Your Urgent Help is Needed!

Ask Martha McSally to help get Sabino Canyon an updated, quiet and non-polluting shuttle

Deadline March, 2017

To all Friends of Sabino Canyon,

Those of us who use and enjoy Sabino Canyon regularly know that the Shuttle, with its noisy engines, choking fumes, and intrusive narration over loudspeakers, detracts from the experience of being in our beautiful riparian corridor.

Many people believe, incorrectly, that this is a government run shuttle operation. It isn’t. The operation is a private company, Sabino Canyon Tours (SCT). The SCT permit/contract expires mid-2017. The US Forest Service gets a very small return from SCT relative to the value of tickets sold.

We need your voice!

There is a critically important deadline coming up and your letter may help a great deal. In the next month or so the Forest Service (USFS) is likely to award SCT, which has been providing this shuttle service for over 30 years, the right of first refusal to bid on a new 20-year operating permit.

Absent significant political pressure, we have come to understand that this will be difficult to derail. However, on March 7 we learned that many layers of the Tucson community are unhappy about this SCT operation too.

The only tool we have available to dissuade the US Forest Service from going forward with the right of first refusal is citizen, business, and association letters (massive numbers of letters in very short order).

Deadline March, 2017

Specifically, our request to you is very simple – Please write a letter (details to follow) requesting the USFS open the RFP (request for proposals) to competition so other entities can bid for the new contract. This should not be a closed award process.

We have reason to believe that there are experienced transport companies willing to bring in electric shuttles, but it may not happen without your help. Any new operator is likely to be required to take credit cards, incorporate quiet, in-vehicle narration directly to smartphones, and we hope will become an actual part of the collaborative community of canyon users.

Whatever your politics, it does not matter.

Sabino Canyon is in the district of Representative Martha McSally. We believe she may help us. To do so, she will need evidence of widespread sentiment about the need for a change. We can get a change by opening the RFP broadly to others. Please write to her today!

Representative Martha McSally
Second District Arizona
4400 East Broadway Blvd., Ste 510
Tucson, AZ 85711

Some suggested emphases…
An RFP for a 20-year operating permit should require:

  1. All electric or plug-in electric hybrid technology to approach zero emissions into the narrow corridor of air in Sabino.
  2. Quiet announcements and quiet engines through the 7.4-mile round trip from the Visitor Center to Stop 9 in the canyon. Canyon information could be delivered in a variety of quieter and more efficient ways using modern digital technologies.
  3. A safe ride for passengers. Last year at least one child was ejected and a woman suffered a cardiac event due to reckless driving.
  4. The new operator should be required to accept credit or other normal forms of payment for services. Currently it is cash-only.
  5. The new operator ideally should allow one-way rides at reduced price (currently one-way is full price). This way visitors can use the shuttle as a means of deeper access into the canyon.
  6. There are over 400 Sabino Canyon volunteers who donate their free time – totaling over 25,000 hours per year (equivalent to 12 FTEs). The Shuttle operator should be part of this community dedicated to the canyon.

A letter is suggested below. If you are willing personalize it, and add your own thoughts, it will have more impact.

PLEASE use your own return address so you can be identified (even if you do not you live in Ms. McSally’s district).

Just copy it and paste the general form into your word processor and fill in where appropriate. Items that need to be changed are underlined.

March 17, 2017
Your Address with ZIP


Representative Martha McSally
Second District Arizona
4400 East Broadway Blvd., Ste 510
Tucson, AZ 85711

Dear Congresswoman McSally,

I am a resident of (Tucson/elsewhere) and regularly visit Sabino Canyon. I have enjoyed Sabino for X years. The canyon is a remarkable jewel – the best and most pristine example of the Sonoran Desert, Arizona Upland region. However, the Sabino shuttle operation is a stain on this beautiful place.

The current shuttle operator, SCT, needs to go and a new contract should be awarded through an open bidding process to all interested parties.

The current operation is antiquated and needs to be completely changed. The change should include: new electric or hybrid electric shuttles, quiet narration – delivered directly to smartphones, the ability to pay for a ride by credit rather than the current cash-only operation, reduced fares for one-way travel, and assurance of a safe ride that follows roadway speed limits of 15 mph. This can be accomplished by finding an operator with a commitment to Sabino and one who can bring fresh imagination.

Please urge the USFS to open the competition for a new shuttle permit award broadly so novel thinking and community-spirited companies can contribute to thinking about how we will transport our visitors through Sabino Canyon for the next 20 years.



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