Should YCAT have a bus route directly connecting the Yuma Palms Shopping Center to the Imperial Valley Mall in El Centro, Calif.?
If the service is implemented, would transit officials encourage Yumans to spend money outside the county?
The Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (YCIPTA), which operates the Yuma County Area Transit (YCAT) bus system, is trying to decide whether to offer such a route.
Turquoise Route 10 currently travels from the Downtown Yuma Transfer Center to El Centro's Transfer Terminal. But Transit Director John Andoh said YCAT is receiving a lot of requests for direct service between the malls.
“Staff has received extensive feedback from passengers wanting Route 10 to serve Imperial Valley Mall. Staff is working with Quechan Tribe and [Imperial County Transportation Commission] to resolve this concern,” Andoh said.
But board member Larry Gould questioned whether such a route could be perceived as encouraging Yumans to spend their money in California, versus at local businesses. He suggested Andoh consult with the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce.
However, Andoh noted that there are as many El Centro residents coming to Yuma – and presumably spending money here – as there are local riders going there.
“It's about 50/50,” he said.
In March, the route transported 188 passengers in 11 days of service.
The trial route kicked off in January, with the initial intention of being a “lifeline” for the Quechan Indian Tribe and residents of Winterhaven, Calif., by allowing easier access to services available in El Centro.
“Quechan Indian Tribe members and residents of east Imperial County residents need access to services in El Centro,” Andoh said.
“East [Imperial] County residents need medical services, the DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles], judicial services and quality of life opportunities available in El Centro.”
The route is the result of an agreement between YCIPTA, ICTC and the tribe. It's being funded by a $232,007 Federal Transit Administration grant to the tribe and a $10,591 contribution from ICTC.
“This new three-way partnership will allow for Quechan Tribal members, eastern Imperial County and Yuma County residents, and visitors better access to central Imperial County and the county seat, El Centro,” Andoh said when he announced the new route.
With two daily round-trips on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, the route runs from Paradise Casino through downtown Yuma, Winterhaven and the Quechan Casino Resort to the IVT transfer terminal located at State and 14th streets in downtown El Centro.
Struggles with WellCAT
Andoh also informed the board that the WellCAT route, which serves Wellton, has struggled since starting March 22. As a result, the route's operating hours will be shifted to accommodate demand.
The bus will now run from 3-7 p.m., with service extended to Tacna and the Fortuna Foothills Walmart, which Andoh described as popular destinations for Wellton residents.
In addition, staff is also going door to door to promote the service in Wellton to drum up more interest, he said.
Bus driver Dan Camerena “has been out in Wellton spreading the news of this service,” noted Rachel Harris, manager of First Transit, the contract operator.
At the suggestion that WellCAT might pick up more riders when the winter visitors come back, Andoh said the route might end up being seasonal.
In other news, Andoh reported that the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Board had approved the final “alimony” due to YCIPTA following the “divorce” between the two agencies.
YMPO will transfer $30,338 to YCIPTA, he said.
Chairman Robert Pickels noted that in spite of the impression that YMPO board members gave that their organization would not have any more liabilities, he wanted to clarify that YMPO, not YCIPTA, would still be responsible for any old or unknown debts that might come along.
“When you have a divorce, you never get away that easy,” Pickels quipped.
Charlene FitzGerald, YMPO executive director, announced last month the final separation between YMPO and YCIPTA, noting that YCIPTA will now be responsible for all of its funding, accounting, legal issues, etc.
The Yuma County Board of Supervisors formed YCIPTA on Dec. 13, 2010, to operate the YCAT and OnCall operations throughout the county.
Until the separation, YMPO had acted as the program host, but members decided it would be appropriate to form an entity to exclusively manage the YCAT system. Accordingly, the supervisors authorized formation of YCIPTA.
In March, YCIPTA received designated recipient status from the Federal Transit Administration, which allows it to independently apply for FTA grant funding.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (928) 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.