KNAU and Arizona News
4:00 am
Tue October 23, 2012

Chino Valley Uses Volunteers to Keep Bus System Costs Down

Like many small cities and towns across Arizona, the area around Prescott generally lacks public transportation.

But one of the smaller towns in the area has come up with a way to get residents where they need to go. 

They use volunteer drivers. 

Once an hour, a small bus pulls up in front of Chino Valley’s Senior Center.

This is the first stop for Chino Valley Transit’s bus system.

It runs Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays it even goes into Prescott.

And even though the $2 fare doesn’t nearly cover operations, these buses don’t cost the city a dime.

That’s because Chino Valley Transit gets federal and state dollars from programs aimed at providing public transportation in rural areas.

Ron Romley has retired from the Arizona Department of Transportation and now chairs Chino Valley Transit.

“It just so happened that we had two busses out here that we purchased under an ADOT contract," Romley said. "They weren’t getting used very much, and I saw the need at that time for everybody.”

In 2008, then Vice Mayor Romley decided his town needed public transportation.

So he helped create Chino Valley Transit.

He used the buses the city had purchased with state funds.

Then he set about finding drivers.

But with little money, he needed those drivers to be volunteers.

And Jim Flood signed up.

He says the feeling of helping his community is what keeps him volunteering  every Monday.

“It’s the people that ride the bus.  It’s kind of a big, happy family," Flood said. "And it’s fun to see the people who ride the bus.  They really appreciate it.”

Drivers receive about 40 hours of training every two years. 

They also must drive at least two days a month to keep their skills sharp.

Chino Valley has a population of about 11 thousand.

15% of them are over 64.

And this bus system helps many of them stay independent.

Eileen Majors has been taking the bus since suffering a stroke a few years ago.

Today, the bus is taking her to get blood work done and do some grocery shopping.

“You can’t keep asking your friends for help," she said. "They have their lives too, and I try to do as much on my own as I can. The bus helps a lot.”

The bus system has been such a success that Chino Valley Transit added two full-time employees.

One of them handles administrative work and the other manages the routes.

And Chino Valley Transit chair Ron Romley plans on expanding the service. 

“We’re going to run the Chino Valley route and implement a transfer point.  And then we’ll have a bus come in from Prescott and it will meet them there," Romley said.

Other plans include adding Friday service and getting three new busses.

Romley also wants to increase their hours so they can provide service to the daily work crowd and to the Prescott Valley Entertainment Center.

“A lot more people are going to start going to the Entertainment Center, to the movies, the restaurants, all kinds of different places. It’s a very good thing, but it’s going to cost us a lot more money," he added.

They hope to get that money through future grants and by putting ads on the inside and outside of the busses.

And once they can provide routine service into Prescott and Prescott Valley, they plan to rebrand their volunteer bus system as Yavapai Regional Transportation.