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New Services Introduced in Three States

Three public transportation agencies recently introduced new services: SouthWest Transit’s (SWT) SouthWest Prime, which began July 6 in Eden Prairie, MN; the “RTD Chile Line” in Taos, NM, which the North Central Regional Transit District (NCRTD) in Española, NM, took over from the town on July 1; and the Current, Link Transit’s three fare-free routes operating with battery-electric trolleys and propane-powered cutaway buses in Wenatchee, WA, which opened July 3.

The New Mexico service, previously known as the “Taos Chile Line,” has been rebranded “RTD Chile Line” under an agreement between NCRTD and the town. Taos transfers all of the town’s public transit assets to the district, including vehicles, storage and maintenance facilities and 14 full- and part-time employees.

“We’re very excited to see this come to fruition,” said Taos Mayor and NCRTD Chair Daniel R. Barrone. “We project that the consolidation of public transit services between the town and the NCRTD will result in a retained cost savings for the town of approximately $187,000 annually.” In addition, ­earlier this year, NCRTD assumed operation of Taos Express—connecting Santa Fe, Española and Taos—from the town.

NCRTD Executive Director Anthony Mortillaro added, “We are confident that our experience, competency and commitment to service excellence will provide a great service on behalf of the town of Taos and its residents and visitors.”

Chile Line services comprise two routes in town and the Taos Ski Valley seasonal premium service. RTD Chile RIDE, formerly called Handi-Van, provides free paratransit service within the town to ADA pre-qualified residents.

SWT’s SouthWest Prime is a shared ride ­public transit service that enhances current service. Users can reserve a ride up to 48 hours in advance or within 10 minutes of departure time, using the agency’s website, app or phone. The agency is operating the service free for the first week and is launching it in Eden ­Prairie, with plans to extend it to Chanhassen and Chaska by late August.

SWT officials said the agency’s goal for Prime service is to increase connectivity throughout its service area.

Link’s three Current routes serve a local community college, the Wenatchee downtown district, the redeveloping waterfront along the Columbia River and the commercial district of East Wenatchee across the river. Six vehicles will operate at any given time, with four spares.

The 22-foot battery-electric vehicles operate with a lithium iron-phosphate battery system and charge using a fast charger that communicates via wireless technology with the bus as it pulls into the transit center at the end of each trip. Recharging takes just three to four minutes to keep the energy level at 80-90 percent; buses are plugged into a slow charger overnight to bring them up to a full charge. Link Transit used a 2010 federal TIGGER (Transit Improvements For Greenhouse Gas and Emission Reductions) grant for this project.

Chelan County, within the Link service area, has the second lowest-cost electricity in the nation due to two large hydroelectric dams located on the Columbia River, a few miles from Wenatchee. This allows the electric trolleys to operate for about $85 per month in energy costs, compared to about $1,500 for a conventional diesel vehicle.


Representatives of NCRTD and the town of Taos met outside the Taos Town Hall to mark the district assuming responsibility for the Taos Chile Line. From left: David Harris, transit bureau chief, New Mexico DOT; Daniel R. Barrone, Taos mayor and NCRTD chair; Miguel Chavez, NCRTD vice chair and Santa Fe County commissioner; and NCRTD Executive Director Anthony Mortillaro.


One of the vehicles in SWT’s new SouthWest Prime service.


Cutting the ribbon in front of one of Link Transit’s new battery-electric trolleys, from left: Washington state Rep. Cary Condotta; Link Transit Board Chair Jim Bailey; Tom Hanson, intercity bus and transportation specialist, Washington State DOT; Link Transit General Manager Richard DeRock; state Sen. Linda Evans-Parlette; FTA Region 10 Administrator Rick Krochalis; Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz; Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA); and Wenatchee Downtown Association Director Linda Haglund.

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