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For two years, base officials monitored usage of the shuttle bus operating between Camp Zama and the Sagamihara and Sagami Depot housing areas nearby.

The two, thrice-daily shuttles rarely had enough passengers to make the service cost-effective, and almost never had the official duty passengers for which it was intended.

So the handful of space-available passengers who caught free rides will now have to look elsewhere after the Army put the brakes on the shuttle service Saturday.

“We couldn’t justify it,” said Lew Barrett, U.S. Army Garrison Japan director of logistics. “We weren’t getting the bang for our buck and we were spending lots of bucks.”

Doing away with the shuttle will save the Army about $437 a month in fuel and driver overtime costs, plus maintenance. Operating the service required four hours of driver overtime daily, Barrett said.

Heavy budget cuts over the past few years, and this year in particular, caused Army officials to look for underused services. Two years ago, garrison commander Col. Garland Williams asked Barrett to monitor usage, after noticing few passengers using the shuttle.

The examination found the shuttle was rarely if ever used by the intended beneficiaries — soldiers going to and from work.

The average shuttle ride included two or three passengers, up to a high of 10 on occasion, Barrett said. Most of the passengers on the evening shuttle came from the schools, when students missed late afternoon after–activity school buses.

Williams said the issue wasn’t taken lightly; he studied it for two years before making the decision.

“This will help with redistributing the drivers and buses to the motor pool to better support other transportation requirements,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The community has been notified well in advance of this impending cease in service.”

Barrett said the motor pool provides cars and drivers for commands that have official needs. But unofficial passengers must now use other means of getting between the three communities, each about five to 20 minutes apart by car.

Students can still take the afternoon activities bus provided by the school district.

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