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Officials continue to express bewilderment over Santa Fe County’s decision to opt out of the North Central Regional Transit District (NCRTD) during its meeting Monday.
What’s so baffling is that Santa Fe County has long been actively involved in the development of what was to be a four-county transit district. So Monday’s 3-to-2 vote by commissioners to withdraw from the NCRTD and form its own separate alliance with the City of Santa Fe was completely unexpected.
“I am very shocked that we pulled out,” said Commissioner Mike Anaya, who chaired the NCRTD until Monday. “The reason the commission pulled out is they wanted full control of the RTD (Regional Transit District) monies and they didn’t want to share it with the rest of the districts and I was against that.”
The City of Santa Fe passed a resolution June 30 to withdraw from the district if Santa Fe County did, and withdrew following Monday’s County Commission vote.
Anaya explained that he tried to convince the other commissioners that the NCRTD is a good thing that benefits all four districts, which included Los Alamos, Taos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties. Only Commissioner Virginia Vigil voted with Anaya.
“Our congressional delegation has always encouraged us to be regional because there are so many benefits and it’s much easier for the Legislature and the federal government to give money to regional entities,” he said, adding that New Mexico Department of Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught and House Speaker Ben Luján, D-Nambé urged commissioners to remain part of the transit district to no avail.
“The committee members have worked hard and were so committed to providing transportation to the region and still are,” Anaya said. “But the city and county want to do our own thing and that doesn’t make any sense - it’s duplicating services. Now we have to come up with our own Regional Transportation District and get people to run it.”
Anaya credited Los Alamos County in helping to get the NCRTD going.
“County Councilor Jim West has done great things for the NCRTD,” he said. “He had been our chairman and I tried to follow in his footsteps – I feel real bad about this.”
Clearly disappointed with Santa Fe County’s decision, West said, “I can’t understand this change but we will survive. The difference is, now we won’t be able to go into the Pueblos or anywhere in Santa Fe County.”
NCRTD Executive Director Josette Lucero also indicated she does not believe Santa Fe County’s departure will have much if any impact on the three remaining counties. “As far as the connectivity, it’s going to hopefully be resolved,” she said. “Since the Pueblos are all in Santa Fe County, we have to resolve that issue. We’ll have to enter into some type of agreement because Taos, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos still have a need to come into Santa Fe but how that’s going to be paid for is yet to be determined.”
Lucero described feeling surprised with the commission’s vote saying she sees the over-all picture of what the NCRTD can do for the region and said she is surprised “how that has not been considered.”
“I have no details of why it voted the way it did but the NCRTD would like to continue working closely with the City of Santa Fe and the County of Santa Fe on connecting transportation services and we hope to continue the working relationship that we’ve all had.”
Santa Fe County Commissioner Jack Sullivan criticized the NCRTD’s ability to meet Santa Fe County’s transportation needs and said the county would be ahead to partner with the city on a new transit district over which there will be more local control.
In 2003, Gov. Bill Richardson signed into law the Regional Transit District Act, which authorized the creation of regional transit districts within the state.
Executive Director Ed Burckle of the Regional Development Corporation (RDC) explained that while the RDC has no current role, it was instrumental in developing the NCRTD. “I am disappointed they pulled out because it’s something that developed from the RDC several years ago,” he said. “We have no current role but it’s a legacy RDC project and whenever a project strays ... It’s of concern to us.”
Current New Mexico public transit providers include Atomic City Transit, New Mexico Park & Ride, Taos Chile Line and Santa Fe Trails.
A 1/8-percent GRT to help fund the RTD is scheduled to be on the ballot Nov. 4.
The next NCRTD monthly board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 1, with location and time to be determined. The meeting is open to the public.
For information, call 505-438-3257.