- Associated Press - Sunday, September 15, 2019

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Testing of zero-emission electric shuttles has begun at Sabino Canyon, a population outdoor recreation site on the outskirts of Tucson.

Coronado National Forest officials believe the new 62-passenger electric shuttles will go into use this fall, replacing 21-passenger gas-powered vehicles being used on an interim basis.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that the first electric shuttle was tested Sept. 3.

The shuttle is being used to train drivers along the routes through Sabino and Bear canyons, about 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) of travel.

Sabino Canyon attracts 1 million visitors annually.

Coronado National Forest officials say four other open-air shuttles are being tested by California-based Trams International before providing services to about 100,000 annual riders.

When operational, the electric shuttles are expected to provide quieter and more efficient travel seven days a week.

The shuttles also will bring fully integrated ticket sales, including cellphone payments and credit- and debit-card sales for visitors. The previous shuttle vendor operated on a cash-only basis.

“Some people just like to ride up the canyon and return, some people may want to get off at one stop and walk to another stop, some folks may want to stop and have a picnic and then get back on later,” said forest spokeswoman Heidi Schewel. “It just gives people more options on what they can do throughout their day once they’ve purchased their ticket.”

She said another feature the shuttles will have is headphones for the narrated educational program.

The program will be available in English and Spanish.

According to the Star, the project needed to supply power to the vehicle charging infrastructure was completed by Tucson Electric Power in April.

TEP has also contributed $1.5 million in startup costs and a $1 million interest-free, 10-year loan funded from its corporate resources.

The 21-passenger shuttles were ordered for interim use after Sabino Canyon lost shuttle service in June 2018 when a service permit with Sabino Canyon Tours Inc. expired. The private concessionaire had operated at Sabino Canyon since 1985.


Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.tucson.com

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