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Sabino shuttles could go electric

Quieter, cleaner shuttles could mean new operator
Posted at 7:02 PM, Jan 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-30 21:02:11-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Shuttles in Sabino Canyon could be quieter and cleaner. But that could shut out the company that's run the current system for more than 30 years.

A partnership that includes Tucson Electric is working towards electric shuttles for the canyon tours.

Current shuttles run on diesel engines.  Drivers use loudspeakers to point out the natural features as visitors ride through the canyon.
          
Now electric shuttles could take over through a partnership of Tucson Electric, the Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O'odham Nations and the Regional Transportation Authority.
           
Canyon visitors like Susan Hand like the possibility of clean, quiet trams.

"I have run and walked this canyon for many years and every time when we go up and smell the diesel smoke it's really, it's so contrary to the whole natural atmosphere that you want to find here."
           
Tucson Electric's putting up $2.5 million in contributions and loans but says that does not come from rate-payers.
            
The RTA sees the proposal as a way to promote electric vehicles.

Jim DeGrood of RTA says, “We, here in the region are committed to sustainability.  Certainly that's something that the Forest Service looks at.  We have a sustainable recreation plan and a lot of what we're proposing is consistent with that plan."
        
The small company that's operated the shuttles for more than 30 years is suing the Forest Service. It says the Forest Service requirement for a five-year agreement is too short for a small company to get financing that will let it compete for the shuttle concession.
         
We should know what will roll down the road of Sabino this summer.