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County modifies bus routes

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ACT: New routes/ schedules optimize grant money

By Arin McKenna

Public Works Director Philo Shelton rolled out a modified Atomic City Transit schedule at Wednesday’s Transportation Board meeting. The revised routes and schedules allow for greater utilization of grant money, while officials hope to provide better service for riders.

Budget reductions prompted an evaluation of the system and revealed several avenues for improvement. Once council approves a new budget in April, transit staff plans to move quickly to implement the changes, which should go into effect by the end of May.

“One of the things we looked at was grant eligibility for various routes, and we found that for route 2, which is partnered with the NCRTD (North Central Regional Transit District), we were not able to be fully reimbursed for that grant given the hours of operation and how it connected,” Shelton said.

The new schedule combines routes 2 and 5, eliminating the Pajarito Acres segment of route 5. The Pajarito route averages only six people per day. Eliminating that and combining the two routes increases frequency to every 30 minutes throughout the day and every 15 minutes during peak periods. Riders in Pajarito Acres may utilize Dial-a-Ride service or catch the route 2 bus at the White Rock Visitor Center.

“What the NCRTD pays for is moving people between Los Alamos and White Rock, so by combining this we’re better able to leverage the grant revenues that we’re able to use,” Shelton said.

Route 2 will alternate one trip up the Main Hill with another up the truck route. All route 2 trips will go to the transit center and pass through downtown Los Alamos via Central Avenue. Route 2 and Route 6 are coordinated for transfers in order to provide service for White Rock students to the middle school.

The Main Hill route will also allow service-on-demand to the airport. Passengers can let their driver know in advance that they need a stop at the airport. Those needing transport from the airport can call 661-7433 to schedule pickup.

A new route 3 also capitalizes on grant funding by providing service between UNM-LA student housing and the campus. That addition makes Los Alamos eligible for a state grant called Job Access Reverse Commute. The route also serves seniors by running between Aspen Ridge Lodge and the senior center.

The plan resolves an issue with peak time scheduling in Los Alamos. The current schedule alternates 20-minute and 40-minute stops. The original plan was to increase frequency to every 20 minutes, but given the current financial climate it would be at least five years before that could be implemented. Now buses will be on a 30-minute schedule to every neighborhood during peak morning and afternoon service times.

The changes also affect ski hill service —which is being dropped —as well as the Bandelier route.

Service to Bandelier National Monument will run fewer months, beginning May 24 and ending. Oct. 28. Larger capacity buses purchased last year will also allow scheduling every 20 minutes instead of every 15 minutes, reducing the need for one additional driver.

All routes are being renumbered for clarity. Routes 1, 2 and 3 all travel to downtown Los Alamos, with route 2 servicing White Rock. Routes 4, 5 and 6 will provide service to Los Alamos neighborhoods.

All trips from the transit center have a connection to Los Alamos through routes 1, 2 or 3. Buses will depart the transit center every 20 minutes during the day and every 10 minutes during peak periods.

“So basically we’re optimizing the routes and gaining some efficiency,” Shelton said.

Councilor Pete Sheehey, who is council liaison to the board, asked if the new route 2 would allow for an Entrada Park stop. Shelton said that option is not feasible with the current layout, but that Public Works is looking at the possibility of opening a second entrance at the business park that would allow a bus to swing through.

The board seemed to be pleased with the changes, as was Transit Manager Mike Davis.

“I think these proposed changes are good and will increase ridership,” Davis said.