YCAT Celebrates 15 Years of Public Transit Service

2013-07-24 22:38:02


Yuma County Area Transit celebrated 15 years of public bus service with a bang, or in this case, a dunk.

The Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority, which runs YCAT, hosted a Yuma County Chamber of Commerce mixer Wednesday with food, drinks, music, prizes and the chance to dunk the transit director.

Charlene FitzGerald, executive director of the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization, took advantage of the opportunity – with some cheating. She walked up to the booth and pushed the target, causing John Andoh to splash into the water.

“Perhaps you can connect it to the ‘divorce.’ The ex-wife dumps the ex-spouse,” Andoh joked, referring to the recent separation between YMPO, which oversaw YCAT before YCIPTA took over the operation.

On a more serious note, Andoh said he was glad YCIPTA could provide bus service for county residents. He thanked YMPO and the member agencies for “identifying an unmet need in transportation in this county and starting YCAT.”

Before 1998, only private transportation companies operated any type of transit service in the county, with taxis serving the urban areas and private van serving the areas between San Luis and Yuma.

Paratransit service began in early 1998 when the Saguaro Foundation started a public Dial-A-Ride system funded by YMPO. Soon after YMPO began fixed-route service between San Luis and Yuma under the name Valley Transit.

The name Yuma County Area Transit, or YCAT, was adopted in 2002, along with a new system of two routes, a local route within Yuma and an intercity route between San Luis and Yuma/Arizona Western College.

Over time, YCAT has grown and shrank as it faced funding challenges and ultimately a potential shutdown. It went from offering paratransit service with 800 passengers a month to the current mix of fixed-route and on-demand services with over 40,000 passengers a month and an annual operating budget of $3.1 million.

With the assistance of nine member agencies consisting of cities, towns, college, university, county and Indian tribes, the transportation authority was formed and YCAT operations moved from YMPO to YCIPTA in July 2012.

“People should be happy to have a system like YCAT around. It shows people that Yuma is making progress,” said Edwardo Castro, Saguaro Foundation transportation director.

Mack Luckie, former YMPO executive director, pointed to another advantage. “Yuma is not a city with a lot of high wages. With this, people can afford to ride buses.”

Edd McDaniel, former YMPO operations contractor manager, said he is impressed with the direction YCAT has been taking. “We certainly need this transportation service to move forward because Yuma needs this.”

Yuma County Area Transit timeline of events

1980 – Yuma starts receiving federal funds from United States Department of Transportation for public transit

1983 – YMPO was created to perform transportation planning in Yuma County due to Yuma receiving the urban designation.

1984-1996 – Various planning activities and studies conducted to determine the feasibility of public transit in Yuma County.

1997 – Transportation tax placed on the ballot in City of Yuma to start public transit service, tax failed.

1998 – YMPO receives from local funding from Yuma City and Yuma County to subsidize a private public transit service, called Valley Transit and started Greater Yuma Area Dial-A-Ride service.

2002 – YMPO decides to assume the transit service, enters into contract with Saguaro Foundation to operate Yuma County Area Transit after transit development plan by Moore and Associates was completed. Two routes were created. Local Yuma route and AWC to San Luis route operated.

2004 – YMPO reduces YCAT bus service due to decline in state funding called Local Transportation Assistance Fund (LTAF). AWC to Yuma and Yuma to San Luis route remain.

2005 – YMPO increases bus service due to an increase more LTAF and local agency funding. Five routes created. New service on Cocopah Reservation begins.

2006 – YMPO receives grant to begin service to Wellton and purchases large 33 foot transit buses.

2008 – Yuma Transit, LLC and Kay Transportation assume YCAT and Greater Yuma Area Dial-A-Ride service from Saguaro Foundation.

2009 – YMPO operates seven bus routes, a dial-a-ride service Monday through Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ARRA funds received to purchase 15 new buses, smart card system and 30 bus shelters with no local match.

2010 – State of Arizona eliminates LTAF. City of Yuma stops funding YCAT; YCAT potentially comes close to shutting down on June 30, 2010. YMPO works with its member agencies to recreate a modified YCAT service that is limited in nature. New contract with First Transit begins as a result.

2011 – City of Yuma and Yuma County work together with San Luis, Somerton, Wellton and NAU-Yuma to form Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority. New Transit Director is hired. YMPO contracts with YCIPTA to manage YCAT on their behalf. Yuma Regional Transit Study is completed. YCIPTA becomes the local Greyhound agent.

2012 – YMPO restructures YCAT and Greater Yuma Area Dial-A-Ride services. YCAT OnCall begins to replace Dial-A-Ride. Saguaro Foundation assumes the dial-a-ride program. YMPO transfers transit service to YCIPTA. YCIPTA hires four other staff members and receives FTA grantee status. New funding partnerships and new member agencies from AWC, Quechan Indian Tribe and Cocopah Indian Tribe begin funding YCAT. YCAT exceeds 1,600 passenger trips per month. Highest in YCAT’s history.

2013 – New transit services in the Fortuna Foothills, Wellton and El Centro begin. Transportation Concepts begins operating YCAT services.