News Column

Finance Committee OKs pilot project for free student shuttle

September 3, 2014

By Daniel J. ChacÓn, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Sept. 03--The City Council'sFinance Committee on Tuesday gave a green light to a pilot project that would provide free weekend shuttle service between the Santa Fe University of Art and Design campus and the downtown area.

Councilors on the committee unanimously endorsed the proposal, which calls for shuttles to run from 6 to 11 p.m., despite raising concerns last month about how late the shuttle service would run and how students would get home.

Data showing that some students are using Santa Fe County's Cab Ride Home program, which offers reduced fares for people who have had too much to drink on weekend nights, assuaged those concerns.

"What if they do take advantage of it and they only use it coming over?" asked City Councilor Joseph Maestas. "What options to we have to bring them back if they want to stay later?"

Laura Nunnelly, the for-profit university's senior director of student life, said students are aware of or receive information cards about the discounted cab rides from Capital City Cab.

"They use that extensively," she said.

"That's great. Wonderful," Maestas said.

The estimated $18,300 pilot project, which the city would fund within the Transportation Department's existing budget, had been put on hold while officials look for additional funding sources to extend the hours of operation.

Mayor Javier Gonzales, who proposed the service, said the pause allowed the city time to get information from the county's anti-DWI program, as well as look at state and federal grants that the city could pursue if ridership is successful.

"The pause was important to allow us to answer more questions that the council had," he said.

During the Finance Committee meeting, Gonzales told councilors that "one of the incredible values" of a public transportation system is that it can connect communities.

"The opportunity here is to connect a young, energetic, vibrant and creative community with our downtown area by using our bus system," he said. "This summer has shown us that we've got some wind in our sails when it comes to creating a nighttime economy."

City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez, who represents the city's southwest side, said public transportation is essential for impoverished communities.

"When you talk about connectivity, there are lots of other communities that need that connectivity," he said. "When I've spoken with folks out in the far reaches of District 3, they need access to healthy food -- fresh fruit and vegetables -- and access to health care."

As part of a resolution directing staff to implement the pilot project, a report would be due to the City Council on Nov. 12. At Dominguez's suggestion, the Finance Committee amended the resolution to include language asking staff to study extending the service to other parts of the city, not just other campuses.

The full council is scheduled to consider the mayor's proposal on Sept. 10.

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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