By Tony Parra
Portales Area Transit system will have a new operator next month.
Community Services Center will end its affiliation with the bus system on March 24, its Executive Director Pam O’Malley announced in a press release. O’Malley said the reason was because the city wanted to run the PAT system.
The city of Portales will take over on March 25, City Manager Debi Lee said.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation funds PAT through the city, which had been contracting with CSC to operate the buses. The city owns the buses.
Lee said city officials had been talking with CSC officials about improving the bus service. She said a public meeting was held on Jan. 30, but she didn’t expect the operator to quit.
“We would have liked to have had more time to transition the PAT system,” Lee said. “We had no notice since the (Jan. 30) meeting.”
O’Malley, in her press release, said CSC officials have been running the PAT system since 1999.
“It is our wish that the city continue to operate the program as it is a vital and critical service,” O’Malley said in the press release, which Lee said she received on Wednesday.
Lee said a plan will be presented to city councilors on March 7 to have Senior Citizens Center Director Jim Good operate the system with help from Tom Howell, Portales’ public works director.
Lee said the city will hire bus drivers and an administrative assistant and workers will have to receive training from NMDOT.
Officials said about 75 percent of the users of the PAT system are senior citizens, and about 900 people were given rides in January.