El Paso

Cost of Sun Metro expansion outpacing revenue

El Paso city manager cautions City Council

Cost of Sun Metro's expansion outpacing revenue

EL PASO, Texas - If downtown El Paso construction is a headache for drivers, it is a migraine for Sun Metro.

City officials report on-time performance and ridership are down.

Sun Metro Director Jay Banasiak said the detours, orange cones and street closures aren't the only thing keeping people from catching a bus.

"When gas prices went down, the devalue of the peso, easy car loans, you see a lot more new cars out there. That hurt our ridership there, because it was just easier to do that. It was cheaper to do that," Banasiak said.

The El Paso city manager cautions City Council representatives that the cost of Sun Metro's expansion is outpacing revenue. The trend dates back about a year and a half. 

Banasiak said right now ridership is down about 8 percent.

But the agency is banking on Brio to bring it back on track.

Banasiak painted the picture for City Council members at Tuesday's meeting. But he did have some good news. He said collisions are down and more people are riding Brio.

City Reps. Claudia Ordaz and Peter Svarzbein suggested extending Brio's hours,  but City Manager Tommy Gonzalez jumped in with words of caution.

"We keep adding routes, we keep adding stations and the expenses are overtaking our revenues. So there is not enough revenues coming in to pay for all the expansion that is taking place in the last five or six years," Gonzalez said.

Sun Metro officials believe the  faster Brios  will become the  main mode of transportation for bus service. The agency plans to have three routes, Mesa, Dyer and Alameda, running by 2018.

Rep. Ordaz said  keeping the Brios running later may  help cut down on drunk driving.

"I think when we get all those routes going, we hope that ridership will be increasing and if that happens then we will restructure the  rest of the fixed routes out there. I think maybe we can look at that, but we are talking years," Banasiak said.

"But he also needs to structure the debt in such a way that the debt keeps getting paid as well," Gonzalez added.

Sun Metro officials plan to rework routes in order to save money. The agency's next budget season starts this summer.

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