Sun Shuttle service is proposing changes to three routes in Marana due to low ridership. The changes won’t leave anyone without access to public transportation, but could make it more costly and time-consuming for the select few who use those routes.
Sun Shuttle rider and Town of Marana employee Kurt Schmidt rides the 413, and said it’s always struggled to be on time because it gets caught up at its southern leg by Regency Plaza.
Schmidt prefers riding the bus to driving. He said gives him a little down time in his busy day to read. He thinks the proposed changes may have some good outcomes but also some problems, namely making public transportation harder for some low-income residents.
“The Sun Shuttle routes that serve the Town of Marana are pretty important for people who don’t have the ability to get from point A to B without public transportation,” he said.
Route 413, which currently runs from Trico-Marana to Regency Plaza, would eliminate the southern leg, ending at Arizona Pavilions. Route 412, which runs from Tangerine to the Tohono Transit Center, would eliminate its northern leg after Linda Vista.
The 411 would be eliminated completely. Though its route would be partially replaced by an extension to the 412, this change would eliminate regular service to Walgreens, Northwest Medical Center and Safeway, all on Silverbell.
In the proposed routes, the 412 will add a leg down Linda Vista to Tucson Premium outlets, and the 413 would head down Twin Peaks to meet with the 412 at the outlet mall.
There is also a proposed change to route 401 that serves Oro Valley, cutting out a small leg to stay on Oracle between Magee and Calle Concordia.
Sun Shuttle will still offer paratransit service to locations cut out of the routes at an extra cost of $2 each way.
Pima Association of Governments, which runs Sun Shuttle, needs an average of four passengers per hour to make a route financially viable. The 411 route is averaging 1.7 passengers per hour.
“All the recommendations I make are with the intention to serve as many as possible,” said James McGinnis, transit services manager with PAG, at a Sept. 7 public meeting on the route changes. “We have to look at the health of the whole Sun Shuttle system.”
Marana resident Linda Hill was at the meeting and expressed her concern over the route changes.
“If you’re widowed and you have cataracts and you need to see your doctor, how do you do that?” she said. “We have many people in the area utilizing the service. People who own their homes and aren’t moving.”
She said while those routes may have a low ridership, the service is invaluable to the residents who use it. Hill lives with her blind daughter and a brother with autism who use the service to go to work and said the extra expense for paratransit service will add $160 a month to a family income that’s already stretched thin.
“That doesn’t allow people with disabilities to be employed,” she said. “It doesn’t allow seniors to live on their own.”
Schmidt currently hops on the 413 at Regency Plaza—the leg that will be cut from that route. So he’ll have to get on the 412 and transfer at the outlet mall. This will add about one mile to his route—no time at all as long as he makes the transfer, which are on one-hour cycles.
“You can find yourself stuck at a stop for nearly an hour at times,” he said.
Few of the riders on Schmidt’s route knew about the proposed changes. Schmidt said he commends PAG for trying to improve the system, but he’d like to see them do a better job on getting community input.
McGinnis said they want community feedback. These are only proposals, and they want residents to let them know how they could be improved.
“I think of public transportation as a utility,” McGinnis said. “People need it.”
PAG is going to do a better job, going forward, announcing the proposed changes and open meetings with flyers on all the shuttles, McGinnis said. Information can be found on their Facebook page, facebook.com/suntrantucson, and their website, under the “proposed service changes” link.