The Regional Transportation Authority is launching a new Sun Shuttle Dial-a-Ride service in the Marana and Avra Valley area.
The area has been served by a deviated flex-route Sun Shuttle service, but starting this month, Route 410 service will switch to a dial-a-ride model, which allows passengers to schedule either curb-to-curb or stop-to-stop trips within the service area (service area shown in blue above, stops are marked yellow).
The RTA created Sun Shuttle services throughout the Tucson metro area to provide mobility options for those who wish to travel within outlying, populated areas, and to connect them to other Sun Tran transit options in the metro area. Many of those who use the existing Route 410 services are connecting to Route 413, which travels from Marana to the Interstate 10 commerce area near Ina and Thornydale roads, with access to other Sun Tran transit options.
Preston McLaughlin is senior transportation planner for transit at the RTA. While researching options for improving the Marana/Avra Valley service, he rode the shuttle on Route 410 and experienced low ridership with about three people using the service in a 90-minute, one-way trip, he said.
“Route 410 has traditionally been our lowest performer, even prior to COVID. Ridership has remained between 200-350 riders a month since November of 2019, and it hasn’t really increased. At the same time, for most of our other services, we have seen a slow rebound in ridership,” McLaughlin said.
RTA officials have attempted several route modifications to try to better serve the area in recent years, said RTA’s Mobility Services Administrator Amber Wagner. “Sometimes it’s hard to capture ridership with a fixed route if you have to walk over a mile to get to that particular fixed route,” she said.
Even though there was some flexibility in the route, it wasn’t enough to best serve the large, rural area.
“We’re hoping that with a curb-to-curb, demand-response service, we’ll be able to capture and get more individuals on the bus if they need it,” Wagner said.
The RTA used the Green Valley Dial-a-Ride service as a model for these Marana-area service changes. In Green Valley, the dial-a-ride and fixed-route service work well together.
“We believe riders will find this option more suitable to meet their transportation needs,” McLaughlin said.
The service begins on June 13 and is free for the first six months. The RTA transit team hopes to collect survey data to evaluate the changes later this year.