Friday, November 10, 2006

A Local Secret -- Yes, There Is a Bus Route!

Read recently about another one of those Civic Task Force affairs in the local press. Subject: urban mass transportation. Needed for the Tri-City area. Guess what I didn't see mentioned in that article -- or any other article having to do with [sound trumpets] Mass Transit in the past several years. You're right -- the fact that there is a little bus already serving Prescott.

There it is -- on its way West on Gurley, heading for the old Fry's shopping center. I know that it exists because I took a ride this afternoon. I rode it a month or so back, too. Out to Basha's at the Frontier Village ... all the way up to the Wal-Mart off Iron Springs Road ... and down Miller Valley back to Gurley. Price: one buck.

An enlightening experience, too. For one thing, most of the passengers are regulars. The driver, Nick, knows them by name. Many are Prescott's forgotten people -- low-paid service workers at various businesses, vets going to and from the VA hospital, young women from a group home over on Washington Street with jobs at a fast food place.

Quoting from a map with time table you can get on the bus, "Public transportation got its start in 1922 when Jack Sills founded Prescott Transit Authority to provide a service to soldiers at Ft.Whipple. For just a nickel each way, Sills drove soldiers to and from downtown Prescott in two different vehicles: a Studebaker touring sedan and a Reo sedan. The service was nicknamed 'The Prescott Whipple Stage'.

"The City of Prescott operated two bus routes for a time, then turned them over to Sills, providing local bus service from 1960 to 1975. Jack Silvernale acquired Prescott Transit Authority in 1975, and ran his public transportation business until 1984. That year, son Steve returned from a stint in the military and took over the bus line operations, turning the PTA into a non-profit entity. Today, the Citibus public transportation service is entirely funded by the PTA's other operations: the Greyhound Agency, Dial-A-Ride and the Airport Shuttle service to Sky Harbor."

For the record, there was one earlier public transportation service -- The Prescott and Mt. Union Railway. Ground was broken in May 1903 for tracks for this streetcar to run between Garden Street near Park Avenue and Ft. Whipple, mainly along Gurley Street. A nickel a pop. Didn't last too long; the automobile did it in, of course.

What I want to know is why the silence about that bus route above? I recall (only too vaguely) something about major scratchiness between the PTA owner and city officialdom. But why is the service never mentioned in the Courier? Would somebody please step forward and explain? (For that matter, PTA doesn't really do much to promote the service -- no mention at PTA's web site, for instance.) If I ran the company, I'd stop hiding the bus and instead paint it bright red with polka-dots. Paint the word "BUS" in letters four feet high on the sides, with arrows. And change the name back to Prescott Whipple Stage. Yes, it's hokey -- but damn it, hokey sells in a town not only obsessed with its past, but actively selling yesterday.

Take a look at this picture from my family archives (my Aussie Bro and wife on left, me and late husband on right) to get a reminder of the difference between Citibus and Prescott Whipple Stage. As a tourist, my sister-in-law just had to have this picture!

4 comments:

Steve G said...

This is a super story. Strange that they wouldn't advertise this. After all it's an inexpensive service. Must be some politics involved.

Granny J said...

I have presumed it's something like the Good Ole Boys agin' a newcomer or something like that.

k said...

Brava!!! I'm so glad you have at least SOME public transportation to help you get around.

Your pic is beautiful. Well, that's always true. I hope you don't mind me saying this, but your husband had a wonderful look about him. Not just his handsomeness, but a strength and goodness and interest in life just seems to radiate out from him.

Your own strength and drive to survive - and to live well - impress me more and more as time goes by. You're a fine example to us all.

Granny J said...

k, now that I've had a day for my swelled head to deflate a bit, I should mention that not only was my late husband a good-looking so-and-so, but he played a mean Bach partita on the piano, a mournful Pretty Polly on the 5-string banjo and was a wonderful companion out in the bush. Wehad nearly 20 years of playing in the local mountains and deserts!

 
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