Buy Photo

AP Photo/Reed Saxon

The Century Boulevard entrance to Los Angeles International Airport.

Local businessman Phil Rudnick launched a new bus service Thursday between Bakersfield and Los Angeles International Airport.

Rudnick's Airport Valet Express opened to single-digit passenger counts, and will use minivans until business warrants full-size chartered buses that are owned and operated by Visalia-based Classic Charter.

The new service is not membership-based, despite earlier statements by Rudnick, owner of a local dispute mediation firm.

The four-trips-a-day-each-direction service offers free passage to active-duty U.S. military. Rudnick hopes donations keep that benefit going, adding that donors will soon be able to make contributions on the company website,

Operations manager Jennifer Wood said reservations are looking strong.

"The phone is ringing off the hook, which is amazing," she said.

Airport Valet Express follows the closure last month of a shuttle service run by a New York company.

One-way trips cost $49, while round trips cost $89. The Bakersfield office, which offers parking for a fee and accepts payments by cash and credit card, is located at 201 New Stine Road, Suite 120. Information is available online or by calling 363-5000.

By all means, bend that elbow on New Year's Eve -- but be sure to finish up by an hour before midnight to catch a free bus ride home.

On Thursday, the Golden Empire Transit District announced no-charge bus service from 6 to 11 p.m. Dec. 31 as part of its holiday schedule.

Unlike recent years, GET plans to provide service on most routes every day, including holidays such as Christmas Day and New Year's Day. It started 365-days-a-year service on Jan. 1.

To check holiday operating hours, consult the agency's website, or call 869-2GET (2438).