Beeline Bus Door Open contributed

The Payson Town Council has voted to once again support the Beeline Bus. The bus has contributed in more ways than simply providing transportation. The town has received millions in grant money to improve roads and sidewalks because of the service.

Make a beeline to the Beeline Bus because it’s busy.

The pandemic took a toll on the Beeline Bus ridership, but riders have returned – and there’s lots of them. According to a Payson transportation study, 30% of its population struggles to drive a car either because of age or illness.

The Beeline Bus not only helps those who can’t drive, it has served as an anchor for the town to qualify for $2 million in grants for roadways, sidewalks, and bus shelters, said Sheila DeSchaaf, assistant town manager and public works director.

Another benefit of Beeline Bus, entities seeking to build affordable housing, qualify for Section 8 funds because the town offers the transportation service.

“Having a bus system available weighs heavily on subsidized housing,” said DeSchaaf.

The Beeline Bus charges $1 for adults and $.50 for children and seniors. Monthly passes are also available.

But the bus service is expensive to run.

The Payson Senior Center currently manages the Beeline Bus. The Senior Center has partnered with Gila County, and the Towns of Payson and Star Valley to create a transportation group. The Senior Center hopes to transition management to Gila County in the future, said DeSchaaf, to possibly create a county-wide transportation system.

This coalition allows the Senior Center to apply for grants. Already the Beeline Bus group received a grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation to cover most of its operating costs for two years.

“The senior center does a phenomenal job of offsetting, to the greatest extent possible, our out-of-pocket costs, through the sale of advertising and sponsorships,” said DeSchaaf.

But surprise bills always pop up.

To cover those, the Senior Center has asked its partners to approve backup funding if needed.

For the past two years, the Town of Payson has agreed to set aside up to $25,000 for the Beeline Bus each year.

The Beeline Bus has so far only asked for $2,100 in the past two years. The organization has only used $1,600 of those funds.

According to the coalition agreement, the Beeline Bus must approach the town each year to ask for support, said DeSchaaf.

In September of this year, the Beeline Bus came to the council to ask for another line of credit.

The council unanimously approved the request.

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