OPINION: Scottsdale transit debate is more than political football

The Scottsdale transit debate is more than just a  “campaign conversation” for those who rely on public transit or those who would rely on it if we had a system that was user friendly.

By user-friendly I mean a system that isn’t plagued with frequent break downs thanks in part to the age of the “fleet,” a system that maintains a better than average time record, a system with vehicles that are comfortable and accessible for all passengers.

Sadly, the system we currently rely on is an outdated conglomeration of buses and trolleys, which is far from adequate given the fact that city officials have paved every vacant piece of land with multi family abodes for the luxury class —  which they apparently believe will create invisible traffic.

Perhaps this is part of a well orchestrated effort to force transit down the exhaust pipes of residents. Whatever the reason, the reality seems to be that increased traffic congestion is part of Scottsdale’s future courtesy of your elected officials and their vision for the community. So, why do we allow the transit debate to focus on modes of transit that some find unpalatable? Why do we allow the discussion to be “driven” by those who seldom if ever use transit?

Granted Scottsdale prides itself on its reputation as a premier community for the luxury class but until the working, non luxury class is swept out of town to a surrounding community (Mesa), they might appreciate a little consideration. It’s doubtful that the Scottsdale elite will willingly board a bus or trolley to commute to the gym, the spa, work or wherever they go.

I feel confident that they would never tolerate what the average transit user is forced to endure: a trolley system faced with regular breakdowns, inadequate/no air conditioning on older vehicles as well as a variety of issues that make it difficult to open /close doors and issues that, according to some drivers, make it difficult to gauge speed.

Other issues that have plagued the system for years include wheelchair lifts that often do not function making the trolleys less accessible for disabled passengers.

Mayoral candidate Bob Littlefield claims the primary issue with the current system is routing. That may be true, but I wish to assure him that there are a variety of other issues that plague the system and have for some time.

Perhaps those in charge of making transit decisions for our community — politicians and bureaucrats — need to leave their vehicles at home for at least a month and rely only on our current transit system to transport them to work, campaign stops, fundraisers and lunches with area developers.

The best time to try transit is in the summer however when you can enjoy the complementary nonexistent air conditioning. Note. Extra deodorant may be required. It should be provided free of charge as an — incentive.

This would give our elected officials an adequate opportunity to assess the fleets condition otherwise known as the shake rattle and roll express for reasons which will become — obvious. If they accept this challenge (doubtful) I would suggest that they leave their council name badges at home.

If elected officials wish to place all their transit eggs in one basket and rely on buses and trolleys with an assist from Uber, spaceships, magic carpets, flying broomsticks and other cutting edge technologies that’s all well and good.

However, if these modes of transit are going to be the work horses of Scottsdale’s transit future it’s past time to address long standing issues that users have experienced for years. This is not about placing blame or disparaging the reputation of Scottsdale’s beloved trolley system.

It’s been my observation that employees and customers of any business are in a far better position to evaluate a company and the service it provides than the bureaucrats sitting behind a desk. They should be considered part of the solution rather than annoyances to be dealt with.

Several weeks ago I relayed concerns regarding service issues on behalf of some passengers and drivers. I sent an email to Council Member Kathy Littlefield who forwarded it to a Scottsdale transit manager. Having tried this method a few years prior due to similar concerns, I knew what the outcome would be. The concerns were apparently communicated to the higher ups at the transit company in a never ending game of pass the buck.

Once again, drivers were cautioned not to discuss any service issues with me. I do not go out of my way to solicit this information. It is common knowledge and those who use the system are all too familiar with its problems.

Rather than pretend these issues are much ado about nothing, we would do better to address these concerns once and for all rather than sweeping them under the nearest rug. If the city wants to get into  the transit game, they would do well to value input from those most familiar with the system – those who actually use it.

Finally, for those who never use transit but are eager to judge it, for those afraid to try transit and for those more comfortable in a Benz than a bus, I encourage you to leave your comfort zones and hop aboard.

Oh sure you may encounter the usual transit suspects — those who might benefit greatly from improved personal hygiene (a bath) and those who engage in animated conversations with — themselves, but hey , it’s all part of the transit experience.

Think of it as diversity on wheels. You can’t do much about it. You can do something to improve the system and make it more user-friendly.

Then and only then will we have a system that lives up to Scottsdale’s much hyped reputation as a world class community. If not, some may wish to familiarize themselves with the term — giddy up!

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