Planners reflect on rapid transit options on Arizona Avenue SanTan Sun News

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By Ken Sain, Editor-in-chief

Between 7:45 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. Tuesday morning, only four people were waiting for a bus on the north side of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard.

While this may hardly appear to represent the demand needed during peak weekday rush hours to support a light rail line or dedicated bus rapid transit lanes, Valley Metro is looking to the future and trying to anticipate future needs.

He recently published a report discussing the possibility of some sort of rapid transit option along Arizona Avenue.

“It’s a long-term study, we’re looking at 20 to 30 years,” said Jason Crampton, the city’s senior transportation planner.

The study didn’t make a lot of recommendations. The few he did are:


Arizona Avenue is the prime location of a rapid transit line.


If the light rail is in the future for Arizona Avenue, Valley Metro would likely have the service stop at Pecos Avenue.


If a fast bus route is the preferred route, this service would end at Park and Ride station next to Tumbleweed Park on Germann Road.


If Chandler is serious about pursuing any transit project in the future, then he must develop pedestrian centers that would be ideal locations for future transit stops.

“Without federal financial assistance, it’s very, very difficult to build” a high-capacity mass transit system, Crampton said.

Deron Lozano, who was the project manager for the Arizona Avenue study at Valley Metro, agreed.

“Federal funds are very competitive,” Lozano said. “They are looking at how their investment will affect local communities. “

So it’s not a scenario that comes first, chicken or egg. Lozano said that in order to get the kind of federal dollars needed to build a dedicated railroad or rapid bus line, the city will need to develop tall pedestrian zones that rely on this system.

He said there is a rail line outside of Chase Field in downtown Phoenix because they know there will be 30,000 people who will have to get in and out of that area.

So, to have the best chance of securing the federal dollars needed to build a rapid transit system, the city must first meet demand. Crampton said the decision would be up to Council and his vision for Arizona Avenue.

Crampton said one of the challenges in this study is trying to figure out where personal transportation is heading.

The future of autonomous vehicles is looming. Are people going to give up their cars and subscribe to services where a car picks you up, drops you off, and then moves on to the next customer? What impact will this have on public transport? Will it lead to more cars on the road as all these driverless vehicles ply the streets to get to their next customer?

“If you have that level of people on the move, you have to move them fast,” Lozano said. “There will always be some type of demand. “

Valley Metro’s Capital Planning Director Omar Peters said there are some things you can count on going forward.

“There is uncertainty, but there are certain assumptions we can make,” he said. “(Public transit) is still the best way to move a lot of people. “

To accommodate the direction the transportation industry might take, Crampton said he used four different scenarios to plot needs and demands along Arizona Avenue.

The first is to assume that nothing changes. They called it the baseline.

The following scenario assumes that most people will own their own autonomous vehicle in the future. The study predicts that there would be a four percent drop in ridership if this were the case.

Next, they looked at a mix of personal and shared autonomous vehicles, including the use of some micro-transport by driverless cars. In this case, they predict a 14 percent increase in transit ridership.

The final storyline involved personal and shared autonomous vehicles with a high-capacity transit system on Arizona Avenue, as well as additional bus service. It forecasts a 35 percent increase in ridership.

If they do build it, however, is there room for a system on Arizona Avenue that doesn’t affect traffic for everyone?

Crampton said yes, they have the space to add dedicated train or bus lines on Arizona Avenue.

“Where there are three lanes in one direction, it would go down to two,” he said.

However, he said he didn’t think there would ever be less than two lanes in one direction, saying they could do things to make it work on areas of the road that currently only have two. lanes.

The final report is out and the study is complete. He offered a model for the city if it is to pursue a major transit project over the next decades.

According to experts, the city must now create poles where there is a strong pedestrian traffic with its economic development plans.

Without it, it would be difficult to secure the federal funds needed to build a rail line or dedicated bus lanes.


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