TX: El Paso's Bus Riders Favor Sun Metro Express Routes

Sun Metro riders have put one of the new express service routes in the top five of its most popular routes.

Route 18, which operates on the West Side, was ranked seventh last year but is No. 4 now, said Laura Cruz-Acosta, spokeswoman for the city public transit department.

"The one big change we made with Route 18 is that we made it a true express route — from the West Side Transfer Center to the Downtown Transfer Center with minimal stops," Cruz-Acosta said.

Route 59 (East Side to Downtown) is also an express route, and while express Route 42 (Northeast to Downtown) is not in the top five, it is in the top 10.

"The trend that we see with ridership and the comments we often get from our riders is that they like express routes," Cruz-Acosta said. "They want routes that can get them quickly to key areas of town."

Ana Luisa Diego, 54, who frequently uses Sun Metro to get around in the city, said she liked the fact that Route 18 became an express line.

"I can travel from the Downtown transfer center to the Walmart on North Mesa in about 10 minutes," Diego said. "This made a big difference for me. The other route I use regularly is No. 33, which takes me from Downtown to Bassett Center."

Jesus Duarte, 41, took Sun Metro Route 42 from Northeast El Paso to get to jury duty last week.

"This trip used to take an hour to an hour and a half; now it only takes from 15 to 20 minutes," Duarte said. "So far, the service by Sun Metro has been pretty good."

Cruz-Acosta said nearly all of Sun Metro's routes have drawn an increase in ridership, not just the express lines.

"The trend started back in 2007, when the Mass Transit Department Board committed to making Sun Metro a priority," she said. "The board started an aggressive campaign that has resulted in a very successful turnaround of a system that was falling apart."

The systematic improvements led to Sun Metro receiving the 2011 American Public Transportation Association's Outstanding Public Transportation System Award.

Sun Metro officials said they will continue to work at making the service better and more responsive to users, including safety and customer service.

"Out next challenge is completing the Rapid Transit Systems planned for the city," Cruz-Acosta said. "We are in the middle of designing the stations for the RTS along Alameda and Mesa. We are developing the brand and layout for these stations."

Sun Metro has conducted public meetings on the station designs, and plans to have more next year.

The city is preparing to order articulated buses -- 60-foot-long buses that are close to the ground -- for the corridors, and is designing a new maintenance and operations facility to house Sun Metro's fleet.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at dvaldez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6140.

Top Sun Metro routes El Paso Sun Metro's top five routes: 2011: Routes 59, 35, 50, 18 and 15. 2010: Routes 59, 35, 50, 15 and 14.Source: Sun Metro.