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Bus service launches in Shiprock
SHIPROCK — The red bus was greeted with cheers when it arrived in the parking lot at the Shiprock Chapter house Monday.
That spontaneous gesture from residents gathered in that parking lot set the tone as they welcomed the community's first bus service.
Shiprock Chapter, Navajo Transit System and Navajo Division of Transportation worked for two years to obtain support, clearances and funding for the Shiprock Community Area Transit.
It is the first bus service within a community in the Navajo Nation.
The bus can accommodate up to 24 passengers and is wheelchair accessible. It is identifiable with the words, "Navajo Transit" in black letters.
Harrison Smith is the delegated transit manager for Navajo Transit System.
"Today is the day for Shiprock community," Smith said.
Service in Shiprock is the latest route addition for the agency, which has 18 routes that operate across the Navajo Nation and to Farmington, Gallup and Flagstaff.
Bus fare will be free until July 13 from there the cost will be $2 for all day service, Smith said.
For now, the bus will operate in the morning and afternoon with stops as locations such as the chapter house, Northern Navajo Medical Center, Wells Fargo Bank, Diné College's south campus, Navajo Nation Shopping Center, Naatani Nez Restaurant and Indian Village.
David Silversmith, a grant writer for Navajo Division of Transportation, said the schedule and stops will undergo adjustments as service develops and input is collected from the community.
"It's just starting. It's going to grow. It's going to get better and better so get involved because it's your system," Silversmith said.
People visited the transit system's table to pick up bus schedules and information throughout the opening ceremony.
Viviene Tallbull is a member of the Shiprock Planning Commission, which helped establish the service.
She called on residents to support the bus by using its service.
"This all depends on our ridership, how much we use it. I'm calling out to community members, ride the bus," Tallbull said.
After the ceremony, people gathered near the bus to watch officials pull the red and blue ribbon tied on its doors.
"All aboard," Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie said after the ribbon was removed.
With the first group of riders on board, the bus left the chapter house then traveled to Northern Navajo Medical Center, followed by Navajo Nation Shopping Center and then back to the chapter house.
Leann Begay waved to people sitting outside the hospital's entrance as the bus traveled through the parking lot.
"I like it. It's going to be more suitable for people that don't have rides," Begay said after the bus ride.
Begay sat on the bus with her boyfriend, Thomas Peters.
Peters said the community needed the service because of the distance between housing areas, services and shopping areas.
"We needed one around here," Peters said.
Smith, the delegated transit manager, said the service in Shiprock is a pilot project and similar services could develop in other communities on the reservation.
He added that majority of funding for the transit system comes from state and federal dollars, and the tribe matches the amounts.
Revenue generated by bus fares contributes to the tribe's match amount and the transit system uses passenger counts and revenue miles when applying for money from state and federal sources, Smith said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at email@example.com.