Ventura County is taking a few baby steps toward developing a comprehensive transportation plan.
It’s an effort that’s probably a few decades overdue but one that’s well worth the effort. The initiative is being led by Darren Kettle, executive director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission and a person who’s not afraid to jump on a bus — or two, or three — to try to get from Moorpark to Ventura.
He’s also charged with coming up with the $10 million a year or so required to keep the Metrolink commuter trains running to and from Ventura County. And he’s a major stakeholder in the Vista bus service that connects Ventura County to the Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valley areas.
In a chat with the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 9, Kettle outlined a two-part plan to get Ventura County transportation on track.
First is to explore consolidating the seven bus systems in the county into one or two systems that make it much easier to get from city to city. “Transit is broken and people don’t use it because it is broken,” he said.
Second is to look once again at a ballot initiative that would finally give Ventura County transportation projects a regular slice of sales tax revenue.
That’s an advantage that both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties have in plotting their futures, but Kettle acknowledged the two-thirds majority required to pass such a tax is a big hurdle. He said he’s looking at 2012 as the earliest possible date for a ballot measure.
Meanwhile, there are a few improvements in the works for the region. A long-awaited third lane on Highway 101 between Mussel Shoals and Carpinteria will likely go forward — with a price tag of $130 million for just eight miles. Another CalTrans project is under way to widen the highway on the Santa Barbara County side of the line.
But the bottom line is that Ventura County’s population will grow by more than 20 percent over the next 20 years and that means more than 1 million people by 2030. Congestion will only grow and commute times will get worse unless Ventura County finds ways to invest in its transportation infrastructure.