News Column

Mayor slows weekend shuttle project amid funding concerns

August 19, 2014

By Daniel J. ChacÓn, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Aug. 19--Mayor Javier Gonzales is slowing a pilot project to provide free weekend shuttle service between the Santa Fe University of Art and Design campus on St. Michael's Drive and the Santa Fe Plaza area during the fall semester.

The City Council'sFinance Committee had been scheduled to consider the proposal Monday, but the item was pulled from the agenda.

"The mayor says it got pulled because he's still working with staff to try and identify funding sources that would be used to address the city councilors' requests," city spokeswoman Celina Espinoza said.

The proposal called for providing shuttles between the university and the Plaza, as well as the Santa Fe Railyard, from 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday during a four-month pilot project that would have started Aug. 28.

Members of the Finance Committee raised concerns about the time the shuttle service ended, saying most college students went out -- not home -- at 11 p.m.

As a result, the city's Transportation Department looked at the cost of extending the service under by the $18,300 pilot project beyond 11 p.m.

If the service hours were extended until 1 a.m., the project would cost an additional $12,960, according to a memo from department Director Jon Bulthuis, and it would cost an extra $19,440 if hours were extended until 2 a.m.

"There's just more overhead," he said in an interview.

While councilors want to consider extended hours, the memo stated the university believes the proposed 6-11 p.m. schedule is "reasonable" for purposes of the pilot project.

"But the hours should be revisited after the pilot program ends to determine if adjustments might be necessary based on student feedback," the memo stated.

Councilors also had questioned whether the university could contribute money to the pilot project. The university, which charges between $17,800 and $28,836 a year in tuition, declined.

"The university believes it should not have to pay to have a public transportation system serve its students' needs, and at this time, does not wish to pass along new 'transportation' fees to them," the memo stated. "Rather, [the school] views this pilot program as an opportunity to better inform all parties involved if this type of weekend evening service would successfully encourage students to contribute to the local Santa Fe economy by frequenting downtown restaurants, music venues and other private establishments more often -- ultimately feeding into the vibrancy of the city."

Contact Daniel J. ChacÓn at 986-3089 or Follow him on Twitter at @danieljchacon.


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Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM)

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