TUBA CITY, Ariz. - On Dec. 8, the Health, Education, and Human Services Committee approved the purchase of two new buses for the Navajo Transit System using $600,000 from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance.
Within a 12-month period, the NTS has provided service to approximately 247,555 people. That number continues to increase along with the cost of gasoline. A majority of the existing transit fleet has exceeded the manufacturers' recommended safe mileage.
"The numbers of people using our system year-after-year are climbing because a lot of the Navajo Nation workforce and students who go to school, and people that have medical appointments, rely on our public transportation on a daily basis. The numbers, I believe, demonstrate how much people rely on our systems," said Willy Tracey, planner for Navajo Transit System.
Glaval Bus, Inc., a company based in Indiana, will manufacture the buses. The buses will accommodate 39-41 passengers and include features such as a floor lift, center-mounted at lift door, and flip seats for wheelchair tie down and access.
Legislation sponsor Council Delegate Dwight Witherspoon (Black Mesa, Forest Lake, Hardrock, Pinon, Whippoorwill) said although the cost to purchase the two new buses is high, increasing the capacity of such services will allow for additional federal funding in future years to establish additional routes.
"One of the benefits that I can see is to assist our oversight divisions, and one of them is certainly Navajo Transit, but the other ones are certainly the two institutions, Navajo Technical University and Diné College for students," Witherspoon said.
Tracey said seven buses have exceeded over one million miles and will be retired. "Lately, a lot of our buses have been breaking down," he said. "For example, if you have an appointment in Window Rock, the bus may break down over in Hopi. It may break down in Steamboat."
Council Delegate Walter Phelps (Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Leupp, Tolani Lake, Tsidi To ii) expressed his concern about the funding of the buses and the amount of funding it will take to pay people to operate the new buses.
"If we are going to get two new buses, and we are creating new routes, where is the money coming from? Are these positions already funded? Or do you already have enough drivers to accommodate that?" Phelps asked.
The Navajo Transit System has been in operation since 1980 and provides public transportation services four days a week, offering 18 different bus routes on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The legislation now moves forward to the Budget and Finance Committee for consideration.
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