Residents were cautiously optimistic about the direction the Coyote Run Transit System is headed after a presentation hosted by the Town of Oro Valley Monday night.
In the first of two public forums, town officials discussed the plan to turn operations over to the Regional Transportation Authority, which will then hire the Town of Oro Valley as a subcontractor to continue providing the same quality service it has for the last 15 years.
While not a done deal, town officials seem happy, RTA officials appear to be an agreement, and now riders of Coyote Run are coming around to the solution created by councilmen Lou Waters and Steve Solomon, who were appointed to a subcommittee in August.
Aimee Ramsey, Oro Valley transit services administrator, said through negotiations with the RTA an emphasis has been centered around four primary goals to establish policy.
Those goals are to establish a regional branding, create a single call center for all transit users, expanding special needs and have common policies and standards.
Under the current set up, the Town of Oro Valley will continue managing the transit system until June of 2013, at which time, the town would have to submit a bid for the contract through the RTA.
Ramsey stressed that by setting standard-based policies, even if Oro Valley loses the contract in 2013, any contractor hired would have to keep the same level of quality in place.
While not guaranteed the town will win the bid, Town Manager Greg Caton said he isn’t worried, given the town’s reputation for providing quality service.
“We have been in the transit business since 1996. I am optimistic the Town of Oro Valley would be able to compete based on our track record,” he said.
Under the RTA, Ramsey stressed that anyone riding Coyote Run now, will continue receiving transportation.
And, while some changes will be made, current riders will be grandfathered, she said.
“If you have service today, you will have service tomorrow. This is a regional approach. You can go anywhere in the Tucson area,” Ramsey said. “In collapsing services we can now become more efficient.”
Under the RTA, riders are also looking at a reduced cost in some of the fees.
Terry Thompson, of the Friends of Coyote Run, provided a statement following Monday’s meeting.
The statement said, “The Friends of Coyote Run, a citizen advocacy group for the service is cautiously optimistic that this proposal is one that they can support.”
While supporting the current proposal, Thompson said the Friends of Coyote Run are also proposing the creation of a town transportation commission, or similar body, to increase citizen involvement in town transportation issues.
While all parties seem happy with the solution, Caton said there is still a long road ahead to final approval. An intergovernmental agreement will have to be approved by both the Oro Valley Town Council and by the RTA board of directors.
Those votes are expected some time in January or February. If approved, the RTA will change the name of Coyote Run, but the same vehicles and drivers will remain in place.
Oro Valley has been seeking an alternative transit system for the last two years after state lawmakers cut funding to balance the budget. The Coyote Run Transit System costs the town an estimated $330,000 per year.