TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Beginning July 1, 2018 there will be a new shuttle operator for the Sabino Canyon Recreation area - Regional Partnering Center. The contract will continue through June 2023, under a five-year special use permit that was issued by the U.S. Forest Service.
"The Regional Partnering Center is looking forward to launching this environmentally friendly service with our project partner, Tucson Electric Power," said Farhad Moghimi, Executive Officer of the RPC Board of Directors, in a recent news release. "TEP is a strong community supporter, and its commitment to this project is a reflection of the company's interest in our region's long-term sustainability and the preservation of one of our region's most treasured assets."
TEP sought a private-public partnership with RPC to promote a public service-oriented project that includes electric vehicles, said David Hutchens, TEP's President and CEO.
"We are excited about collaborating with the RPC and its partners to provide the community with a clean, sustainable electric shuttle system that preserves the environment, raises awareness of the benefits of EVs and improves the experience of those visiting this national treasure," Hutchens said in the news release.
There will be several improvements to the shuttle service that will occur in several phases over the next two years. The first of which will be the introduction of five new quiet, clean and efficient electric trams, according to a Pima Association of Goverments news release.
Manufactured by Trams International of Bell Gardens, Calif., the open-air 62-passenger shuttles would be equipped with an electronic fare payment system, an audio narration system and a multi-language interpretation system accessed through the use of audio jacks and headsets.
The RPC's proposal calls for the tram service to be operated by Total Transit Enterprises (Total Transit), the current transportation contractor that operates the Regional Transportation Authority's Sun Shuttle public transit system in the region.
According to the news release these five trams will be funded by TEP, via a $1.5 million donation and a $1 million 10-year interest free loan to the RPC, funded from its corporate resources, not customers' rates.
RPC will be using diesel and gas-powered trams to operate the shuttle service until the electric shuttles are finished, sometime between January 2019 to June 2019.
Other collaborators in RPC's proposal include Friends of Sabino Canyon, Public Lands Interpretative Association, the Coalition of Sonoran Desert Protection and the University of Arizona College of Science.
For more information, visit rpcshuttle.org.