In 2003, the New Mexico State Legislature authorized creation of regional transit districts as an incentive to reduce dependence on personal cars. Four such districts now exist throughout New Mexico.
The North Central Regional Transit District (RTD), headquartered in 2012 in what had been an old, dilapidated building that was completely renovated into an architecturally smart, contemporary business center in Española, has become one of that city’s largest employers. The district’s board recently approved a sustainability plan that aims to transform RTD within five years into one of the greenest companies in the Española Valley.
The district’s bus service covers 10,079 square miles, linking several northern New Mexico communities including Santa Fe. RTD directly serves 20 routes and connects to other transportation systems. The service is very important to the economy and residents of the district. RTD is the main provider of free transportation in northern New Mexico. Ridership has more than doubled in four years, from about 78,000 in 2009 to 193,000 last year. RTD’s Blue Bus system mostly serves people who are struggling to pay their bills. About 63 percent of the riders make less than $17,000 per year. Nineteen percent don’t own a vehicle. Federal taxes and gross receipts revenues from regional transportation operations in Santa Fe, Río Arriba, Taos, and Los Alamos counties fund the system.
A report released last month by the state Legislative Finance Committee praised the district for its money management but said that the operation’s expenses will exceed revenues in the next decade. The average cost per passenger, according to the report, was $17.77 in 2013, but some routes, such as Los Alamos-Española-Pojoaque, cost considerably more.
Anthony Mortillaro, executive director of the district, in a written response, called the committee’s analysis oversimplified and incomplete and noted that the report didn’t mention the poverty in northern New Mexico or how much air pollution and traffic congestion the buses reduce. Because of NCRDT’s buses, the district’s car travel was lessened by an estimated 4.35 million miles last year, eliminating more than 2,161 tons of carbon emissions and creating less wear-and-tear on roads and highways.
The American Public Transportation Association, in its March, 2014 Transit Savings Report, reported that, nationally, individuals who ride public transportation instead of driving can save, on average, more than $10,103 annually, and those costs are only going to increase.
For more information on the North Central Regional Transit District, call 505.629.4707 or visit www.ncrtd.org