The Cottonwood Express, which currently transports commuters from Cottonwood to Sedona in the morning and back to Cottonwood in the evening, added midday service with a trolley leaving Cottonwood and returning at two new times.
“Expanding the intercity commuter really is going to be a healthy step for Sedona and Cottonwood,” Jim Wagner, Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority Sedona project manager, said.
On the current schedule, Sedona RoadRunner trolleys pick up riders in Cottonwood at 7:45 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. on their way to Sedona to service Uptown and State Route 179 throughout the day. At the end of the day, the trolleys pick up riders at various locations in Sedona beginning at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The new schedule will leave Garrison Park in Cottonwood at 7:45 a.m., 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Trips back to Cottonwood from Sedona will be at 8:30 a.m., 3:15 p.m. and 6 p.m.
In October, when the service is expanded to eight trips, the commuter route will become its own, independent service, according to Wagner.
NAIPTA announced this spring the eight-trip schedule would begin in July, but pushed the start-up date back for a number of reasons.
Wagner said NAIPTA wants to brand the expanded commuter service as a program separate from the RoadRunner and it’s not quite ready to do that.
The service will be called Verde Links, according to NAIPTA General Manager Jeff Meilbeck.
Part of the new image is use of different vehicles. Arboc Spirit of Mobility buses will be used.
The new low floor buses are 28 feet long, comply with the Americans with Disability Act and seat up to 25 passengers. The buses will be paid for in part with money NAIPTA received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
NAIPTA didn’t want to confuse people by switching the vehicles after the service started, Wagner said.
The expanded service will be more convenient for workers while also accommodating other riders, according to Wagner. Sedona residents can use the system to access shopping, doctors and Verde Valley Medical Center. The commuter will drop riders off at Garrison Park where they can hop on the Cottonwood Area Transit that circulates all over Cottonwood and into Clarkdale and the Verde Villages.
Riders will also be able to ride the bus between Uptown and West Sedona. The buses will stop at marked pick-up locations on their way out to Cottonwood and back in.The schedule for the eight-trip system has not yet been set, Wagner said, but the earliest trip to Sedona will probably be at 6:30 a.m. and the latest back to Cottonwood at 6 p.m.
The idea to expand the commuter service came from citizen review committees NAIPTA formed in Sedona and Cottonwood. Those groups told NAIPTA more trips were needed between the communities.
Camp Verde isn’t included in the service starting in October, but Meilbeck said the service’s name, Verde Links, indicates NAIPTA plans to eventually bring other Verde Valley communities on board.
“Verde Links identifies that this service is ultimately for the entire Verde Valley,” Meilbeck said. NAIPTA’s five-year plan includes linking Camp Verde to the system, but it doesn’t have the money to do so at this time.
The one-way fare to ride from one city to the other is $2. Riders also have the option of purchasing a monthly pass or punch-pass card for 20 rides; both cost $40. To ride from Uptown to West Sedona or vice versa, a rider will be charged $1.
For more information on the commuter schedule and stops, visit www.roadrunner.az.gov or call 282-0938.