COTTONWOOD -- "It was all pie in the sky," Margie Beach recalled of the concept for an intercity transit link between Sedona and Cottonwood. Beach and Carol Quasula were both citizen members of a special task force to assess the Cottonwood Area Transit system (CAT) two years ago to suggest how to make it more efficient and better. More fixed routes for CAT was one suggestion. A Cottonwood to Sedona link was another.
Monday, both women were in the audience for the Open House for the new Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transit Authority Transit Facility and the inauguration of the Verde Lynx transit service.
At the same time that the Cottonwood task force was brainstorming improvements to CAT, new Sedona Mayor, Rob Adams was lamenting that the Sedona Roadrunner transit system did not serve enough residents, didn't run from Uptown to West Sedona, but only gave freebie rides to tourists around the shopping area."
"I was not a supporter of NAIPTA two years ago," he told the small gathering.
"We didn't think it could happen so fast," Beach went on.
It was serendipitous that a need was presenting itself on both sides of the Verde, at the at the same time the ARRA federal stimulus program (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) was unfolding to provide cash for projects that were shovel ready, including a healthy shovel-full of cash for transit projects.
Jeff Meilbeck, the NAIPTA General Manager ran with the idea.
The transit authority won $2.8 million in stimulus money. The grant helped build the transit operations and maintenance facility in Cottonwood, equipped with a solar power system.
It helped establish the Verde Lynx connection between Sedona and Cottonwood with two new 25 passenger buses, equipped with the latest handicapped accessible ramp, instead of a lift. The new buses can also carry bicycles.
In Flagstaff stimulus money bought two gas-electric full-sized buses.
Representatives of Congresswoman Kirkpatrick, Governor Jan Brewer and ADOT, all who had a role in the funding congratulated the system.
Yavapai Supervisor Chip Davis told the assembly that there has been a lot of talk about transit in several quarters in the Verde Valley over the past 12-years. That talk "ebbed and flowed without getting anywhere until NAIPTA. Now we have an awesome facility and system."
Davis still dreams that the route will circle the entire Verde Valley one day.
Lana Tolleson of the Verde Valley Chamber, brought the dreams down to an economic reality.
"The AAA says that an one average car costs a family about $8000 per year to run and that the average family spends 19% of its income on transportation. If that money was not pumped into the gas tank, it could be pumped into the local economy."
The Verde Lynx travels back and forth between Cottonwood and Sedona eight times Monday through Saturday and three times each Sunday. The fare is $2 each way.
For more information call (928) 282-0938 or www.verdelynx.az.gov.