A popular Oro Valley transit service has been spared a raft of cutbacks that would have left many disabled and elderly residents with few transportation choices.
On June 16, the Oro Valley Town Council unanimously approved a proposal to transfer money trimmed from other budget areas into the transit fund, which supports needs-based transit service Coyote Run.
"I'm proud of the council," said Oro Valley resident Steve Didio.
Didio and his wife Nanette have a 22-year-old son, Cameron, with developmental disabilities. Several days a week Cameron, who is wheelchair bound and doesn't speak, rides Coyote Run to Tucson's Jewish Community Center, where he participates in group activities.
"I'm very thankful that the council is supporting the disadvantaged of the community," Nanette said.
Impending cuts to Coyote Run, mostly the result of lost support from state government, have raised concerns among riders. Earlier this year, the Arizona Legislature redirected Local Transportation Assistance Funds (LTAF) to help balance the state budget.
Since 1996, the town of Oro Valley has operated the needs-based transit service. State cuts for the fiscal year beginning July 1 stripped nearly $200,000 of its $638,000 annual budget.
Over the past year, service levels for Coyote Run were reduced, resulting in shorter hours of operation and the need for riders to schedule further in advance.
In an earlier agenda item at the June 16 meeting, the council moved money away from a historic preservation project at Steam Pump Ranch and decided not to go ahead with plans to pay outside firms to study the police and parks departments. A portion of those budget funds will go to augment the losses to Coyote Run and maintain current funding levels.
At the same time, the town has committed to moving forward on discussions with the Regional Transportation Authority to write an intergovernmental agreement covering transit operations. While still in their infancy, those discussions could result in a uniform regional transit service throughout Pima County administered by the RTA with financial participation from local governments like Oro Valley.
Oro Valley resident Terry Thompson told the council he appreciated the effort to restore funding to Coyote Run. Thompson's adult daughter, who has developmental disabilities and is confined to a wheelchair, rides Coyote Run regularly. He said he'd be willing to even pay larger fares if necessary to maintain the service.
"At some point this becomes more than a line item in a budget and more of a gut check on the moral character of this town, and right now I feel very proud," Thompson said.
Councilman Bill Garner suggested that concerned residents lobby state legislators to restore support to transit systems across Arizona.
"We wouldn't be having this discussion if they hadn't cut LTAF funding," Garner said.
Coyote Run has eight full-time employees, a reduction from the 10 approved in the 2009-'10 budget. Several volunteer drivers also work for the service.
Coyote Run ridership
1,386 Monthly passenger trips
$47,583.40 Monthly operating costs
$4,739.67 Monthly fare box proceeds
(Note: Figures come from monthly Coyote Run reports dating from September 2006 to January 2010.)
Source: Oro Valley