BLYTHE - The Palo Verde Valley Transit Agency (PVVTA) is celebrating their 35th year of operation this Saturday, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Todd Park.
PVVTA began their operations through a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between the city of Blythe and Riverside County on Jan. 28, 1978, with two fixed routes -Roadrunner and Jackrabbit - that traveled through Blythe. The Roadrunner route picked up riders along Chanslorway, Lovekin Blvd., Intake Blvd., and 14th Ave., while the Jackrabbit route traveled down Hobsonway from Lovekin Blvd. to Intake and back again. Funding for the agency at this time was directly from the state through the Transportation Development Act (TDA).
TDA was formed after the gas shortage of the 1970s to make sure that there would always be transportation on the road enabling people to always have an alternative to get to their place of employment and other places of necessity.
The two fixed routes ran until 1981 when, due to a change in management, and at the same time, a national focus that shifted toward rider advocacy, the agency switched the local transportation service to Dial-A-Ride.
Dial-A-Ride operated as a curb-to-curb service to aid the elderly and disabled. It was operated as a call-ahead service where riders would have to call at least 24 hours in advance to schedule a ride to a specific location and a return ride to their homes.
Funding for Dial-A-Ride was mainly provided through the American With Disabilities Act. The Dial-A-Ride service was first operated by Valley Resource followed by Exceed (now known as Sheltering Wings).
In 2003, due in part to Palo Verde College moving their location from W. Chanslorway to One College Drive, just off of W. Sixth Ave., and the two prisons, Chuckawalla Valley and Ironwood being located 20 miles outside of Blythe, PVVTA reduced the Dial-A-Ride system and expanded the services to a deviated fixed route system, and introduced the Desert Roadrunner Service.
Over time, PVVTA has included routes that traveled as far as the Coachella Valley, north to the Lost Lake community and as far south as Palo Verde.
Currently, there are five fixed routes that run through Blythe. There are routes that travel to the Palo Verde College campus, Broadway, Chanslorway, Hobsonway, 14th Ave., Intake, and the Wiley Wells Road (prisons).
Funding for PVVTA is now provided through capital federal grants from the Department of Transportation and Homeland Security, in addition to the state TDA funds. Money for PVVTA is allocated and overseen by Riverside County Transportation Commission and Caltrans. Neither the city of Blythe or Riverside County contribute any general funds to the operation of PVVTA.
PVVTA is governed by an independent board of directors made up of two elected city officials; one appointed city person; one elected county position; and one county appointed position. Historically, positions on the board of directors, have been held by city council members (including mayors), Riverside County supervisors, and prominent people in the community.
According to PVVTA records from 1978, the original board of directors consisted of Thomas "Chris" Crecelius (former mayor), Ernie Weeks (former mayor), Alan McCandless (former county supervisor), Hal Cownich, A.E. Newcomb, and Craig Manning.
Other directors over the years included, Dick Farrage, Sport Downs, Frances Duggins, Ed Scott, Dickie Soto, Tom Farrage, John Crain, Doris Morgan, George Thomas, Robert Crain, Beverly Mays; and former County supervisors Ray Sealy and Roy Wilson.
Current PVVTA Board of Directors are Chairman Joey DeConinck, Vice-Chairman Mayor Oscar Galvan, Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit, Council member Sam Patel, Community member Lincoln Edmond, and General Manager and City Manager David Lane. Edmond also has the longest tenure on the board of directors, originally being appointed in 1980.
Transit officials say PVVTA goes above and beyond providing fixed route rides. PVVTA also supports the community with other services and special events. Services available to the community are rides to the Riverside County Senior Center (Mesa Verde), the Bluegrass Festival tour since 2003, and the Palo Verde Valley Community Outlook Conference tour held in March every year. Also, anytime a high numbered passenger bus catches fire or is rendered immobile, PVVTA is called out to transport the passengers and their baggage to a safe location until a replacement vehicle can take them to their designation.
PVVTA personnel also participates in local and regional training consisting of everything from safe driving to safety measures involving explosives.
Other community participation includes the Holiday Lightrunner that runs in December and takes approximately 1,500 people through town to view the holiday decorations on residences and businesses. PVVTA also has a presence at other special events such as providing transportation to the Colorado River Fairgrounds during the Summer Safety Extravaganza for the Riverside County Prevent Child Abuse Collaborative and the Breakfast/Workshop with Santa put on by the Chuckawalla Valley and Ironwood State Prisons every December.
PVVTA serves many residents in the community. The ridership in 1978 was roughly 4,000 people. Now PVVTA services 4,000 people a month.
All riders, past, present and future, plus the entire community, are invited to come out on Jan. 26 and celebrate PVVTA's historical 35 years in the Palo Verde Valley. The event begins at 11 a.m. at the Todd Park gazebo, with lunch served at 11:30. Memorabilia from PVVTA past will be displayed in the park.
Prior to lunch, current board members, Galvan, Benoit and DeConinck will give speeches. Keynote speaker will be former mayor and board chairman Robert Crain. A tour of past routes and former building and bus yard locations, including the first location on Agate St., will begin after Crain's address.
"Thank you for supporting us throughout the years," said Transit Manager K. George Colangeli. "It is you in the community who has brought us to this day."
Colangeli, who has been with PVVTA since 2003, is responsible for many of the current changes within PVVTA, helping to make sure the system is a bright spot in the community.
"Come on out and support this event," said PVVTA Mobility Manager Dale Reynolds. "This is the perfect time to come and see what we are all about."