El Paso Sun Metro Launches Rapid Transit System Buses Today

From the El Paso Times
By Diana Washington Valdez

Denise Davila and Manny Johnson were among the passengers that hopped aboard Sun Metro's new Rapid Transit System Brio buses on Monday.

"It's fine. It got me from point A to point B without any problem," said Johnson, 21, who boarded the bus at Cleveland Square in Downtown El Paso. "I'm headed from UTEP to Downtown."

Davila, 18, who checked her social media activity on her phone, said she enjoyed the bus ride. She was on her second trip around noon on Monday.

"It's fine. I just wish that it made stops closer to the UTEP campus," she said. "Right now, it stops in front of Providence Memorial Hospital and near the Sun Bowl (Glory Road), but other than that, it's fine."

One of the articulated buses made the trip from the Santa Fe transfer station near the border to UTEP (at Oregon and Glory Road) in less than 15 minutes.

The Brio, a 60-foot long bus, seats 48 people. With passengers who stand, it can carry up to 72 people. It is outfitted with free Wi-Fi, TV monitors that display passenger information, such as the names of stops, and the ability to extend the green lights at traffic signals.

Each low-floor bus has two front wheelchair locations, and three interior bicycle racks.

A total of 10 Brio's were purchased for El Paso, each at a cost of $790,000, according to Sun Metro officials.

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser told the crowd at Cleveland Square that numerous people and institutions contributed to making the Brio Rapid Transit System a reality. He said it is going to be one of the city's big selling points to companies thinking of relocating to the Sun City.

El Paso city Representatives Ann Morgan Lilly and Cortney Niland praised the Brio's modern high-tech features and comfort.

Brio bus

After months of anticipation the Brio Rapid Transit System is up and running in El Paso. Monday morning VIP's were given the first of several rides on the new buses. The new 60-foot buses began running on the first of four different corridors that will be available throughout El Paso. (RUBEN R RAMIREZ EL PASO TIMES)

"I can work and text, and my kids can do their homework," Niland said.

Lilly said, "It can't be better. It's perfect. We have a first-class public transit system."

The Mesa Brio Corridor, which runs from the Sun Metro Santa Fe Transfer Center to the Westside Transfer Center at Resler, is the first of four rapid transit corridors to go online in El Paso. The other three are the Alameda, Dyer and Montana corridors and are scheduled to be operational in 2016, 2017 and 2019, respectively.

City Rep. Emma Acosta said after the launch celebration that the city's plans for a new trolley service should not affect the Brio.

"The Brio route will not affect the streetcar service, since both the Brio and streetcar will serve different customers," Acosta said. "The Brio is designed to serve the commuters going in and out of downtown, while the streetcar will serve folks that are downtown already, whether workers, tourists or just El Pasoans doing business downtown."

"Concentrating streetcar and Brio on Oregon (Street) will only enhance public transportation choices for El Pasoans, whether just getting to town, or moving around Downtown," Acosta said.

Sun Metro spokeswoman Laura Cruz-Acosta said planning and coordination will prevent any conflicts between the trolley and Brio services.

 

"The creation of the streetcar project is being led by the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, but Sun Metro is involved in the development. The manner in which streetcar will be applied is such that it won't impact the efficiency of Brio," Cruz-Acosta said.

Information about fares, dates and times for the Mesa Brio is posted on the Sun Metro website: http://www.sunmetro.net/brio.html.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at dvaldez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6140; @eptimesdiana.