Gila River Transit begins service in Sacaton

February 5, 2016


Mikhail Sundust

Community Newsperson


Gila River Transit is off to a smooth start. The local bus program started offering rides around Sacaton on Jan. 11 and plans to begin service in the West End this month.


Sasha Pachito, who manages the program, said in its first week over 140 people utilized the bus service, “and every week since then we’ve had over 100 people.”


The Sacaton route includes 17 stops that takes riders to the police department, the courthouse, the hospital, Boys & Girls Club, the service center, the Executive Ki, residential areas and a number of other spots. More bus stops may becomte available as the route is evaluated.


If you’ve seen the bus and it looks a bit plain, GRIC DOT understands. For now they are all white, but they have some design concepts submitted by GRIC members and hope to have unique artwork on the buses in about a month.


“There are a couple buses out there that look just like [the transit bus] and we want to be distinct from everyone else,” said Pachito.


The bus is in operation Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last circuit beginning around 4 p.m. It takes about 3-5 minutes between stops along the route and one circuit takes between 40 and 50 minutes.


The transit service operates on what is called a deviated fixed route, which means, if a passenger can’t make it to a stop and needs to be picked up at another location not too far from the route, he or she can call DOT and ask to be picked up. Buses will not, however, deviate to drop passengers off at another location.


All of the buses come equipped with a wheelchair ramp and all bus drivers are trained in assisting the disabled.


Gila River Indian Community Department of Transportation started to pursue the idea of a transit service many years ago and felt that this was the right time to get the program rolling.


Pachito, the GRIC DOT Transportation Planning Manager, said, “We applied for a grant through the Arizona Department of Transportation to operate a public transportation system.”


The grant supplies approximately 80 percent of the program costs. The funding helped the Community purchase the three buses and pay for staffing.


Those dollars are now making an impact in Districts 6 and 7.


Gila River Transit will begin operating a bus route in the West End this month, possibly as soon as next week, the week of Feb. 8. It will not shuttle passengers between the West End and Sacaton; the two routes will operate independently.


In 6 and 7, the bus will make stops at the Boys & Girls Club, the clinic, the casino, the new District 7 Multipurpose building, the new housing area in District 7, some housing areas in District 6, among other areas.


GRIC DOT hopes to continue to expand the service in coming years, depending on funding availability.


If you have any questions or would like an estimate on the bus’s next stop, you can reach the operator at (520) 562-6020.