NM: Transit Buses Could Stop at Municipal Borders

Lincoln County Transit buses soon might only go as far as the municipal boundaries of Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs. The two-and-a-half-year-old public transportation will stop service to the remainder of Lincoln County on July 1.

The Lincoln County Commission last month declined to fund the transit system for fiscal year 2011-2012.

"The contract is over on June 30 with the county," said Patty DeSoto, manager of Lincoln County Transit. "Without that money we can't really afford to be going to Capitan and Carrizozo."

The county had been asked to fund $28,874.08 as part of a local match that helps to secure federal funding for the small buses operated by the Ruidoso Downs headquartered transit system. Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs also pledge nearly similar amounts, either in kind or with funding.

DeSoto said the end of service into the non-Ruidoso/Ruidoso Downs part of the county will have an impact on those who use Lincoln County Transit to get to work or to doctor's appointments.

Most of the system's fares beyond Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs have been from the Alto area.

"We got one that comes from Loma Grande everyday," DeSoto said. "Most of the riders going to Carrizozo are going to court. Some go to the dentist over there because they charge on a sliding scale."

She said there are riders from the Rancho Ruidoso Valley Estates area as well.

"It means a lot to me," said Joe Bob Browning, who lives in Glencoe. "I use it to get groceries and go to doctor's appointments."

Browning said without Lincoln County Transit, he might have to do without trips to buy food, which he said have averaged once a week.

"I was born and raised here. Everybody I used to know here has either passed away or they got jobs and moved away. Years ago everybody helped one another out. Now they're in rest homes or their kids who would help you out moved away. This is a great service we need to keep in Lincoln County."

Public transportation to the Inn of the Mountain Gods also might be halted.

"Right now, I'm working on trying to get money through the Mescalero Apache Tribe," DeSoto said. "People don't look at it like, 'That's our tax money and you're still going to Mescalero and the Inn.' I really need an answer before the end of the month to continue that service."

DeSoto said the tribe helps to subsidize Z Trans, which operates public transportation between Alamogordo and parts of the reservation, including the Inn of the Mountain Gods and the Casino Apache Travel Center.

"I'm hoping we can get a little piece of the pie and continue doing that service. And that would hopefully replace the county portion of the local match."

During the first five months of 2011, 61 percent of the transit's 9,813 riders were from Ruidoso. Ruidoso Downs accounted for 23 percent. Mescalero represented 9 percent of rides. Lincoln County, excluding Ruidoso and Ruidoso Down, was 7 percent.

Federal funding provides 80 percent of the administrative costs and 50 percent of the operational expenses of the transit operation. The local matches make up the balance.

To increase revenues to cover higher fuel expenses, the fare per scheduled trip in Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs was increasde on April 1, from $1 to $2. County rides were hiked to $4. Same-day service for Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs was bumped to $5.

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