East Valley bus service is getting scaled back in July, following years of cuts to hours, frequency and days of service.
The reductions are minor compared with past cuts, but transit officials acknowledge it’ll be harder for some patrons to board a bus. The cuts were made after reviewing the least productive routes, said Susan Tierney, a spokeswoman for Valley Metro.
“When you have to start cutting that service, then you eliminate some riders and that is unfortunate,” Tierney said “We are a large city and with all of the cities here, people expect to have a transit system that better fits the needs of the community. We’re just hoping that we can minimize some of these cuts in the future. We hope this is the worst of it.”
More than a dozen East Valley changes — mostly cuts — will take effect July 25. Most involve cutting short portions of a route or decreasing frequency.
One significant change is the elimination of bus service on Apache Boulevard in Tempe.
The route had some of the lowest ridership numbers in the city, in part because of redundancy with the Metro light-rail line on Apache. Also, the city is ending free transit service on July 4 and Dec. 31. Transit use is high on those days as residents flood Tempe Beach Park for fireworks. But downtown street closures forced many bus riders to transfer to Metro, which requires payment on those days.
“What was happening was a lot of those folks were buying an all-day pass anyway to take light rail to get to the event,” Tempe spokeswoman Sue Taaffe said.
Tempe’s cuts will save the city $1.6 million.
Mesa’s free Downtown Buzz is being rerouted to avoid redundant service on other roads, which could reduce its ridership. But some new riders may use limited service to a shopping center at Brown Road and Mesa Drive, the only place on the line where passengers can visit a grocery store.
Also, Mesa is ending service to a park-and-ride in a shopping center at McKellips and Gilbert roads. The center’s new owner wanted the space back, said Mike James, Mesa’s transit administrator.
Mesa will avoid losing a lot again by building a permanent facility on McDowell and Gilbert roads. It is set to open in November.
Mesa’s cuts save the city $200,000 and are less dramatic than previous years.
“Last time we had everything and the kitchen sink,” James said. “We’ve made so many cuts over the last couple years that it is getting harder and harder to find routes where we can reduce service without having major impacts on the community.”
Sales tax revenue funds a major portion of transit, and that revenue began ticking up late last year after years of massive declines. Fares cover about 25 percent of operating costs, which is average or better than average compared with other metro areas, Tierney said.
“Even if we charged more at this point, it wouldn’t significantly cover the costs of keeping operations or frequency intact,” she said. “We really rely on those sales tax dollars.”
Transit routes are usually only changed in January and July. But because of changes in federal funding coming later this year, an unusual round of cuts is likely in October. Valley Metro will weigh those options over the next few months, Tierney said.
A public hearing outlining potential cuts is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 12 at the Mesa City Plaza Building, 20 E. Main St. Another is scheduled for noon July 14 at Valley Metro, 101 N. 1st Ave., Phoenix. A list of potential cuts is available at http://www.valleymetro.org/hearings
TRANSIT CUTS BEGINNING JULY 25:
Arizona Ave./Country Club Dr. LINK – Schedule adjustments to enhance trip speed and better coordinate with light rail. Improved weekday service.
Main Street LINK – Schedule adjustments to enhance trip speed and better coordinate with light rail.
Route 40 – Apache/Main St – Tempe portion of route eliminated. Route travels between Superstition Springs Transit Center and the Loop 101 Freeway/Apache Boulevard park-and-ride. Route is renamed Route 40 – Main St. Schedule adjustments.
Route 48 – 48th Street/Rio Salado – Weekday peak service is reduced from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes.
Route 62 – Hardy/Guadalupe – Route will no longer travel on Price Road between Baseline Road and Guadalupe Road. Trips will begin and end at Price Road and Guadalupe Road. Weekday peak service is reduced from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes.
Route 108 – Elliot Road – Portion of the route serving Arizona Mills mall from Priest Drive to Baseline Road is eliminated; service will begin and end at Priest Drive and Elliot Road.
Route 112 – Country Club/Arizona Avenue – Schedule adjustments. Additional weekday trips have been added as well as 60 minute frequency on weekends.
Route 136 – Gilbert Rd – The Gilbert Road and McKellips Road park-and-ride has been eliminated. Schedule adjustments.
Route 520 – Tempe Express – Portion of the route serving River Drive and Alameda Drive is realigned to travel on Broadway Road and McClintock Drive.
Route 521 – Tempe Express – Portion of the route along Price Road from Broadway Road to Baseline Road is eliminated. The route will begin inbound at Baseline Road and Price Road.
Route 532 – Mesa Express – The Gilbert Road and McKellips Road park-and-ride has been eliminated.
Route 535 – Northeast Mesa/Downtown Express – The Gilbert Road and McKellips Road park-and-ride has been eliminated. All trips will begin and end at Power Road.
Route 542 – Chandler/Downtown Express – The outbound trip beginning at 5:45 p.m. is replaced with an outbound trip beginning at 3:35 p.m.
Mesa Downtown BUZZ – Significant routing changes including an extension of service to Brown Road and Mesa Drive on selected weekday trips.
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