Last week, the Town of Oro Valley approved a partnership with the Regional Transportation Authority to not only keep transit services operational, but also maintain the high level of quality service residents have come to expect over the years.
This contract caps off nearly a year of discussions and citizens pleading with the Town Council not to take away Coyote Run.
Coyote Run has come to be a reliable service for citizens who cannot get around otherwise. There is a group who rely on the service to get to multiple sclerosis support meetings, and families with children needing rides to get social interaction in Tucson pay for the reliable service.
When it comes to Coyote Run, riders have stressed that it’s not just about catching a ride, but it’s about quality, safety and trust. These riders know they are taken care of, they feel the drivers care about their wellbeing and many feared that care would be lost.
When many of these residents stood at a council meeting last year, pleading through tears and desperation to find a way to keep the transit system, many of the council members seemed stunned.
Too often, it’s easy for council members to look at numbers, think only about the fiscal aspects of an issue, and forget about the impact it would have on residents.
At first, as the council planned the 2011-2012 fiscal year’s budget, the plan was to stop Coyote Run and retroactively turn operations over to the RTA. For residents, that meant a loss of the drivers they had come to trust over the years. They knew it meant a step down instead of a step up.
At the time, town staff and council kept saying this was planned all along, that it shouldn’t have been a surprise to residents, and to manage a budget, the cut was required.
However, it was through persistence of the members of the Friends of Coyote Run, and other riders that the council realized more discussions were needed.
Councilmen Barry Gillaspie and Bill Garner, along with these residents said Coyote Run and its drivers are much too valuable to just throw away, and eventually everyone else came on board.
One of the best things I have ever witnessed at a local level is when passionate citizens turn out to fight for something. They show passion, they show dedication to make a difference, and when they do, that’s when we know the people are still the voice of democracy.
The council has a whole deserve credit. After all, it was all of them that voted to keep paying for Coyote Run until a solution could be found. It was them that held the meetings and started listening to the people. It was them that eventually found out the drivers of Coyote Run are there for much more than a paycheck.
The council formed a committee, consisting of councilmen Steve Solomon and Lou Waters. These two hit the streets, going to people’s homes, heard first hand what the concerns with RTA were, and they delivered the messages to the RTA in order to make sure high quality services would remain intact.
That meant talking to the RTA and setting requirements, which eventually turned into an agreement that would still allow Coyote Run drivers to stay on the job, and maybe even a better service for residents.
Last Wednesday, instead of a line of residents standing up to beg the council not to take the planned action, residents who stood up agreed with the plan, and thanked the council for listening.
This turned out to be a good thing for Oro Valley and the region.
— Thelma Grimes