Farmington council to be updated on Red Apple

Dan Schwartz
A passenger exits a blue line bus on Friday at a Red Apple Transit stop on Farmington Avenue.

FARMINGTON — Farmington’s transit manager is scheduled to update city councilors on Tuesday about changes he made to Red Apple Transit more than two months ago that he says have prompted more people to ride the buses.

“The bus (on the red route) is so full that we need to have a secondary bus behind it,” Andrew Montoya said. “People are noticing that.”

In April, more than 11,250 people rode on the city’s bus system. In mid August, Montoya added stops, rearranged routes and changed bus hours, and in September, nearly 12,100 people used the system.

The nearly 7 percent increase in ridership is putting the city's mass transit use back on track, Assistant City Manager Bob Campbell said. Around 2009, the city made changes to bus routes that drove down the transit system’s use, he said.

“It’s not uncommon to lose ridership when you change routes,” he said. "But unfortunately, it was sustained.”

The city provided ridership records dating to 2002, but Montoya said a comparison between those numbers and recent data would be misleading because different contractors ran the system and used different methods to track how many people rode the buses.

The two most popular routes since Montoya's changes were implemented are the purple and red, which bring people from downtown and Orchard Plaza to San Juan College and back, he said. He changed the buses' hours so students riding them could make their morning classes.

Passengers board a blue line bus on Friday at a Red Apple Transit stop on Farmington Avenue.

At least 16 percent more people rode the purple route between April and September, and 15 percent more people rode the red route during the same time frame.

At Tuesday’s meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in City Hall, Montoya will also tell councilors about a project he began with Google to help people use the bus system. By the end of the month, people will be able to get directions on Google Maps tailored for the bus routes, he said.

Campbell said the service cost the city about $2,900 in its first year because of start-up costs and will cost about $1,100 annually.

“That’s going to be so nice,” Montoya said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.