Testing is underway for return of shuttle service to Sabino Canyon
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Testing is underway for return of shuttle service to Sabino Canyon

Shuttles seen traversing Sabino Canyon are testing equipment that will be used once shuttle service is restored to the popular recreation area.

The U.S. Forest Service said this week that progress is being made to restore the shuttle service under the Regional Partnering Center, which was awarded the new 20-year permit earlier this year.

The Forest Service did not give a time frame on when the new permit would be in place and when the service would resume. Details are still being worked out with RPC, including ticket costs and schedules, according to a news release from the Forest Service.

“Many, many details must be worked through, and agreements and responsibilities must be spelled out,” said Santa Catalina District Ranger Charles Woodard. “We are investing time up front to ensure we provide optimal experiences for visitors to Sabino Canyon.”

It’s expected that RPC will begin the shuttle service using gasoline-powered vehicles and eventually switch over to a fleet of electric shuttles, the forest service said.

Recently, Sun Tran shuttles with “Not in Service” signs have been seen operating in the canyon to test new equipment that will be used. The shuttles are testing a new interpretive program for visitors, the availability of Internet connectivity throughout the canyon and to synchronize educational information with the shuttle stops, the Forest Service said.

In March, Coronado Forest officials announced the selection of Regional Partnering Center, a nonprofit based in Tucson and managed by the Pima Association of Governments, to replace Sabino Canyon Tours Inc., a private concessionaire that had operated the system since 1985. Its permit expired June 30.

A legal challenge to the selection was filed by Sabino Canyon Tours, which has delayed the start of the new service.

More than a million people visit Sabino Canyon every year and about 10 percent use the shuttle service, officials have said.

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