Surprise leaders continue transit study

Commuters exit Valley Metro’s Route 571 Surprise Express bus at Surprise Park and Ride, 13327 W. Bell Road. [Jacob Stanek/Independent Newsmedia]

If you go

What: Surprise transit study public workshop

Where: Community Room at Surprise City Hall, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza.

When: 5:30-7:30 Wednesday, June 13

By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia

City officials are accelerating on the road toward drafting a long-term public transit plan for Surprise.

Staffers last week launched an interactive online tool spur public input and scheduled a workshop for 5:30-7:30 Wednesday, June 13 in the Community Room at Surprise City Hall, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza.

Getting stakeholders involved and incorporating the ideas and needs of Surprise residents is crucial to crafting a successful plan, according to Community Development Director Eric Fitzer.

“It’s important that a wide variety of voices weigh in on this study because transit services are meant to serve a community need,” Mr. Fitzer said. “The study is designed to discover what those needs are – where our residents are traveling, how often, and their likelihood of using various transportation modes.”

He said the online tool – called a wikimap – will provide a tool to foster discussion along with the upcoming workshop meeting.

“The only way we can gather this information is through resident involvement, so we encourage everyone to go online and use our interactive mapping and comment tools and to attend the public meeting to participate in a conversation about potential transit routes,” Mr. Fitzer said.

Officials asked residents to participate in the wikimap (available at surpriseaz.gov/transitstudy) by sharing information their frequent travel routes – including shopping, dining, education, medical and recreation destinations.

By sifting through those routes and comments provided by participants, staffers hope to determine potential ridership capacities needed, as well as ideal routes and transit frequencies to include in their proposal.

Residents can link to the wikimap and participate through 5 p.m., Friday, June 29.

At the workshop, the project team will be available to help anyone who has questions about how to use the wikimap. They will also share more information about public transit options and share a preview of potential routes.

Many needs

Surprise is one of several West Valley communities, which cannot readily access the Valleywide network of public transit options provided through Valley Metro.

This especially hurts low-income seniors and the disabled, who would otherwise rely on public transit to get to important medical appointments and meet other obligations, which can require trips Glendale, Phoenix and beyond.

Northwest Valley Connect is nonprofit agency working to try and fill the gaps for those vulnerable residents by providing free rides through volunteer drivers, as well as connecting those in need to other resources.

Primarily serving Surprise, the Sun Cities and parts of North Peoria, NVC struggles to meet its mission with the help of generous donors and dedicated volunteers in the community, according to the organization’s executive director and mobility manager, Kathy Chandler.

“We had more than 1,700 calls from Surprise residents and provided 1,373 trips in 2017,” Ms. Chandler said. “We continue to recruit volunteers as we are not able to cover all rides requested.”

She said some seniors may not readily understand the online tools available through the city, but drivers will be standing by to help those who wish to attend the upcoming workshop.

“The interactive wikimap is pretty cool, but not easy enough for many of our clients to use,” Ms. Chandler stated. “We are willing to provide transportation to the public workshop for those seniors and persons with disabilities who need a ride, so they can participate.”

Those who need a ride can call 623-282-9300.

Ongoing efforts

According to Bonnie Boyce-Wilson, chairwoman of NVC’s governing board, increasing access to public transit in the West Valley is long overdue.

“The West Valley has far too long been overlooked by Maricopa County’s Transportation planners when it comes to providing transit for residents,” Ms. Boyce-Wilson stated.

She said while working to meet the daily needs of riders in the community, NVC is actively advocating to improve funding for public transit with the help of some West Valley legislators.

Ms. Boyce-Wilson said she hopes legislative efforts next year will steer more funding westward to spur improvements and help those in need.



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