After eight months, the debate over Coyote Run’s future has come to an end, with the Oro Valley Town Council voting 7-0 on Feb. 1 to subcontract with the Regional Transportation Authority.
Over the last year, Oro Valley residents have expressed their concern for the partnership, fearing the level of service received under Coyote Run might be sacrificed. With the partnership finalized, Coyote Run will become Sun Shuttle Dial-A-Ride.
Oro Valley Town staff have been looking to streamline the town’s Coyote Run, Handi-Car, and Sun Shuttle services to make for a more efficient, economical solution. Now, all three services will be combined under the new name.
Assistant Town Manager Kevin Burke said streamlining the three services will not only save the Oro Valley $200,000 annually, but it will also offer residents expanded service under Dial-A-Ride.
Dial-A-Ride will allow residents to schedule pickups one day in advance as opposed to the previous two, and citizens qualified under the Americans with Disabilities Act will now have service on weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For trips originating in the boundaries of Oro Valley, ADA members will pay a reduced fare of $3, which will entitle them to travel anywhere in the Tucson metro area.
Seniors, which the Town qualifies as 65 years of age or older in regards to transportation, will see a slight increase in fares. Depending on the drop-off location, fares will range from $3 to $9.
Under Coyote Run, seniors were qualified as 62 years of age or older. Dial-A-Ride will allow current riders fitting that age profile to still be considered seniors.
Anyone from the general public can commute via Dial-A-Ride, given their origination location is within Oro Valley Town limits, and their drop-off location is north of Ina Road. Fares for the general public will be $3 one-way.
Weekday hours will remain the same for all riders, from 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. Residents will continue to schedule pickups using the current dispatch telephone number with Coyote Run. Buses and drivers will also remain the same.
The motion met less resistance than it has in past meetings, but there was still concern over the new partnership with the RTA.
“It’s confusing to me why we would give funding to an organization over which we have no control,” said Oro Valley resident Bill Adler. “This is a service we originated and should retain responsibility for.”
Terry Thompson, a spokesperson for Friends of Coyote Run, said the partnership with the RTA is the best initiative on the table for Oro Valley’s transportation services.
“Passage of this tonight does not mark the end of a process,” he said. “In fact, our work is just beginning. This keeps Oro Valley at the forefront of regional transportation services. It is in our best interest to make this work.”
Councilman Steve Solomon insisted Oro Valley is not giving up control of its transportation to the RTA, but are merely acting as contractors for them.
Friends of Coyote Run will be helping residents to smoothly transition to Dial-A-Ride. Additionally, the group will also help residents with disabilities become qualified under the ADA.
In other business, the Council heard a motion to allow non-profit organizations to display A-frame signs outside of businesses. Council recently passed a temporary relief for businesses to allow them to display such signs, but no definitive decision was made at that time regarding non-profit organizations.
In a unanimous decision, Council determined that non-profit organizations should also be allowed to display A-frames, given they follow regulation.
Paul Keesler, interim development and infrastructure services director, said many non-profit organizations are at a disadvantage because they don’t experience the foot-traffic businesses do. The decision will allow non-profit organizations to team up with local businesses to display A-frame advertising.
Dave Perry, President and CEO of the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce, said there is no need to restrict non-profit A-frame advertisements if businesses have a permit and choose to allow them.
“The rules don’t say what speech can be put on a sign,” he said. “I don’t think we should police speech. If a business buys a permit, they can say whatever they want on that sign.”
Perry said the results of A-frame signs have been significant, and in some examples, critical in helping drive local business revenues.
In other business, Oro Valley Finance Manager Stacey Lemos presented the Town’s 2011-2012 fiscal year budget as an information item.
The Town’s general fund revenues came in 1.4 percent below budget at $350,000, but the Town saw spikes in sales-tax revenues, restaurant and bar sales, and utility taxes from the previous year. Construction taxes continue to decline, down about 12 percent from last December.
Expenditures in the general fund ended the year under budget by more than one million dollars, largely due to savings coming from the Town not refilling department seats when they are vacated.