News Column

Finance Committee says shuttle proposal 'needs tweaking'

August 5, 2014

By Daniel J. ChacÓn, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Aug. 05--A City Council committee slammed the brakes Monday on a proposal by Mayor Javier Gonzales to provide free shuttle service between the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and the downtown area and the Railyard.

Finance Committee members raised a busload of questions about the proposed pilot project before unanimously voting to postpone action in an effort to give the mayor and his co-sponsor, City Councilor Peter Ives, more time to make adjustments.

The driving concern among councilors involved the hours of operation.

Under the mayor's proposal, the shuttles would begin to operate at 6 p.m. and service would end at 11 p.m.. Councilors, however, said 11 p.m. is the time college students start to party, not when they head home.

"Most college students are just getting going," City Councilor Joseph Maestas said. "Are we coordinating with any other dial-a-ride services where they can bring these folks back? Because I'm concerned that this could be a one-way trip."

Maestas said the pilot project, which would operate Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from Aug. 28 to Dec. 20, could create unforeseen problems.

"We might have some folks that need to get a ride [back home]. Or somebody might choose to drive [downtown] and take everybody back, and we don't end up solving the problem. These folks [could be] imbibing and driving drunk," he said.

Plans call for the city to absorb the costs of the estimated $18,300 pilot project with the existing Santa Fe Pick-Up service.

But City Councilor Patti Bushee, who is not a member of the Finance Committee but attended Monday's meeting, said that funding plan could be problematic. She said the Pick-Up service money comes from the North Central Regional Transit District and questioned whether that agency had been consulted.

"They like to know how their money is being spent," she said.

Bushee said she supports the shuttle concept and isn't trying to "kill the idea." She questioned whether the pilot project could be funded through the city's Santa Fe Trails transportation system.

"I can't see how this fits in the mission of the [North Central Regional Transit District] to take college kids downtown to party," she said. "I think you're off the mission of the [North Central Regional Transit District], and that is who funds the Pick-Up. I just have to emphasize that again because we could be stepping in it in a big way if we don't pay for it ourselves some way or do something different."

The shuttle service would be open to the general public but is aimed at college students in an effort to breathe new life into Santa Fe's nightlife.

Councilors questioned why that target population couldn't just use existing public transportation.

"We've got a bus system, and it works," City Councilor Ron Trujillo said.

However, Trujillo said is was willing to consider a reduced fare that includes university participation.

"I'll say it: If you can go to the college of art and design, you can afford to take the bus," he said. "This resolution needs tweaking."

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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