BARSTOW A new public bus route from Barstow to Victorville is scheduled to begin next week with the first bus leaving Barstow on the morning of January 19.

A boon to those who wish to do shopping or go to medical appointments and don't have a ride, the bus operated by Victor Valley Transit Authority will operate three days a week and cost $6 for the general public and $3 for seniors or the disabled.

Funding for the bus comes from a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant, and will fund the bus for its first three years of operation. After the trial run, Victor Valley Transit Authority Director Kevin Kane said he hopes the bus will be popular enough to merit funding from VVTA's general fund.

The bus will leave Barstow three times daily on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, making stops at Saint Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, Pacific Eye institute in Hesperia, as well as the Victor Valley Mall. Kane said the 25-passenger bus will cost $90,000 per year to operate, and a larger bus will be used if readership demands it.

First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said the grant will cover $70,000 per year of the cost for the route and he is hoping rider fares will pay for the rest. Twenty-five riders per day would be needed to cover the $20,000 gap. Milzelfelt said an evaluation will made after the trail period to see how many state dollars will be used to subsidize the bus when the grant expires.

Currently, a Greyhound bus ticket from Barstow to Victorville costs $16 one-way and $28 round trip.

Mitzelfelt said he heard a demand from Barstow residents, especially those who needed to travel to Victorville for medical procedures that are not available in Barstow.

"Hopefully this (bus) will be the start of something bigger," said Mitzelfelt. "It's certainly a step further for (transportation) between our metropolitan areas. There is still room for improvement."

With input from the Barstow Senior Center, Desert Manna Ministries, and Barstow City government it was decided that Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday would be the best days for the bus, said Mitzelfelt.

A ticket on the Barstow-Victorville link will include a day's worth of transfers, so anyone riding the bus may take additional VVTA or Barstow buses to reach their destination. A return ride will cost an additional $6.

Kane said the Barstow-Victorville link is the first public bus of its kind, with the exception of a defunct Silver Lakes transfer.

"Ten years ago there was an informal transfer at Silver Lakes where someone could get off of the Barstow bus and transfer (to a Victorville) bus," said Kane.

A kickoff event for the new route will be held in from of Barstow City Hall at 3 p.m. on Jan. 18.

To ride the bus:

The Barstow-Victorville Link bus will leave Barstow Community Hospital Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 7:50 a.m., 9:50 a.m, and 3:50 p.m. and arrive at Victor Valley Mall at 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m, with five stops in between.

For a full schedule call 760-948-3030 or visit www.vvta.org/bvlink.html