The Valley of the Moon Commute Club once ran a fleet of three full-sized buses weekdays between Sonoma and downtown San Francisco. The service saved the hassle and expense of driving, and parking, in the city.
The monthly pass was a deal – and those were the days of $2 bridge tolls.
Now down to one bus, the Club must raise fees to compensate for a drop in membership. But not even hiking the monthly fee to $350 may be enough to keep the bus going.
“It’s getting down to the wire,” said longtime rider Jaretta Avery.
The loss of the VMCC’s familiar white bus will likely send the 23 members, and scores of casual riders who use the service irregularly, back to their own cars.
While the riding the VMCC has its advantages, attrition has been dramatic. The bad economy has definitely played a role, Avery said, as there are fewer city jobs to commute to.
Once ridership started dropping a few years ago, the price of membership crept up and, one by one, buses were cut. That left fewer options for workers with inflexible schedules.
“Each time we cut a bus, people would drop out because of the timing,” Avery said.
In addition to monthly memberships the club sells a one-day pass. “Although we are a private bus club, we have always welcomed casual riders,” Avery said. “In fact, it’s those casual, non-member riders who have kept us afloat for the past several years.”
The one-day pass is a good option for workers who don’t need to report to the office every day. It’s also handy for day-trippers and riders on the way to a Bay Area airport.
The VMCC has boosted the fare to $30 for one roundtrip, a tab that may be too pricey for the casual rider.
The monthly club fee of $350 works out to about $18 per weekday commute.
VMCC began in the mid-seventies as a not-for-profit organization for workers who required reliable and economical transportation from Sonoma to San Francisco, Monday through Friday.
The morning commute begins at 5:37 with the first stop in Boyes Hot Springs. The bus works down West Napa, swings by the Plaza, then heads down Broadway. It hits the last of its eight stops, the deli at 116 and 121, at about 6 a.m.
The bus crosses the Golden Gate Bridge at about 6:45 a.m. A few riders get off on Lombard, but most – after a brief yawn-and-stretch ritual – access stops in the financial district, along Battery, and up Mission.
The route is reversed on the way home, with benchmark stops at the Broadway Market (at 5:50 p.m.), the Plaza (5:55 p.m.) and El Verano (6:05 p.m.)
While riding the bus, many participants use the time to work on their laptops, read, chat with acquaintances, or take a nap.
Despite the assets and no real competition from Golden Gate Transit, attracting new members has been difficult. The goal to find seven members before the end of the year is “in today’s bleak economy, doubtful,” Avery acknowledged.
For information about the VOMCC contact 812.0110. Detailed information about bus stop locations and times can be found at newwestmedia.com/VOMCC/.