Some Transportation News.....
Circulator buses will pump up communities
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 27, 2006 12:00 AM
Phoenix is bringing a transportation first to the Valley by rolling out smaller buses in several communities to get residents to neighborhood hotspots, cut down on local traffic and tie into major bus lines.
While other Valley cities, including Glendale, Scottsdale and Tempe, have buses that run looped routes in and around their downtowns, Phoenix is expected to have eight neighborhood shuttles online by 2008.
"Part of the intent is to encourage people to leave their cars behind - to lessen car use," said Marie Chapple Camacho, a spokeswoman for Phoenix Public Transit Department. "There are areas that are pretty congested, and if you take some cars off the road, it helps."
She said the smaller circulator buses also will navigate neighborhood streets that regular buses can't squeeze through and will make stops at regularly visited destinations.
"People will like it because it brings the circulators (buses) closer to homes," Chapple Camacho said.
Such neighborhood service is already available in Ahwatukee Foothills, where Phoenix launched its first neighborhood circulator service five years ago. Since then, the 40-mile route in the southeast Phoenix community has been a hit with residents.
Sue Phlipot, 47, said the Ahwatukee Local Explorer, or ALEX, has been wonderful, especially for the youth in the community. She said Greg, her 15-year-old son, rides it often and spent nearly every day last summer zipping around to shopping malls, the local YMCA and the movie theater.
"It gives them a chance to be independent," she said. "It provides them transportation at different times of the day, to school and back home if they stay after school. For those in high school and who are a little older but don't have cars, they use ALEX to get to their jobs or to the library."
City officials are hoping for similar success in other parts of the city.
Phoenix is planning to unveil more neighborhood buses in Maryvale and Sunnyslope by mid- to late 2007. Those will be followed in 2008 by others in the following areas: Desert Ridge, Desert Sky, Laveen, South Mountain and northwest Phoenix.
The small buses will cost $50,000 to $65,000, depending on the model, and 20 will be ordered this year. Each route will get more than one bus.
Annual operating costs are expected to be about $600,000 per route.
Residents of Desert Ridge in northeast Phoenix are already meeting to discuss possible routes and potential stops.
"The growth has been totally phenomenal," said Nick Meris, vice chairman of the Desert Ridge Homeowners' Network and a member of a committee that will help decide on the routes and stops.
He said the shuttles will "move people from one area to another without them having to get in their car, driving a short distance and then having difficulty finding a place to park."
The service will be a boon to residents of the 5,700-acre community that now has about 2,500 homes and a vibrant mix of commercial and retail development.
In other cities, circulators are geared toward moving shoppers and visitors around downtown shops, restaurants and other businesses.
The Scottsdale Trolley is a bus that meanders through the city's downtown art and shopping districts.
In Tempe, circulator buses zip around Arizona State University and make some stops in nearby neighborhoods.
Glendale's shuttles run through its historic downtown and weave into some neighborhood streets, but mostly stick to major thoroughfares.
Glendale transportation officials are contemplating the idea of adding shuttles to bridge the four-mile gap between the city's historic downtown, known for antique shops and restaurants, and its blossoming sports and entertainment district.
"We have to do everything we can to make that connection," said Julie Frisoni, a Glendale spokeswoman. "It's for more than just the residents. Many of the people out there will be visitors, and we have to make it seamless, make it easy for them to get downtown."
Making it easier for people to get around is the bottom line.
"Our goal in public transit is to provide additional options," said Councilman Greg Stanton, who represents Ahwatukee Foothills. "It's not just about traditional buses, but it includes convenience services, like neighborhood circulators and light rail, which is coming soon. They an important part of the transportation spectrum."
Finally....this is the first step in providing comprehensive bus service to communities, especially the ones where the bigger bus routes cannot squeeze into the smaller streets, and provide service to those who live smack in the middle of the grid system (too far away to walk to an arterial street). It's a good step in the right direction, and although a shuttle won't directly service my neighborhood (35th Avenue and Missouri, in the Alhambra community), it will serve others that really need it, like Maryvale. Add this, along with expanded bus service and the light rail system, and you will start to have a much better transportation service in place...better than before, that's for sure.