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Sun Shuttle heading to Picture Rocks in October, offering more transit outside Tucson
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Sun Shuttle heading to Picture Rocks in October, offering more transit outside Tucson

  • Sun Tran

Sun Shuttle services will reach Picture Rocks on Oct. 24 as the Regional Transportation Authority begins a pilot program to extends the transit service to more neighborhoods outside of Tucson's city limits.

Sun Tran will extend the free shuttle to residents of the area, northwest of Tucson, next month. As many as 14 percent Pictures Rocks residents — living between Avra Valley, Marana and Saguaro National Park — have transportation needs that are not being met, the public transportation service said.

“Community members have spoken up about the importance of public transportation to provide access to social services, medical services, and as a way for residents without a vehicle to reach employment opportunities,” according to a Sun Tran press release.

The Picture Rocks shuttle will pick up and drop off riders at stops at nearby grocery stores, near the Tucson Premium Outlets in Marana and at connecting points to other transit routes, including a park-and-ride lot in the area.

The shuttle service will be free until the end of the year. The Tucson City Council voted to stop charging fares during the COVID-19 pandemic and has kept rides free with federal relief funds, but riders will have to start paying again by 2023 without further action.

Sun Shuttle is funded through the Regional Transportation Authority, the voter-approved 20-year, $2.1 billion plan to improve roadways and transit in the Tucson metro area. Voters will have to decide if they want to approve an "RTA Next" before the current RTA expires in June 2026.

“This pilot program is part of our ongoing commitment to providing quality transit service throughout Southern Arizona,” RTA Executive Director Farhad Moghimi wrote in a press release. “The shuttle service will be open to anyone, and will be a great time to try this neighborhood transit option.”

Officials from the RTA are asking people to show up at a public input meeting on Monday from 1-2 p.m. at the Picture Rocks Community Center to talk about their thoughts on the new paratransit shuttle service

The public input will help RTA transit planners and program managers working on the schedule and frequency of the new service while it’s still in its pilot phase, according to the press release.

RTA is “interested in working with the community through this pilot project to test the interest in using Sun Shuttle,” Moghimi wrote.

“We encourage residents to provide their input at the upcoming meeting to be part of the process to deliver the best possible service to the community,” he wrote.

Current Sun Shuttle routes reach 12 neighborhoods outside the city limits of Tucson, including Oro Valley, Marana, Ajo and Green Valley. The RTA’s Sun Shuttle was created as a neighborhood service to allow outlying communities to connect with mass transit services offered by Sun Tran, Sun Express and the Sun Link streetcar.

Riders with disabilities can request a curb-to-curb pick up and drop off using the Sun Shuttle Dial-a-Ride, but it only goes along the Sun Shuttle routes to Green Valley, Marana and Oro Valley.

Dial-a-Ride only services riders with disabilities living outside the Tucson city limits or Tucson residents needing to reach destinations outside the city limits.

Riders with disabilities who need access to paratransit services within the Tucson city limits are supposed to make a reservation with Sun Van, which allows its riders to track their ride in real-time.

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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