Solano Express-branded SolTrans intercity bus.
|Founded||November 16, 2010|
|Headquarters||311 Sacramento Street, Vallejo, CA|
|Locale||Vallejo and Benicia, California|
|Service area||Solano County, California, Contra Costa County, California|
|Service type||bus service, paratransit|
|Operator||National Express Group|
SolTrans, officially Solano County Transit, is a Joint Powers Authority that provides public transportation service to the southern Solano County cities of Vallejo and Benicia. SolTrans was established in 2011 and is the result of a merger between Vallejo Transit and Benicia Breeze.
The origins of SolTrans lead back to the early 20th century between two independent bus companies who served southern Solano County. These two companies were eventually acquired by the cities of either of Vallejo or Benicia, before consolidating to become Solano County Transit.
The Vallejo Bus Company was founded by Hartley Lowell in 1919. In 1935, the Vallejo Bus Company began to change hands between a number of owners until 1949 when the City of Vallejo took control of it.
However, the Vallejo City Council opted to close it in 1956 due to financial restraints. In response, community leaders led by Senator Luther Gibson created the Vallejo Citizens Transit Corporation (VCTC) in hopes of continuing services in Vallejo. The city subsequently transferred the fleet of thirteen buses to VCTC, who branded it Vallejo Transit Lines on May 1.
The Benicia-Vallejo Stage Line was founded 1915 by Milo Passalacqua. The Stage Line offered a route between Mare Island and Benicia, serving Vallejo's train stations and ferry docks. In 1982, the City of Benicia began operating Benicia Dial-a-Ride, a local demand responsive transit service. Service was later expanded on July 1, 1986 to include a fixed route between Benicia and the Pleasant Hill BART station; this service was called the Benicia Bay Connection. The city also began subsidizing the Benicia-Vallejo Stage Line. On October 1, 1986, the Bay Connection and Stage Line were merged to become Benicia Transit. This new company was managed by Community Transit Services, who were eventually acquired by Laidlaw. During the 1990s, Benicia Transit adds a number of additional routes, such as the Southampton Express (1991-2001) and as a few school tripper routes. They also purchase five used Gillig Phantoms for their main route and begin serving the Martinez Amtrak station between 1994 and 1997, before dedicating a route to in in 2005.
MV Transportation was awarded a contract to operate Benicia Transit in 2000, who would acquire controlling interest in VCTC five years later, transforming it into an MV subsidiary. In 2001, the Benicia Flyer route serving the Southampton hills operated for one year, before being discontinued due to low ridership and replaced with the Benicia Rocket, a route serving the Benicia Industrial Park. By October 2005, all named routes were converted into numbers: the main Vallejo/Pleasant Hill eventually being Route 75; the Amtrak being Route 23, and school trippers being Routes 15 through 18. 2006 saw Benicia Transit being re-branded as Benicia Breeze, replacing its dial-a-ride service into deviated fixed-routes and reducing its school tripper routes to two. Route 75 was eventually retired in favor of Vallejo Transit Route 78, which extends the route to Walnut Creek.
Discussions of merging the two transit agencies have occurred since 2005, however it wasn't until 2009 when a merger was seriously considered. In August, the Benicia city council reluctantly agreed with representatives of the Solano Transit Authority (STA) to study the possibility of creating a new transit agency with Vallejo Transit, citing the declining ridership and revenue caused by the Great Recession. On November 16, 2010, both cities agreed to enter into a joint powers authority agreement with the STA, calling the new transit agency Solano County Transit (or SolTrans for short). The name was selected out of fifteen others as it opens the possibility of other transit agencies in the county to join the agreement.
SolTrans provides local and express bus service to the Solano County cities of Vallejo, Benicia, and Fairfield, California. It also provides express bus service to the Contra Costa County communities of El Cerrito, Pleasant Hill, and Walnut Creek, providing regional connections to BART. SolTrans also provides complementary ADA paratransit.
