Sun Tran officials say it isn't going to be an easy fix. The transit line is working nights and weekends to correct a number of problems plaguing its new mandatory fare-card system known as SunGo, Michele Joseph, the director of marketing for Sun Tran and Sun Van, said Friday.
Problems have been found with the website designed to load credit onto the magnetic cards. At the same time, riders are finding their accounts have an inexplicable negative balance in the hundreds of dollars, or they have encountered drivers forcing cash-strapped riders whose cards don't work off the bus despite orders to let them ride for free.
"There isn't just one central core problem," Joseph concedes.
The problem is only compounded by implementing a brand-new payment system to a massive public transit line covering 296 square miles.
Sun Tran officials need to get roughly 600 employees - including more than 400 drivers for a fleet of 243 buses - on the same page about temporary policies to appease riders, especially allowing countless riders who qualify for the economy-pass program to ride the bus line.
There is also a need to get the word out to riders of the bus line, which provided nearly 20 million rides to customers in the 2012 fiscal year.
Not to mention another type of distance problem going on, complicating matters. Sun Tran employees are working with the private vendor, which has teams both in Tucson and in Chicago.
As of late Friday afternoon, Joseph had no timetable to offer for when the bus line will have the problems resolved.
She said she wanted to offer an apology to the entire community for the headaches caused by the new system.
Brian Flagg, who helped found the Tucson Bus Riders Union in 2011, wants to know why Sun Tran chose to roll out the system this summer.
The transit line has been working toward implementing the new system for several years, he said. Why not choose to wait until all the kinks were worked out?
"You can't roll it out on to the street with these kind of problems," he said.
Young said last week the system had undergone a number of tests before its launch on June 30.
Flagg, who oversees the Casa Maria Free Kitchen, said he has heard a number of gripes at the food kitchen about the SunGo system in the last few days.
Mary Harmon, one of the first to complain about the new system, said she spent hours in the company's Special Services Office last week trying to get issues with her economy pass fixed after a mysterious $625 bill popped up in the Sun Tran system.
Reached by phone last week, Harmon said she is one of many riders who rely on the transit system to go shopping, get to doctor's appointments and just generally get around town.
Once qualified, the $15-a-month economy pass allows riders to go anywhere they need to go.
Harmon found herself fighting both with bus drivers unwilling to let her on until her unexplained bill was satisfied and with Sun Tran staffers who had conflicting ideas on how to solve the problem.
A number of readers wrote to say they encountered similar problems last week.
Young said Sun Tran passengers need to call (520) 792-9222 or email email@example.com with their SunGO Card number, contact information and a brief description of the problem they are experiencing.
At least one rider found one issue Sun Tran isn't willing to fix.
A Daily Star reader said the bus line has also slipped in "a stealth increase" in its bus fare - going from selling monthly passes to selling 30-day passes. With 365 days in the year, he argues, the bus line has found a way to get a little more out of his wallet every year.
DOWN THE ROAD
• Starting today, crews working for the Arizona Department of Transportation will begin work on paving new westbound lanes on Interstate 10 near Marsh Station.
Portions of westbound I-10 will be closed west of Cienega Creek, narrowing the interstate to one or two westbound lanes until July 19, when work is expected to be completed.
• Drivers may have started to notice new yellow arrows at some Speedway intersections. The Tucson Department of Transportation has recently installed a number of left-turn flashing amber arrows on Speedway at Mountain, Park and Cherry avenues.
Q: Bob Lewis is concerned drivers are getting tickets for not stopping when making a right turn onto North Oracle Road from West Drachman Street.
"If you are westbound on Drachman and are turning right to go north on Oracle in a dedicated right-turn lane with no stoplight, stop sign or yield sign, do you need to stop for the red light that is set up for the vehicles turning left to go south on Oracle/ Main?"
A: "The eastbound right turn at Oracle Road is what is referred to in the trade as a 'free right,'" wrote Michael Graham, the city's public information officer. "It does not have any traffic control, so it is 'free.' Motorists are obligated to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. However, the right-turning vehicles have their own lane after they execute the turn. Stopping or yielding is unnecessary, and not legally required. The pork-chop island causes the right-turning vehicles to be in their own roadway, and so are not governed by the traffic signal."
Send your Road Q questions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 4850 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85714. Please include first and last names.