEO of Stagecoach is “transport tycoon” Sir Brian Souter, a deeply conservative Knight of the British Crown.

Apparently, Coach has auctioned off its VISTA buses to two companies: one being Transportation Management Systems… and the other being Stagecoach.

Stagecoach’s Sir Brian Souter is worth over $625 million USD. His political power in his home country of Scotland is a result of the buying of politicians by the bus-load. They, in turn, have rewarded him with not only his knighthood but also with deep cuts in municipal transportation budgets, allowing Sir Brian to “rescue” local services with his own private fleet of high-fare buses staffed with low wage-earners. The result has been the swallowing-up of local public transit services by Sir Brian.

Souter’s “Coach USA” recently signed a yearlong contract with the Ventura County — an agreement to provide full, uninterrupted service. Now that Coach has abruptly broken the contract, residents are stuck with the results of VCTC’s short-sighted attempt at cutting costs.

Here are some questions that we need to ask: Why is our bus system not owned and controlled by the County itself? Why was it left in the hands of cheapskate businessmen with “Coach USA” and multimillionaire “vulture capitalists” from Europe?

We need to hold the County accountable and demand that the VCTC not only ensures uninterrupted service, but that they find a permanent solution to this problem. Our community’s needs can’t be ignored, and our economic lifelines should remain free from the threat of “disruptions” resulting from a total lack of planning.

More info:

http://www.goventura.org/ , http://www.coachusa.com/ http://www.stagecoach.com/investors.aspx

6/18/12 VISTA bus lines could stop running July 1, leaving 1,500 riders in lurch http://bit.ly/L1yoWT

6/18/12 Bus company bankruptcy could end Ventura County service http://bit.ly/Ml4FWD

4/1/12: Scottish Government refuse to publish secret correspondence with tycoon Brian Souter http://bit.ly/HHsYKf

4/6/12 EDINBURGH AND GLASGOW LEADERS UNITE TO URGE CHANGE ON BUS CUTS http://bit.ly/M3gdPG

2/13/12 Souter donation makes the election much more interesting http://bit.ly/MqWeVJ

1/14/00 Boycott call in Stagecoach ‘anti-gay’ row http://bbc.in/Ndcpee

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