Many Arizonans not using public transit - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Many Arizonans not using public transit

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Posted: Saturday, April 11, 2009 10:16 pm | Updated: 1:41 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Getting There: Traffic jams don’t have to be a fact of life in the East Valley. We just have to pull off the road. That thought struck me last week as I read a report touting the need for more mass transit by the Arizona PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund. The paper can be found at www.arizonapirg.org.

Traffic jams don’t have to be a fact of life in the East Valley. We just have to pull off the road.

That thought struck me last week as I read a report touting the need for more mass transit by the Arizona PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund. The paper can be found at www.arizonapirg.org.

Here’s the part I found to be sad and entirely unsurprising: “74.8 percent of Arizonans still drive to work alone while only 2.1 percent take public transportation, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to entice new riders to transit.”

Now, why is that?

Here’s a possible reason: Arizona simply isn’t home to enough people who think of buses and light rail as viable options for getting around.

When AZ PIRG released its paper at the Capitol on Thursday, in attendance was Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn. He was there because he supports mass transit — as do many of his constituents.

Dunn credited Chandler’s demographics: young professional families with high-wage incomes. Maybe these people, before getting jobs at Intel or wherever, he said, lived in cities such as San Francisco with popular mass-transit systems. Tempe is like that, too, he said (although Dunn noted his city is, politically, more conservative).

But Dunn pointed out Chandler residents still want their cars as an option. He spoke of a long-ago vote on whether to expand the city’s bus system. The measure failed, to much surprise, and following up led to the conclusion citizens were not about to fund transit when they hadn’t seen a mile of freeway construction.

Now, Chandler has its freeways. Yet so does Mesa, and many in that city still believe light rail won’t work in the Valley. (But let the record show the Sycamore park-and-ride lot is the busiest of the entire 20-mile system.)

So, what will it take to get more East Valley residents out of their vehicles and into mass transit?

Consider this something to ponder for the next time you’re not moving on the 10, 60, 101 or 202.

Connecting the dots between mass transit and traffic jams, AZ PIRG’s report goes on to state: “Public transportation prevented almost 3 million hours of traffic delay — equivalent to about 68,000 work weeks — in the Phoenix metropolitan area in 2006, saving the economy more than $55 million in wasted time and lost productivity.”

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