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Sun Tran to expand express routes, add buses, change look

Sun Tran to expand express route services, add buses and change look

The new Sun Tran logo unveiled at a Regional Transportation Authority news conference Thursday.

The new Sun Tran logo unveiled at a Regional Transportation Authority news conference Thursday.

Sun Tran will expand express route service to Rita Ranch and Oro Valley under an $8.2 million “seamless transit system” to be funded by the Regional Transportation Authority.

The new service will be called Sun Express and include park-and-ride lots in Rita Ranch and Oro Valley for buses that will run weekdays during morning and evening peak travel hours.

The RTA funding will support service for residents in communities such asGreen Valley, Sahuarita, Ajo, Marana, San Xavier and Tucson Estates.

Also planned is neighborhood circulator service in Marana and Oro Valley.

Sun Tran will be adding 47 new buses to its fleet, with 37 funded by the RTA.

The vehicles will sport a new look: a mix of metallic silver, blue, yellow and white.

The paint jobs also will be on Van Tran paratransit vehicles. The service will be renamed Sun Van.

The additional buses will go into service Feb. 16, Sheila Storm, RTA spokeswoman, said Thursday.

Also planned is new signage for bus stops and transit centers to complement the new vehicle color schemes, Gary L. Hayes, RTA executive director, said Thursday.

The “new branded look and service name changes will cost $2.9 million of the overall $8.2 million.

“It was more cost efficient to purchase these vehicles with the new colors rather than design the look at a later time,” Hayes said.

Also planned for 2010 is an optional “smart card” that riders will be able to purchase at kiosks around the community, or online using credit cards.

The electronic data cards will contain an embedded integrated circuit chip that will connect with a remote interface device to be on buses and vans.

Smart cards have raised concerns among privacy advocates who note that such cards are capable of being programmed to contain personal, financial, and medical information that can be remotely read at a glance.

The cards have been in use on other transit systems and help speed up boarding, Michele Joseph, Sun Tran marketing director, said Thursday.

“People will still be able to pay in cash” to ride, Joseph said.

Joseph said details of the smart card program are still being worked out.

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