Klapp: let’s celebrate the Scottsdale Transportation Master Plan

Important additions to Scottsdale’s Transportation Master Plan were lost in the recent rhetoric about Light Rail’s elimination. Yet, residents are celebrating the plan for its immediate attention to transportation needs of seniors, others who may not drive for numerous reasons, as well as services for employees and visitors in the Scottsdale Airpark area.

Suzanne Klapp

Suzanne Klapp

The plan designates two new trolley routes. One, the Cactus Road Trolley, generally serves the area east of Pima Road, north of Doubletree and southwest of the Central Arizona Project canal.

This route specifically will link to the Via Linda Senior Center.  Residents in this eastern area of the city currently have very limited bus service and no trolley service at all. Compare this need with the numerous trolley routes and bus routes available today in downtown and in southern Scottsdale, including the popular trolley service for the Granite Reef Senior Center near McDowell Road.

This new trolley route has also allowed a change in the current Hayden Road bus route to now serve Hayden all the way from Shea Boulevard to Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, through a portion of the Airpark.

The other new trolley route is in the Airpark and generally will circulate and serve properties both east and west of the Airport runway. This route is coupled with a new 15-minute bus service that makes one stop at Fashion Square, runs along Scottsdale Road with a second stop at the Thunderbird Road Park-and-Ride facility.

These Airpark routes will provide great transportation alternatives for both employees and employers.
Scottsdale government has limited transit dollars that must be allocated appropriately to the needs throughout the city.  The Master Plan maximizes the use of those dollars to northern and eastern parts of the city where service has been poor to non-existent.

So what about the future of high-capacity transit some may ask?

A good rule about a high-capacity transit consideration is to look at current transit options that are stretched beyond their capabilities. A 10-minute frequency bus route added in April to Scottsdale Road serving Fashion Square and heading south to connect to the Tempe Light Rail transit station is attracting no more riders than the one available less frequently last year.

Granted, the route is new and riders may still not be aware of the added service, and it is 110 degrees — even hotter in the full sun. Yet, unless the low ridership on this route grows considerably and causes need for even greater capacity, a Light Rail or modern street car is not a cost effective solution.

Some cities have added rail lines to spur what some call “transit oriented development” to incent property development in areas such as downtowns or blighted and neglected neighborhoods. Scottsdale’s booming downtown is the envy of the state, and the McDowell Road corridor is breathing new life because the free market has seen the possibilities and is investing in new housing and commercial enterprises. No addition of rail, or even the promise of rail, has caused this enthusiasm for energizing our downtown or our southern corridor of commerce and neighborhoods.

I sympathize with those who express the need to draw more tourists into Scottsdale with a better connection to Sky Harbor Airport. I agree that the city and the hospitality industry need to talk about this. That conversation could now be helpful particularly with the distraction of rail off the table allowing other ride sharing options to be explored.

Instead of government funding fixed transit to connect tourists to hotels and resorts in Scottsdale, let’s talk with the private sector about more flexible vans, shuttles or trolleys picking up visitors at the airport and dropping them off at locations along Scottsdale Road all the way to our hotels and resorts in northern Scottsdale.

Realistically, any possibility of a rail connection, if it were in the plan, would not be available until 2035. We need a solution that can be implemented in the near term.

Another real problem to address for bus and trolley riders is the lack of shade at many stops throughout Scottsdale. I propose considering an “Adopt a Bus Stop” program that taps the private sector — businesses and neighbors — to contribute resources to a bus stop nearby so that we can achieve a goal of shade or shelter at every bus stop in the city. More people might ride a bus or trolley if the waiting experience were more tolerable, and that accomplishment would serve people throughout the community.

Editor's Note: Ms. Klapp is a member of Scottsdale City Council.

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