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Has rural transit service overcome low ridership numbers?

For close to two years, ABC-7 has reported on the South Central Regional Transit District, a service that provides low cost transportation to residents of Doña Ana County.

In November 2016, Robert Garnica told ABC-7 the service was “like my own limo” because he was the only one on board.

On Tuesday, the director of South Central Regional Transit District said ridership numbers are up 61 percent, providing 30,333 trips up from the 18,846 trips provided in 2017.

“Not every trip is going to have a carpool filled,” David Armijo said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s one or ten. We’re trying to provide the connectivity so people can be independent.”

For only a dollar, residents can board the bus, which provides transportation to rural communities like Anthony, Chaparral, Sunland Park and Alamogordo.

“I don’t have a car, so it makes it nice,” said Larry Armijo, who told ABC-7 he rides three to four times a week. “A lot of people live out in the country, but it’s hard to get transportation out there.”

In May, Doña Ana County Commissioners voted not to extend the service to Hatch.

“I’ve gotten the numbers and the ridership and I have trouble with that,” said Commissioner Isabella Solis, who represents district four.

“I would say ridership has definitely picked up,” said Loretta Gallegos, a driver for the service. “Now, they’re seeing that we’re there and we’re continuing on a very constant basis.”

The service relies on local taxes, funding from the county and federal grants, Armijo said.

“Patience is what’s gotten us to this point,” Armijo said. “A little more patience and a little more effort will get us to where we need to go in the future.”

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