The Simi Valley Transit buses operated by the city of Simi Valley, with a $1.25 fare, had a 14 percent increase from April 2005 to April of this year to 38,831 riders. “Part of it is because of the surge in gas prices and part because of the Town Center mall opening,” said Claude McFerguson, the city’s transit superintendent. Three of the city’s main routes have stops at the mall, which opened in October, two routes have stops at the Simi Valley Metrolink station, one goes into the San Fernando Valley and stops at the Chatsworth Metrolink station and one stops at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. “I think it is terrific people in Simi are using mass transit to get around,” City Councilman Glen Becerra said. “It shows we have a bus system that allows people to navigate the community. Our buses are beautiful, clean and new. They are a wonderful way to get around town. You are taking cars off the road. There are all sorts of benefits to the community.” Although many bus riders say they have no choice because they are unable to drive, others say the high gas prices made them choose public transit. Jeremiah Win of Simi Valley said he has a car but likes to ride the bus. “I’m going to the Simi Valley Cultural Center,” said Win, who is taking a film class there. “I’m taking the bus to save gas and parking. It also relieves my stress from driving.” Concerns about money led Matthew Martinez to take the bus, and he enjoys the air-conditioned rides. “I don’t make enough money to spend this much on gas,” he said. “I’ve been riding the bus for about three weeks because of the gas prices.” Gary Bodkins, 63, said he lives in a senior citizen housing complex where most of the residents, including himself, don’t drive. “I started riding the bus in 1999 because of the expense of driving a car,” he said. “As you get older, it’s one of the costs you no longer need.” He said not having a car has actually allowed him to travel more. “I went to Spain and Portugal last year,” he said. Thousand Oaks has also seen dramatic increases in ridership. From July 2005 to April, it stood at 136,692, compared to 114,302 during the same period a year before, an increase of nearly 20 percent. In the first three months of this year, Thousand Oaks Transit ridership jumped to 45,558 from 33,140 in the first quarter last year, a 37 percent increase. The Thousand Oaks Transit system provides service for a $1 fare within Thousand Oaks, and riders can connect to the San Fernando Valley through the VISTA system and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Stops include The Oaks and Janss Marketplace shopping centers, the senior and teen centers, Los Robles Regional Medical Center and the Civic Arts Plaza. The VISTA, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks systems are all subsidized by tax money that comes through federal, state or local government agencies, and as the price of gas goes up, the costs of operating the bus systems also rise. But officials say they are happy to see more riders leaving their cars and taking buses. “It lessens congestion on the road, it helps the air quality,” said Roy Myers, transportation analyst with the city of Thousand Oaks. “The word we have from most people is they feel more relaxed.” [email protected] (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SIMI VALLEY – Police Sgt. Blair Summey usually drives a car but decided to take the bus for a recent shopping trip to buy a fishing pole and some clothes. The bus ride cost him $1.25, and he figured he saved about $6 in gas money. “It’s my way of fighting the oil companies,” Summey said. “When you see gas prices over $3, this is my way of saying no. Besides, the bus is air-conditioned and you meet nice people.” Bus ridership has jumped in eastern Ventura County as gas prices have risen, putting unprecedented pressure on local residents to leave their cars and take advantage of their local public transit systems. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2“We’re concerned about reaching capacity on some of our buses,” said Ed Webster, contract manager with VISTA, the Ventura Intercity Service Transit Authority, which is operated by the Ventura County Transportation Commission. The VISTA buses connect cities in Ventura County and also to other transit systems in the San Fernando Valley and Santa Barbara. Ridership jumped about 24 percent in the first quarter of this year to 186,513, compared to 150,476 during the same period in 2005. Webster said the VISTA bus rides, which cost $1 between cities, are not only saving money for riders but allowing them to read or just relax – things they can’t do while driving. Within the VISTA system, there was a 22 percent increase in ridership on buses that connect Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Warner Center. Another part of the increase comes from VISTA’s East County service connecting the Amtrak-Metrolink train station in Moorpark with the Thousand Oaks transit center, The Oaks mall and Simi Valley Town Center. On that East County line, ridership increased 11.6 percent in the first quarter to 14,463.