Ferry service from Vallejo to San Francisco, which was operated by Vallejo Transit, is now provided by San Francisco Bay Ferry, the public operating arm of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority [WETA].
SolTrans connects with the following public transit services:
- AC Transit
- County Connection (Contra Costa)
- Fairfield and Suisun Transit
- Golden Gate Transit
- San Francisco Bay Ferry
- Vine Transit (Napa)
- WestCAT (Contra Costa)
As of 22 November 2015, SolTrans operates fourteen bus routes: nine local routes operate within the Vallejo/Benicia area, two supplemental school routes operate in Benicia, three routes provide intercity service, and one route supplements the San Francisco Bay Ferry. SolTrans also provides general dial-a-ride service within Benicia. Unless otherwise noted, routes operate Monday through Saturday except holidays.
|1||North West Vallejo / Vallejo Transit Center||Sunday service provided|
|2||North East Vallejo / Vallejo Transit Center|
|3||Glen Cove / South Vallejo / Beverly Hills / Vallejo Transit Center|
|4||Tuolumne Street / Vallejo Transit Center|
|5||Discovery Kingdom / Vallejo Transit Center|
|6||Tennessee / Springs / Hogan Middle School|
|7||Target Shopping Center / Springs Road / Vallejo Transit Center||Sunday service provided|
|8||Benicia Road / Hogan Middle School / Springs / Ascot|
|15||Benicia Middle School / Benicia High School / Mary Farmer Elementary School||Operates on school days only; via Solano Drive|
|17||Benicia Middle School / Benicia High School / Mary Farmer Elementary School||Operates on school days only; via East Second Street|
|20||Benicia / Solano Community College Vallejo / Gateway Plaza Vallejo||Operates on weekdays only|
|78||Vallejo / Benicia / Walnut Creek BART||Sunday service provided|
|80||Vallejo / El Cerrito del Norte BART||Sunday service provided|
|85||Vallejo Transit Center / Fairfield|
|200||San Francisco / Vallejo||Supplemental service bus for Baylink Ferry; Sunday service provided|
Fleet and livery
SolTrans operates a mixed fleet of buses. When SolTrans was fully integrated in 2011, they introduced Gillig Low Floor hybrid buses for local bus service, while the intercity routes continue to use MCI D-4500 buses. Since rebranding, Orion V buses previously used by Vallejo Transit became exclusive for school routes. SolTrans also makes use of Starcraft Bus Starlite shuttles for Paratransit and Dial-a-ride services. All buses are bicycle and wheelchair accessible.
- Rohrs, Sarah (26 July 2011). "Huge deficit already saddles merged SolTrans bus system serving Benicia and Vallejo". Vallejo Times Herald. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Kern, James E. (2004). Images of America: Vallejo. Arcadia. p. 80. ISBN 9780738529097.
- Gile, Lee; Algood, Bob (January 7, 2007). "50 Years of Service". Vallejo Times Herald. ANG Newspapers.
- "Timeline of Benicia Breeze: 1982 to Present" (PDF). City of Benicia. 16 January 2008. pp. VII–G–6. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- Burchyns, Tony (24 August 2009). "Benicia fears likely merger of bus systems". Vallejo Times-Herald. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
- Weilenman, Donna Beth (18 November 2010). "‘SolTrans’ gets Benicia’s OK". Benicia Herald. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
- Weilenman, Donna Beth (4 November 2010). "3-way pact may boost bus funding". Benicia Herald. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
- "SolTrans chooses National Express to run buses". Daily Republic. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
- SB 976: San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority
- "Routes". SolTrans. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- "From San Francisco Ferry Bldg to Vallejo". San Francisco Bay Ferry. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- "Dial-A-Ride Bus Service". SolTrans. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- "Holiday Schedule". SolTrans. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- Motor Bus Society, Convention Report, Spring 2005. April 18, 2005
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