FARMINGTON — The wheels on the bus will be making fewer stops.

Farmington city officials are cutting Red Apple Transit's Saturday routes in an effort to streamline service and lower costs. Starting July 6, The city plans to cut the yellow, purple, red and green lines.

The altered schedule will run for about a month before city staff evaluate it and make adjustments.Some Farmington residents, however, are afraid that the proposed cuts will be a burden to riders, particularly to the disabled, who depend almost exclusively on the buses for transportation.

Several of those residents gathered Thursday afternoon at the Farmington Civic Center for a presentation on the proposed route cuts to voice their concerns.

Bob Campbell, assistant city manager for the city of Farmington, presents a proposed Red Apple Transit route that would cut service on Saturdays during a
Bob Campbell, assistant city manager for the city of Farmington, presents a proposed Red Apple Transit route that would cut service on Saturdays during a public meeting on Thursday at the Farmington Civic Center. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

The city stands to save about $42,000 by cutting routes, said Bob Campbell, assistant city manager. The cuts will also result in about $40,000 less being spent from a federal transportation grant given each year to Red Apple Transit.

"With the budget challenges, all divisions were asked where they could make cuts," Campbell said. "We found that Saturday had the lowest ridership. Some of our established routes go to places that are closed on Saturdays. Now with the (budget) shortfall, we felt this would be a good way to cut."

Farmington has a $6.5 million budget deficit that the city opted to address with $3 million in cuts to programs, wages and services and $3.5 million in cash reserves.

The bus system's Saturday routes will be reduced to the so-called blue route and the dial-a-ride service, Campbell said.

Routes to Kirtland, Aztec and Bloomfield will not be affected.

The Saturday route will stop at the Farmington Civic Center, Orchard Plaza, Farmington Public Library, San Juan College, San Juan Apartments, Apple Ridge Apartments, Smiths, the WalMart on the west side of Farmington, Presbyterian Medical Services, Murray Drive and Butler Avenue, and Berg Park.

Some bus riders say the route change will negatively affect the entire Red Apple Transit system.

"This change is going to cut the drivers $400 a month (in wages)," said Marivene Mullins, a disabled rider who attended Thursday afternoon's meeting. "They can hardly make ends meet as it is. These guys and women put their heart and soul into helping the community. I care about the drivers."

The city, however, does not pay the bus drivers' wages or benefits, Campbell said. Farmington's payments only go toward maintenance, fuel and other operational costs.

The bus system's operator, First Transit, a multinational corporation based in Scotland, is responsible for drivers' wages and benefits.

Daisy Swadesh has been riding Red Apple Transit since it opened in November 1999.

"This spring, (city government) has put landscaping for the animal shelter, funds to Connie Mack, for the museum ... but when it comes to the bus, they're cutting $40,000," Swadesh said. "Frankly, public transportation is more important than landscaping. This is wrong."

Greg Yee covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and gyee@daily-times.com. Follow him @GYeeDT on Twitter.