Citizen petition spurs Scottsdale examination of Valley Metro route

DSC_0105 FOR WEBFor residents of the Vi at Silverstone senior community going out to dinner is not always so simple as getting in the car and taking off.

Although the community offers once weekly transportation for grocery shopping, and travel to doctor and dentist appointments, getting around town takes time and planning.

For 91-year-old resident Carol Ziffrin, traveling to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, where she has volunteered for more than 15 years, means a cab ride from her home to the bus stop. She has had to wait for an hour at the bus stop before she could get a cab ride home, and if she simply takes the cab to and from the museum, she pays around $50 roundtrip.

“There is no public transportation up this way,” Ms. Ziffrin explained. “I found when I stopped driving there is no public transportation. I had to take a cab to the bus stop. Transportation is important. And this is the reason I have taken this on, because it will be a benefit to a number of people.”

Ms. Ziffrin recently collected 255 signatures to petition an extension of the No. 72 bus route, a bus route that stops just short of Silverstone, Grayhawk Plaza shopping center, Appaloosa Public Library, a new apartment complex and other opening businesses.

The needs of the young people, especially, are what motivated her to take this on, Ms. Ziffrin reported. Silverstone employs 211 young people, and many of them are college students who must carpool to and from work, according to Ms. Ziffrin. She has seen young employees wait over an hour after their shift has ended to be picked up by a friend or relative.

The petition proposes to extend the bus route 1.9 miles north to serve the many residents and employees of this growing Scottsdale area.

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield made a motion to send Ms. Ziffrin’s petition to the city manager. The motion received unanimous support at the Jan. 6 city council meeting.

“People need the transportation, and I think it serves a vital interest for Scottsdale to provide it,” Councilwoman Littlefield explained. “This shows a great deal of concern on the part of our council to serve the citizens and their needs. I think it’s needed, and I think it’s a little bit past time.”

But adding even just two more miles to the bus route is not a simple task, explained Paul Basha, transportation director for the city of Scottsdale. Route 72 serves the Tempe and Chandler communities as well, and adding 30 minutes to the Scottsdale end of the route will change the times of all other stops along the line, and change the times of all transfers between Route 72 and other connecting routes, Mr. Basha said.

To add to the confusion, Mr. Basha said the proposed extension would also require another vehicle.

“It would be a certainty that we would need another vehicle,” he said. “We need to make certain we have such a vehicle. We need to make certain we have funds for more drivers.”

But the most important consideration is ridership, officials say.

It takes one to two years before ridership potential is realized, according to Mr. Basha. Of the 255 people to sign Ms. Ziffrin’s petition, Mr. Basha estimated that less than 10 percent would immediately use the extended bus route, and only about 50 percent within the first two years.

There are approximately 12 different bus route extensions being analyzed at this time. The extension to Route 72 is being incorporated into these, allowing Valley Metro to examine changes to bus service holistically, said Mr. Basha.

“We have already begun detailed discussions for changing Route 72 in April 2016,” he said. “Our primary goal is to spend taxpayers’ money wisely. The worst thing we could do is begin service that is incompatible with the community’s need.”

While Valley Metro is in the process of preparing a cost estimate for the extension to Route 72, Mr. Basha estimated another two to three months before everyone’s ideas are finalized. And it wouldn’t be until April 2016 at earliest that the extension could be implemented.

Valley Metro can only make changes to bus service twice per year, and requires several months beforehand to print updated copies of transit schedules.

Editor’s note: Ms. Walker is an editorial intern in the North Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA

Ms. Walker is a freelance journalist under contract with the North Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA

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