The city of Cottonwood is gearing up to take Verde Valley public transportation to the next level.
As of Sunday, July 1, the city officially takes over operation of the Verde Lynx from the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority.
Between now and then, the city will hire a transit manager and devise a plan to integrate transit employees into the city’s pool.
“We should be very prepared,” Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh said.
The Verde Lynx shuttles riders between Cottonwood and Sedona seven days a week from morning to evening.
NAIPTA, based in Flagstaff, developed the service with support from Cottonwood and Sedona. NAIPTA will step out of the equation July 1, and Cottonwood and Sedona will work together via an intergovernmental agreement.
Bartosh said NAIPTA made linking the Verde Valley communities possible, and now Cottonwood is ready to run with it.
“It really represents what’s been the first leg of the plan,” Bartosh said. Expansion is definitely the goal.
Creating lines to other area communities is the next step.
“We’ve heard this need from the entire Verde Valley,” Bartosh said, including the Yavapai-Apache Nation, which recently received grant funding to create a shuttle service between its Camp Verde and Clarkdale reservations.
This stretch is not currently served by the Lynx or CAT, which services Cottonwood and its outlying areas.
Sedona City Manager Tim Ernster said at the December meeting of Verde Valley city managers and mayors communities currently not part of the system supported the idea of including their incorporated and unincorporated areas.
Sedona will offer financial support as it has done since the service started.
Federal grant money covers the majority of Lynx costs, Bartosh said. The remaining balance will be covered by Cottonwood and Sedona in the form of matching grant funds.
Ernster said Sedona will realize cost savings at first, but ultimately finances aren’t the reason Sedona supported Cottonwood’s takeover. The future of Verde Valley transit is most important to Sedona.
“We speak the same language [as Cottonwood],” Ernster said. That wasn’t always the case with NAIPTA, and it caused issues at times.
Sedona has more in common with Cottonwood and the Verde Valley in terms of transit than it does with Flagstaff, Ernster said.
Cottonwood has been in the public transportation business for more than 20 years, Bartosh said. The city developed CAT as a service for residents to get around the community and later expanded to Clarkdale and the Verde Villages, so staff isn’t new to operation of a transit service.
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