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YCAT's future depends on legislators
One Arizona interest group is calling for more mass transit in the Yuma area, but the future of the YCAT bus system comes down to one thing: money
Arizona Public Interest Research Group, an interest group that acts on behalf of Arizona citizens on a variety of issues, released a statewide study on transportation Thursday.
In the report, Yuma is named one of the areas that would greatly benefit from an increase in the current mass transit system, the Yuma County Area Transit bus system.
But adding bus routes and purchasing additional buses takes money - something that YCAT may not have in the coming years.
Currently, 80 percent of YCAT's $3.2 million budget comes from the Federal Transit Administration. That money could stop coming if the 2010 census shows the county's population above 200,000, which is the cut-off point to receive operational funds.
Until the population reaches more than 400,000, YCAT would only receive federal funding to purchase buses - leaving a very large gap in funding operational costs.
According to the report, analysts expect the county to continue to increase another 130,000 residents by 2030.
The report calls for an increase in the transit system because routes are extensive but infrequent, with most routes running about once an hour, according to the report.
Mack Luckie, executive director of the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the county population predications are correct, and without the federal funding, the future of YCAT is uncertain.
"I think we're going to have the population," Luckie said. "We're going to have to do something."
State Rep. Russ Jones is one sponsor of a bill currently in the Legislature that would create a regional transit authority and put a vote to the public to bring in additional revenue.
Jones said the bill has been well-received in the House and has passed two readings. But it's currently on hold while the Senate works on the 2010 budget after promising not to read any bills not relating to the budget.
In immediate danger could be a bus route running from the Yuma Palms Regional Center, through Arizona Western College and the Foothills to Wellton and back.
"If I can't find some additional funding someplace, that goes away the 30th of June this year," Luckie said.
He said they haven't given up yet. "We're kicking every rock over we can (to find funding)."
With seven routes, eight buses and 33,000 passengers a month, YCAT is a far cry from the two buses and between 4,000 and 6,000 passengers it started with in 1999. But for now, YCAT's future growth is uncertain.
"Right now, with this economic situation, I'm just trying to hold on to what I got," Luckie said.
Stephanie A. Wilken can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857.