Surprise transit study nears conclusion; public invited to forum

[file photo/Jacob Stanek/Independent Newsmedia]

If you go

What: Surprise Transit Feasibility Workshop

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

When: 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18

By Matt RoyIndependent Newsmedia

City officials are seeking public input as they prepare to wrap up a nearly year-long transit feasibility study in Surprise.

Transportation Planning Manager Martin Lucero presented preliminary information and recommendations for a three-phase plan, which could eventually cost as much as $9 million, at the Sept. 4 City Council public work session at City Hall, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza.

The presentation, which compiled input gathered from more than 3,000 individuals through a variety of methods, highlighted the upcoming Transit Feasibility Study Workshop scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18 in the Community Room at City Hall.

Since officials launched the transit study last year, residents have shared their desires and ideas through a survey and at numerous public meetings, as well as by phone and email and an interactive information portal called a wikimap, which allowed participants to highlight and notate specific routes, as well as desired destinations across the West Valley.

City officials relied on more than 1,700 verified online survey responses, 81 percent of which were received from Surprise residents with another 10 percent from others living close by.

Based on compiled recommendations and comments, city officials learned nearly four out of five respondents agreed a quality public transit system will: help bring more jobs to Surprise; will attract more restaurants and businesses; will reduce traffic congestion; and will help commuters save money.

Though nearly two of five respondents said they believe public transit is not important, a majority said bus service along major routes and a circulator bus to run along minor grid lines were the most important options to pursue.

Major grid routes would connect riders to Valley Metro’s valley-wide network of public transit routes; while minor grid routes would provide service only within Surprise, such as potential lines along Greenway or Reems roads, according to Mr. Lucero.

“Bell Road popped up as the number one utilized route then followed by Thunderbird,” Mr. Lucero explained.

Planners have devised a three-phase implementation plan, which would address major grid connections to the Valley Metro system via Bell and Thunderbird in Phase 1 with daily support for riders as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Phase 1 would be implemented over one to three years and officials estimate 500-900 daily riders would use the Bell Road route, while 350-600 riders would use a Thunderbird Road extension.

A second phase would add minor grid connections along Greenway Road and Bullard Avenue on weekdays, also with support for ADA requirements. The minor grid routes would draw 100-300 riders daily, according to official’s estimates.

And a third phase would add more express routes, expand the Greenway and Bullard minor grid routes to include weekends and add daily service along Litchfield Road.

If fully adopted, the three-phase system would cost an estimated $8.8 million to operate annually, though Mr. Lucero suggested a phased system would be implemented over time to educate potential riders and manage the financial burden.

“We don’t recommend starting the system fully, doing a 100 percent, $9 million system up front,” Mr. Lucero said. “The cost would be heavy to bear up front, but also it would be hard for individuals to know how it’s functioning. It would take some time to do the education.”

City staffers will present details of proposed plans, including potential operational costs and financing options for various recommendations at the Sept. 18 workshop.

Mayor Sharon Wolcott praised Mr. Lucero and city staffers for the work done so far to develop the transit plans, as well as those Surprise residents who have participated in public outreach efforts.

“This is a big time for all of us – we’ve all talked about transit and the need for transit,” Ms. Wolcott said. “I think the response you got from the initial survey was very impressive. The public outreach was very effective and has given you an opportunity to really be a leader in the northwest Valley”

Filling the gap

Transit has long presented challenges for those with limited mobility, including seniors and those with disabilities in the Sun Cities and Surprise, where existing routes provide only limited access to the Valley Metro system.

In order to access routes into Glendale and Phoenix for medical office visits and other important meetings, some West Valley riders must seek out special services to fill the gaps in service, such as ride share services, paratransit programs and nonprofit transportation providers, such as Northwest Valley Connect.

According to Bonnie Boyce-Wilson, who chairs NVC’s governing board, adding new connections to public transit is an important and long overdue step for the area’s most vulnerable riders.

“Access to public transit has long been a concern for West Valley residents, especially seniors and those with a disability,” Ms. Boyce-Wilson stated. “Northwest Valley Connect is working to meet immediate needs while advocating with elected officials for longer term solutions. We support efforts by the city of Surprise to find additional transit resources.”

Ms. Boyce-Wilson stated NVC provides free rides to those in need and the organization currently needs call center volunteers and drivers.

Call 623-282-9300 or visit northwestvalleyconnect.org for more information.



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