PRESCOTT - Now about two months into its $400,000 grant year, the fledgling Yavapai Regional Transit program is hoping to spread word. One tactic they hope will help: offering free rides in December.
Throughout the month, the general public can catch the vans for free to get to several sites within Prescott, as well as between Chino Valley and Prescott.
The routes run from about 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and have a morning route, a mid-day route, and an afternoon route. Among the regular stops are Chino Valley's Senior Center, Safeway, and Maverik; and Prescott's Walmart (Gail Gardner), Yavapai Regional Medical Center, and Gateway Mall.
Since Oct. 1, the nonprofit Yavapai Re-gional Transit (YTA) has been operating under an Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) grant.
"We've started implementing some of the changes," said Ron Romley, a longtime volunteer with the effort and the current president of the board. For instance, the organization recently added a third route into and within Prescott, and added Fridays.
Romley noted that those additions have made the system more useful for its riders.
His wife Cheri Romley, another longtime volunteer, pointed out that the flexible times allow riders to spend more time shopping, and then catch a later bus home.
The free December rides are an effort to "reward our existing riders and invite new riders," Ron Romley added.
Along with the Romleys, a core group of volunteers has been working for the past several years to get a public transit program up and running in the tri-city area. This past year, the program that began in Chino Valley spread to Prescott as well.
Specific information about the route times and places is available online at www.chinovalleytransit.org, or by calling the transit office at 636-3602. Transit Manager Ed Steinback noted that that the website is currently being updated to include the new route information. But, he said, the latest information is available on the system's printed brochures, or by calling the main office.
The routes also allow for diversion stops, such as at the Picture Show at Frontier Village, where riders could take in a movie, and then catch the afternoon bus. If that site becomes popular, Cheri Romley said the system could establish it as a regular bus stop.
In fact, Steinback said the system would evaluate all of the bus diversions for regular use to see if scheduled stops are warranted.
While the system's buses are handicapped-accessible, Ron Romley emphasized that the transit program is not just for the disabled or the elderly. Anyone can ride the buses, he said. Fares are $2 for the general public, and $1 for seniors, the disabled, and youths.
As another of its steps toward a larger system, the transit program is adding new buses. It recently purchased a new, larger (15-seat) bus from the Lake Havasu City system.
"We'll have (the new bus) on the road within 90 days," Ron Romley said, adding that the system plans to buy another new bus by next September.
YTA is unique in that it is a public-private partnership that combines federal transit money (through ADOT) with a collaborative effort by Chino Valley Transit and New Horizons Independent Living Center of Prescott Valley.
To accommodate the unique makeup, YRT consists of two separate non-profit entities - a 501(c)4 for the operational aspects, and a 501(c)3 for the fundraising arm.