Neighborhood mass transit routes were formally dedicated Monday in Oro Valley and Marana, providing localized bus transportation and Sun Tran bus connections from Arizona Pavilions in Marana to the Golder Ranch commercial complex in Catalina.
With Sun Shuttle, "even more than ever before, we are all connected," Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis said during Monday's first event at the Rancho Vistoso park and ride.
Sun Shuttle is operated by Sun Tran, the service of the Regional Transportation Authority. Through May 31, fares on Sun Shuttle buses are waived. After June 1, regular one-way fares are $1. The service is free to passengers connecting with Sun Tran routes. "Deviated service," accommodating people with disabilities at the door within three-fourths of a mile of established routes, is priced at $2.
"We're celebrating expansion," Oro Valley Councilman K.C. Carter said Monday.
"People can try it out, and see if it's going to work for them," said Marana Mayor Ed Honea, who chairs the RTA board of directors.
"We're going to make it work," Carter said.
"We've got to make this thing work," Loomis said.
The Cortaro/Silverbell route in Marana has starts and stops at Arizona Pavilions, and loops northwest. The Thornydale/Dove Mountain route runs between the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Resort and Costco off Thornydale.
In Oro Valley, the North Oracle/Catalina route has stop and start points at Ina and Oracle, and at the Golder Ranch commercial center in Catalina. The Rancho Vistoso/La Cañada route travels both of those major thoroughfares, effectively forming a figure-8 route stretching from Lambert and La Canada to Rancho Vistoso and the Vistoso Commerce Loop.
There are numerous stops, including RTA park and ride lots so commuters can access larger Sun Tran buses for longer transportation. Designated routes and stops are being served Mondays through Saturdays. In designated safe areas along some of the routes, people may flag down the shuttles if they want to be picked up, a release said. Sun Shuttle routes are also being established in Sahuarita and Green Valley.
Honea believes the shuttle system can genuinely expand mass transit utilization beyond Tucson's city limits.
"It's really nice to get into the communities around the urban area, and have a way to get people into the system," said Honea. "This is a big step forward in moving toward a regional seamless transit system. People will be able to connect from one transit system another and people will be able to link to such places as shopping destinations, libraries or medical facilities."
Sun Shuttle is "yet another enhancement to our transportation system," Loomis agreed. "This new service will provide Oro Valley residents many more options in transit and we believe that this service will be used regularly by many people."
He lauded RTA officials for "their foresight" in moving the shuttle program up its priority list.
"It's important for businesses and residents," and offers the prospect of reduced congestion and pollution as well as energy savings. "Those are all direct benefits of having a truly multi-modal system in place," Loomis said.
Shawn Strash, chief executive officer at Oro Valley Hospital, said Sun Shuttle presents "a wonderful, exciting opportunity" for patients and employees alike. Stops are planned at the hospital on both the Rancho Vistoso/La Cañada and North Oracle/Catalina routes.
Earlier this year, RTA launched commuter bus service from Rancho Vistoso and other Oro Valley locations into downtown Tucson, and to Raytheon and other major employers in the city's southern reaches. "We're averaging 50 cars a day" at the new park and ride facility in Rancho Vistoso, Loomis said.
RTA has set aside nearly $25 million within the RTA plan to fund circulator service over the 20-year life of the plan. It has contracted with MV Transportation to provide the circulator service.
Previously, RTA coordinated with jurisdictional staff to collect community input to determine Sun Shuttle routes and schedules.
Routes and schedule information is now available at various locations, as well as on Sun Tran's Web site, www.suntran.com.
Information is also available through a centralized customer service information center, 792-9222.
The Regional Transportation Authority is the fiscal manager of the $2.1 billion plan approved by Pima County voters on May 16, 2006. Its board is comprised of representatives from the local jurisdictions in Pima County, including the cities of Tucson and South Tucson, Pima County, the towns of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Tohono O'odham Nation. A representative of the Arizona State Transportation Board also serves on the board.
For more information about the RTA plan, visit www.RTAmobility.com or call 770-9410.