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COTA launches first public bus

THE Commonwealth Transit Authority on Monday launched its first public bus that can also transport passengers with disabilities.

Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres led government officials in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which unveiled the bus stop signs at the Paseo de Marianas, the Commonwealth Health Center,  Middle Road and Northern Marianas College.

The governor’s special assistant for public transportation, Alfreda Camacho, said the project which was  conceptualized in 2015 took two and a half years to finally materialize.

Despite the inclement weather, numerous eager students, Northern Marianas College officials and potential bus riders showed up to greet Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres and party as they arrived on the maiden voyage of the new Commonwealth Office of Transportation Authority public transit bus at NMC campus, Monday afternoon. Photo by David Butterfield

The 22-seat bus, which cost $144,000, was funded by the U.S. Office of  Insular Affairs.

In his fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, the governor allotted $1.1 million for the COTA transit system

Camacho said the fare is $2 for a two-hour ride but senior citizens, persons with disabilities, veterans and students will be charged $1 only.

“This is big and historical and the first in the CNMI so we are very excited,” Camacho said. “We have five routes and this will be the first of the five routes. We have Garapan now and NMC and the other routes are Capital Hill, Kagman, As Matuis, Tanapag, etc. We are still working on the other buses. We are trying to get more and right now we have three buses up for bidding and the bid will close on April 16.”

“This is good for our community, especially those who don’t have a vehicle, but they to go to work, a job interview or a medical checkup,” the governor said. “We are excited to make it successful. We will also provide this service on Tinian and Rota.”

Rep. Angel Demapan applauded the administration and COTA for making public transportation a reality. “But we need everybody to take care of it,” he added.

The governor, Demapan, Vice Speaker Janet Maratita, Saipan Mayor David Apatang and Rep. Donald Barcinas rode the bus from Paseo de Marianas to NMC.

Upon arriving at the college, they were welcomed by NMC President Carmen Fernandez and vice president Cynthia Deleon Guerrero.

NMC students then boarded the bus which transported them to their respective destinations.

 “I am happy,” Fernandez said. “This is good for our students and we are happy that our students are able to have transportation now. This is very helpful to our students, and the bus is very nice and professional.”

Camacho said the vans for persons with disabilities are still available. Each van can transport up to seven persons and two in wheelchairs.

The COTA bus operates Monday  to Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturday, from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The bus will make a total of 12 trips on weekdays for every 120 minutes. For more information, call COTA at 664-2682.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/103563-cota-launches-first-public-bus

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