Discussion about Santa Barbara County’s bus system will go round and round at an open forum meeting today featuring representatives from the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) and South Coast Transit Advisory Committee.

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors’ Hearing Room downtown, located on the fourth floor of the county administration building at 105 E. Anapamu St. Gregg Hart, government relations and public information coordinator for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), said the meeting will give members of the community an opportunity to suggest new ideas and improvements for Santa Barbara’s public transportation system to a panel of transit officials.

“This is a great opportunity for people interested in new transit services to raise ideas that we should consider,” Hart said.

For areas such as Isla Vista and downtown Santa Barbara, Hart said the main issue he expects members of the public to address is traffic on Highway 101 and its interference with the drive of UCSB faculty and staff commuters.

“The focus is a long-term solution to the freeway congestion problem,” Hart said. “I think there is an increasing awareness with the faculty and staff having a really hard time locating in the Santa Barbara area.”

Hart said student turnout in these meetings is typically not very strong, but those that do attend usually voice concerns about the bus system’s hours of operation.

“A common comment we get is that the hours should be extended, the weekend hours should be extended,” Hart said. “It’s a supply and demand kind of thing. Are there truly enough people who would use the services of those extended hours to justify paying for a driver and a bus?”

Stephanie Mesones, a freshman political science major and resident of Francisco Torres Residence Hall, said she would like to see an increase in the number of buses running from FT to campus on rainy days.

“I live at FT and sometimes in the morning, let me tell you, when it rains, nobody rides their bike,” Mesones said. “I always miss the bus because there’s so many people.”

Hart said the meeting is a great place for people whose voices are not generally heard to let the MTD and South Coast Transit Advisory Committee know how they can better serve the community.

“The folks that do this don’t always have all the answers,” Hart said. “So an idea that folks throw out there may make people scratch their heads and say, ‘Wait a minute, that’s a good idea.'”

Those who have ideas for changing or adding bus lines will be able to voice them to the MTD representatives a the meeting.

“From a practical standpoint, if somebody was concerned here about additional transit service, it’s probably more appropriately directed to MTD itself,” Hart said.

Eric Daub, a first-year physics graduate student, said he is satisfied with the current status of the public transportation system.

“The bus stops close to my house and runs efficiently enough for my situation,” Daub said.

The SBCAG holds two public forums annually, one in northern Santa Barbara County and one in the south. A meeting similar to the one that will be held today already took place Feb. 8 for the north county residents. Hart said public transportation to and from rural farm areas was the main issue discussed at that meeting.

“Things are more spread out,” Hart said. “It costs more to drive a bus there and there are fewer people potentially to get on it, so the efficiency you get in a dense urban area isn’t in place.”