Spectators planning to attend the upcoming air show at Davis-Monthan should plan for two things: a carpool and a long walk.
Unlike previous years, Sun Tran will not be providing shuttle service to the base from off-site parking lots. Attendees will instead have to park in designated areas on base. The show is April 14 and 15.
Sun Tran has offered shuttles for at least the last six air shows, but this year there's simply no money in the budget to continue doing so, said Michele Joseph, its marketing director.
"It's unfortunate. I know it's been very helpful for people in the past," she said.
For the last air show in 2010, between 60 and 70 buses picked up passengers at two locations. Just over 32,000 one-way trips were provided, according to Sun Tran's records.
About 100,000 people attended the two-day display of aerial acrobatics in 2010.
The base can accommodate some 33,000 cars plus several more in overflow parking, but people are strongly encouraged to carpool. And those who park on base will likely have a long trek to the front entrance.
A change in federal regulations prohibits Sun Tran from charging more than its regular base fares and from accepting payment from third parties for its services, said George Caria, deputy director of the city's Transportation Department.
"So even if Davis-Monthan said 'Hey, we want to give you the money,' we couldn't do it," Caria said.
Though Sun Tran has charged riders regular fares for the air-show shuttle, the money doesn't come close to covering the company's expenses for providing additional buses, drivers, customer service representatives, and operations and maintenance staff.
"It definitely costs us money to put the shuttle out there, and we do recoup a portion through passenger fares but … we don't recover nearly enough from passenger fares to pay for the services," said Joseph, of Sun Tran.
Sun Tran then has to pull from its general fund to cover the costs for the shuttle service, she said.
Sun Tran has stopped offering shuttle service for other major events including the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the Rodeo Parade recently, Caria said.
Sun Tran has continued to bus people to University of Arizona football games, but even that is up in the air for the upcoming season, he said.
Davis-Monthan is working with the Tucson Police Department, which will provide traffic control, to make sure spectators can get to the base as smoothly as possible, said 1st Lt. Sarah Godfrey, a spokeswoman for the base.
There will also be several people helping direct people to parking spaces once they get on base, she said.
"We have a traffic plan and lots of people who will be working. … We want to do our best," Godfrey said.
IF YOU GO
Thunder and Lightning over Arizona
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base 2012 Open House
• When: April 14 and 15. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. Performances start around 11 a.m. and end around 4:30 p.m.
• Where: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
• Parking: Enter through the Craycroft gate or Swan gate. Last entry is at 2 p.m. Handicap parking only available at Craycroft gate.
• Cost: Admission is free, but canned food donations for the Community Food Bank will be accepted.
Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4224.