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Yumans embrace free bus day
The bus shelter outside Target at the Yuma Palms shopping center comes alive as the half-hour approaches, with Yuma County Area Transit buses coming and going and dozens of people doing the same.
Yuma County's recently rebooted public transit system now averages about 1,200 passenger trips a day on its wide-reaching routes that cover much of Yuma and outlying areas, for riders like Drew Hayes.
At the mall transfer center Thursday, Hayes waited in the shade for the bus that would take him home after his shift at one of the shopping center's restaurants.
“I'm glad there's a bus for people,” he said.
Hayes does not drive or have a license because of a fear of driving, so he rides YCAT. He's learning to drive himself around, though, figuring it's good for his 8-year-old daughter, who had accompanied him to work that day.
“I'll probably be using (the bus) regularly for the next month or two months” until he gets his driver's license, he said.
Thursday came with added incentive to ride the bus when YCAT participated in Dump the Pump Day, an annual, national effort to get people to try public transit. That meant free rides, all day.
City residents got full YCAT service restored in January after the Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority formed to assume management of the transit system from the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization. Service was scaled back after the Yuma City Council voted in 2010 to not fund YCAT, saying the city didn't have the money and the transit system was too expensive, inefficient and underused.
YCAT buses now serve Yuma proper plus San Luis, Somerton, Foothills, Wellton, Cocopah, Fort Yuma, Winterhaven and Gadsden.
Transit director John Andoh said he hoped to bump his ridership numbers up to 1,600 passenger trips for Thursday's promotion and to get feedback from drivers.
He encouraged people to give the bus a try. “We're here and we're ready to serve, and available.”
Elizabeth Olea is moving into town from the Foothills and took her first YCAT ride on Thursday. She can drive but she's still saving for her first car. She knew she'd be riding the bus for a while, and it helped that Thursday was free.
Olea, a recent Gila Ridge High School graduate, was headed to the Yuma County Main Library to do homework for her summer classes at Arizona Western College. She found the bus to be an enjoyable experience.
“I like it. It's like, relaxing. It's quiet. My school bus is loud.”
Hillary Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.