FARMINGTON — A new bus service running from Dulce to Farmington and Chama is projected to begin in early 2018, offering free transportation for Jicarilla Apache Nation residents.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration awarded the Jicarilla Apache Nation a $221,197 grant to launch the new route, according to a press release. The grant is part of $5 million that was awarded through the administration's Tribal Transit Program, which aims to improve tribal land transit options.

"This grant allows for the purchase of what will probably be a 14-passenger bus that will go to the Jicarilla Apache Nation," said Jim Nagle, a spokesman with the North Central Regional Transit District.

Nagle said the bus route will cover 111 miles, which would make it the longest route within the North Central Regional Transit system.

"This is a real vital service for people in that area, because a lot of them have a one-car household and one person is using the car to get to work, while the second person in the home might have a need to get to Chama or Farmington and not have a way to get there," Nagle said.

Nagle said his office is working with Jicarilla Apache Nation officials to determine the exact locations of the bus stops in Farmington and Chama, but he said they will likely focus on providing riders transportation to basic quality-of-life services and connecting them to other transit systems, such as Farmington’s Red Apple Transit system.

A transit rider survey was distributed to Dulce residents to determine which bus stops are most needed, and Nagle hopes to have those stops identified by next summer.

The initial plan is for the bus to make the run from Dulce to Farmington and back three days a week and from Dulce to Chama and back two days a week. Nagle said there is currently bus service from Chama to Española that runs five days a week, giving riders access to Santa Fe and Taos connections.

"Transit is a needed service for us here in rural Dulce," said Jicarilla Apache Nation President Wainwright Velarde, in a press release. "It will not only increase access to business-related services but also recreational activities. I encourage our Jicarilla members to take advantage of this free bus service."

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621. 

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