City Launches Shuttle Linking Rail Runner to Top Downtown Sites

The New Mexican

People getting off the Rail Runner Express at noon Monday quickly filled five shuttle buses along Montezuma Avenue while a sixth bus waited to take city officials on the inaugural run of the Santa Fe Pick-up.

The shuttle service is aimed at serving passengers on the new commuter train, but it is free to everyone.

Although the shuttles began operating Dec. 17, when the train began regular runs between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the inaugural run was postponed until the city’s new buses arrived.

The three new buses have 14 passenger seats and room for more riders to stand up. The city will continue using three other vehicles – two 15-passenger vans and another van with a wheelchair ramp and room for five other passengers.

Bill Hon, director of the city Parking Division, which is operating the Santa Fe Pick-up, said the wheelchair-accessible van will remain on-site to transport anyone who needs it. None of the Pick-up shuttles has bicycle racks.

Councilors Rebecca Wurzburger and Christ Calvert were among those taking the inaugural shuttle, along with Bob Jones and Marilyn Bane, who co-chaired the Working Group on Parking and Transit, which recommended starting the service.

“We worked hard on making this a fun name,” Bane said. “We thought ‘The Pick-up’ was the casual kind of feel we wanted. It’s light transit, so why shouldn’t we have a lighthearted vehicle that would be fun to jump on and jump off and get where you’re going?”

Calvert described the shuttle as one more way the city is providing alternative forms of transportation to save money on parking structures and streets. “You cannot continue to build more and more parking lots downtown and around downtown, because the streets can’t support it anyway,” he said. “So this is the way to get people around the downtown area and this area without cars.”

The service is expected to cost about $275,000 annually from the Parking Division’s enterprise fund. Hon said if that proves to be too much, he might start charging 50 cents per ride.

The shuttles will run 10 routes from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and six from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday – each geared to the arrivals and departures of the Rail Runner Express. Routes start and end in front of the New Mexico Film Museum (formerly the Jean Cocteau Cinema) on Montezuma Avenue.

Regular stops include the State Capitol/PERA building, Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Main Library, City Hall, Santa Fe Community Convention Center/Plaza and Eldorado/Hilton hotels. But the shuttle also will drop off passengers at other points on the route.

Wurzburger said she would like to see the route extended to Canyon Road soon.