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How Heart and Art Combined to Bring Public Transit to the American River Confluence

Starting in April, makes plans to hop on the Auburn Transit Confluence Route!

Meet friends in town at a stop go for a hike and perhaps return for drink or meal.

Explore the canyon trails from the rim down and plan to avoid the tough (and sometimes gruelingly hot) hike up by hopping on the bus.

Bikers, plan excursions utilizing the bike racks.

Rock climbers, meet your friends in town, ride bus and hike to quarry together.

Guests at Holiday Inn Auburn or SpringHill Suites hotel have onsite bus stops. Encourage visitor to leave cars so they can enjoy the views (and not white-knuckle the winding road): a stress free, sightseeing trip to the canyon and river.

We’d love to hear how you are using Auburn Public Transit!

“The river is my passion and I love seeing people enjoying it,” states longtime Auburn resident Eric Peach. An honest statement, but one that doesn’t convey the depth of his commitment. Peach is a founding member of Protect American River Canyon (PARC). His passion for preserving and promoting the river and canyons has been continuous, from stopping the Auburn Dam and attaining protected status for portions of the river to creating ways for people to explore and connect to the river through trail systems, docent hikes, clean-ups, boat excursions, guidebooks and more. Currently, be it outdoor athletes or families seeking a rejuvenating hike or swim, more people than ever are visiting the Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA) which brings a new set of challenges.

“Summer parking at the confluence is so impacted, so unsafe. And Auburn residents are complaining that they can’t visit the river, especially on weekends” Peach shares. “Increasing parking to meet demand isn’t feasible or even desirable, the most obvious and sustainable solution is public transport.”

Hence Peach, with patience and diplomacy, started putting people and pieces together with the long-term vision of a creating a public transportation option to the American River Confluence.

Peach and his PARC cohorts wondered, could we highlight what makes Auburn unique via an American River roaming mural “wrap” on the city busses? And could an artistic, visually enticing bus improve ridership, city pride in the river and possibly lead to a route to the confluence? Through partnership with the City of Auburn and with PARC donations, two busses are now wrapped in iconic river views and river-canyon wildlife, the stunning work of local design artist Laurel Mathe of Mystic Designs Studio.

Under that beautiful art is not just any bus but two fully electric busses that cleanly and quietly travel our Auburn streets. In 2019, Transit Manager (now Public Works Manager) Mengil Deane capitalized on special programmatic funds and secured two electric busses and chargers at the city corporation yards. MENGIL QUOTE requested,- (Something about Electric bus savings.. fuel, maintenance, emissions, …. next bus Auburn will purchase will be electric (can link to Auburn City successes page that has chart)

More pieces came together as Peach arranged a lunch meeting connecting Deane with Mike Howard of the Auburn State Recreation Area. “Any time you propose something new that involves multiple agencies, it is complicated… liabilities, costs, time and responsibilities can be obstacles. I now always include food, I think it helps people better connect,” laughed Peach. With the pandemic spurring people to the outdoors and stressing the limits of parking in the confluence at the Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA), the time for collaboration was right. Peach was impressed with Deane’s enthusiasm and ability to make things happen as the Auburn Transit Confluence Route launched as a pilot project in 2021. The electric busses (with bicycle racks!) provide zero emission transport to the Confluence Friday through Sunday, April thru October.

The Confluence bus route is $3.50 round trip; 1.75 for kids, seniors, and disabled. If you take the bus just one way, the round trip “return” can be used another time. Considering cost of a SRA parking pass and gas, let alone not knowing if parking available, it is a cost saver as well as a win for the earth and local businesses. It’s a great introduction to green public transit and encourages city visitors to park in town lots and patronage local businesses and museums.

The route is a pilot project; its continuance dependent upon use. Usage was light last summer, perhaps a result of people not being aware of the new program combined with the difficult task of changing engrained car habits. It is up to all of us to keep it available so use the bus, spread the word, and thank PARC, the City of Auburn, and the State Recreation Area for making this happen!


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