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Casey Christie

Linda Wilbanks

The de facto head of Kern County's intercity bus system is retiring just as the service prepares for a series of changes.

Linda Wilbanks, who turns 60 this year, said this week it was simply time for her to step down at Kern Regional Transit, and that her absence won't affect riders. Her last day on the job is March 21.

"Everything'll go the same," said the senior planner who started with the bus system in 1992 as an air quality specialist.

Kern Regional, the system Wilbanks has managed on an informal basis for many years, links the county's farthest reaches, including Boron, Tehachapi, Delano, Frazier Park and even Lancaster, in Los Angeles County. It relies on state and federal funding, with no money from county government.

The county Roads Department hired a replacement for Wilbanks in December. Ruby Horta is an administrative coordinator with a master's degree in planning.

The department's engineering manager, Bob Neath, said the bus system will soon rework its schedules, forge better connections and make other changes to improve on-time performance.

Kern Regional also hopes to install a global positioning system that would track buses and send real-time bus location information to riders' cellphones and computers.

"We're really trying to take a look at what are transit agencies in the (21st) century doing," Neath said.