Round and Round

Transit advisory board members want to get back to work. The mayor just needs to appoint them

After voters elected in the early 1990s to raise gross receipts taxes to pay for a bus service, officials appointed a board of local residents to help oversee the city’s new transit system.

The Transit Advisory Board was designed to include nine members representing a broad cross-section of the community—seniors, people with disabilities, businesspeople and representatives of educational and government institutions.

But the board has not met formally in over three years and the terms of all its members have expired.

In that time, the city has slashed bus service despite its lofty goals for combating climate change, leaving only half of routes running on regular schedules. That means regularly scheduled buses don’t travel to and from major employers, like St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, and educational institutions like Institute for American Indian Arts. (Routes M, 5, 6, 21 and 22 are always on demand. Other fixed routes are also on demand for some early and late hours.)

Meanwhile, bus stops have been neglected and even the website listed on bus stop signs ( is broken. Trying to navigate the city by public transit using Google Maps or Apple Maps will only turn up inaccurate schedules and show routes operating where none currently run on fixed schedules. The city instead relies on a different app, RouteShout 2.0, which is so difficult to use it has earned an average review of 1.5 stars on Apple’s App Store.

It’s not that no one cares, though.

In response to a cover story called “On the Struggle Bus” that published May 10, four former transit advisory board members signed a letter to SFR stating they are eager to get back to work. They just need Mayor Alan Webber and the City Council to reappoint them.

After publishing the letter May 24, SFR contacted the mayor to ask if he might take up the volunteers on their offer to delve into the nitty gritty of overseeing the city’s languishing public transit system. Webber says he doesn’t have any immediate plans to make appointments to the transit board.

“I’ve been focusing on the planning commission, historic commission, veterans commission, a couple more,” he tells SFR.

Marcos Maez, a former member who signed the letter, tells SFR the group needs the city government’s support if it is going to recruit more members. If reappointed, the board would need five members to conduct business.

“It’s just imperative that we have the Transit Advisory Board running again as one of the mayoral appointed boards,” he says.

Maez got involved with the board through his day job at Santa Fe Community College as director of student engagement and recruitment.

“The reason I felt I could contribute to this board is because for some of our students, the only way they can get to campus is through public transportation,” he says.

A student who might live a 10-minute drive from campus could spend 40 minutes riding the city’s buses to get to class, he says. And now the bus system does not provide any regularly scheduled service to the community college, instead only providing service on demand, leaving riders to call for a ride when they arrive at a stop rather than being able to rely on buses to arrive at scheduled times.

By working with the Transit Advisory Board, Maez says he wanted to be a voice for students and staff. The board served as a platform for riders and other local residents to put forward their ideas and concerns, Maez says. The board served, too, as something of an ombudsman, monitoring budgets, ridership and service.

The advisory board’s last meeting, for example, included discussion of improvements to the Sheridan Street transit center (allegedly coming this year); an update on a Southside transit center (construction has yet to begin); updates on ridership; and discussion of a customer complaint system.

Other former members say the board has been key for helping the system better serve different communities, such as by promoting best practices for serving paratransit passengers with disabilities.

The board fell quiet as the COVID-19 pandemic upended public transportation systems around the world.

Then, the city’s governing body last year adopted a sweeping multimodal transition plan that calls for a series of changes to the city’s bus system. That includes restoring regular service on some routes to better serve the South Capitol neighborhood, Midtown and St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, as well as extending service to the airport.

The plan also calls for upgrading the system’s website and bus stops as well as better providing information to riders, who often have to navigate the system without maps, timetables or service advisories posted at bus stops.

There’s no advisory board to monitor the plan’s implementation, however. Transit officials rarely address the City Council and councilors rarely ask questions about the bus system.

Still, the city claims the currently nonexistent board oversees Santa Fe’s bus service when it asks federal officials for funding. In the bus system’s safety plan—a document the city is required to submit to the Federal Transit Administration to receive funding—city officials wrote that the board oversees the system.

And that was as recently as December 2022, more than two years after the board’s last official meeting.

City officials say ensuring that a staff person has time to dedicate to working with that board remains a hurdle to reconvening it. And a top administrative position at Santa Fe Trails that is partly responsible for liaising with the Transit Advisory Board remains vacant.

Still, the four former members who wrote into SFR say they held an informal meeting late last year with Santa Fe Trails staff in attendance.

“We will continue to plan on meeting and now that we’re having this conversation it’s inspiring us to get back together,” Maez says, noting the group will gather whether they are formally reappointed or not.

Making it official would help the group better work with the city and local residents, he adds. However, none of that appears on track to happen soon.

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