City council could modify transit service

Mike Linn

The Portales City Council is thinking about modifying the Portales Area Transit program, which may include a $20,000 budget cut toward funding for the 2004/2005 fiscal year.
City Council members say the bus service is necessary for the community but other entities like La Casa Health Services and the Portales Senior Citizens also transport citizens around town.
City Council member D. K. Shafer said the possible modification may include doing away with two buses. The PAT currently has four buses, one large bus for route service and three smaller buses used to transport by appointment only.
Shafer said the council may look to cut funding by $20,000, but added that the PAT is not the only service the city may cut funds toward.
The New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department funded the PAT with a $61,930 grant for this fiscal year. In order to receive that money the city funded an additional $47,676 for the PAT’s 2003/2004 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1.
“I don’t think we’re being negative or anything about. I just think we’re going to be careful how they run that place, since the city is involved with it. But I think it’s important for the city to have a transit system,” city council member Jake Lopez said.
The PAT is currently seeking a grant for the 2004/2005 fiscal year from the state. On Tuesday city council members voted to send a letter of support to the state to help PAT obtain those funds.
The PAT transports more than 80 passengers a day on average, many of which are elderly and Eastern New Mexico University students, according to PAT fiscal officer Antonia Encinias.
The PAT transported 21,118 passengers during the 2002/2003 fiscal year. Seniors accounted for 8,983 of those passengers and the general public, which include ENMU students, accounted for 8,668. Disabled (1,956) and non-ambulatory (1,511) accounted for the rest.
“We see the need (for the PAT) because we do the Portales Area Transit everyday. There’s some days that we turn down some people because there’s no way we can fit them into our time schedule,” Encinias said.
The route bus travels a five-mile radius everyday during the week and typically has about 14 passengers daily, Encinias said. But the appointment busses, which pick up those who have called 24 hours ahead of time, actually pick up individuals at their home and transport them to a destination within the city. Two appointment busses are used everyday to transport roughly 70 to 80 passengers a day, many of whom are ENMU students, Encinias said.
While the city is looking to cut back on its funding, PAT officials say they hope to extend their service beyond the five-mile radius currently allowed by the state.
One idea is to transport passengers halfway to Clovis and meet a Clovis Area Transit bus with passengers wanting a ride to Portales. The passengers would then swap busses.
Encinias said if the city doesn’t fund as much money for the PAT’s 2004/2005 fiscal year, then PAT officials could seek funding elsewhere, possibly from the county.
The PAT collected roughly $13,000 in passenger fees for this past fiscal year. The money went to the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department.