One of dozens of NCRTD blue buses covering 10,000 miles in North Central New Mexico. Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Jim Nagle, public information officer for the North Central Regional Transit District (NCRTD) addressed the League Of Women Voters candidates’ forum on an upcoming November ballot question.
“Most people know us as “the blue bus”, Nagle said.
The NCRTD was created in 2004 and began service in 2007 and now covers more than 10,000 square miles in North Central New Mexico including the counties of Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Taos and Santa Fe as well as each of the eight Northern Pueblos and the Jicarilla Apache Nation.
Nagle said the agency provides 25 fixed routes, 23 of which are fare-free Monday through Friday. It provides two are fare-based routes, one into the Santa Fe National Forest and Ski Santa Fe and the other is a weekend express service between Santa Fe and Taos.
“The RTD buses travel approximately 1.2 million miles a year so we travel a lot and keep busy. For many people it’s truly a lifeline service. Over 50 percent of our riders earn less than $17,000 a year and when we consider that the poverty rate for a household of two in the United States is about $16,400 it is a critical lifeline,” Nagle said. “A lot of the riders might be two-parent households with one car but they both need to work. Some 56 percent of our riders don’t own a vehicle so it’s a critical service.”
He said RTD provides service to commuters, people getting to and from work, seniors, retirees, caregivers, veterans, people with disabilities, people without cars, visitors and tourists as well as people who chose transit over driving.
“A lot of our riders just want to be free. Public transit is sustainability – it removes carbon from our atmosphere, making the air cleaner. It also reduces wear and tear on our roads and highways thereby saving money,” Nagle said.
“The ballot question is about whether we authorize one-eighth of one cent gross receipt tax for regional transit gross receipts tax and that goes to provide funding to RTD. It’s not an new tax, it’s not an increase in tax, it’s simply reauthorization of the existing tax,” he said.
Nagle said Los Alamos has had a really critical part in the formation and building the services the RTD provides. He said one of the first grants provided to the RTD was through the Progress Through Partnership program in Los Alamos County. He said the NCRTD headquarters in Espanola is named after former Los Alamos County Councilor Jim West.
“We provide a mid-day service to and from Los Alamos, Espanola down to Pojoaque where people can connect on down to Santa Fe or Taos. One of the reasons we set up the mid-day service was because for a long time we had the New Mexico Department of Transportation Park & Ride which would take people on and off the hill in the morning and in the afternoon at the end of the day primarily servicing commuters,” he said. “In the middle of the day, if residents here in town needed to get down to Espanola for shopping or to Santa Fe for medical services, that didn’t have that option. Or even someone working up here who had an emergency at home and had taken the Park and Ride in and needed to get home in the middle of the day. Service is there to allow them to get home. You could take a Park & Ride in the morning and then come back in the middle of the day to Los Alamos or take the RTD in the middle of the day and get home in the evening by Park & Ride.”
Nagle said another benefit to Los Alamos County is that transit gross receipts tax contributes about $1.4 million a year to Atomic City Transit and basically funds the routes between Los Alamos and White Rock, amounting to about 30 percent of the budget for operating for Atomic City Transit. He said last year that service provided on the routes more than 90,000 rides between Los Alamos and White Rock. He said the reauthorization has received bi-partisan support and that $4.7 million of regional transit gross.
“It’s a valuable service and there are many who benefit from it,” Nagle concluded.