Maricopa’s planned transit service got a boost Monday when a number of private companies responded to the city’s call for an informational meeting for potential service providers.
Eight different companies, from the small – like Maricopa Shuttle and Taxi – to the big – like All Aboard America – attended the meeting. Applicants used the opportunity to question Transportation Manager Brent Billingsley and Project Manager Kellee Kelley on what size vehicles would be needed, how the city would handle storage of the vehicles and how a park-and-ride lot would be designed.
Billingsley, who was excited about having so many private companies interested in partnering with the city – and even more may submit proposals by the final deadline of Jan. 21 – said there are still many key issues to be resolved.
“We’re going to have to put pen to paper pretty quick and make some decisions,” Billingsley said, citing a lack of storage space on the part of the city to house the transit vehicles locally.
Kelley and Billingsley said the city may need to partner with a local subdivision developer to temporarily use a private site for a park-and-ride location, citing the city’s lack of space for its own police and public works vehicles and equipment.
“We want residents to be able to put their vehicles in an area that is secure with lighting... and not just dump their cars somewhere,” Kelley said.
The city is looking for 37-passenger, medium-sized transit vehicles – which is somewhere between what most companies had to offer.
“It was clear that maybe some of these folks could come together as a consortium,” Billingsley said, refusing to eliminate any companies from consideration. “These are the experts and it was enlightening to get a room full of experts together.”
While city staff will be able to take their favorite proposal to City Council for approval in a matter of weeks, they must also count on the council to approve funding to apply for the next round of grant funding. Otherwise, the pilot program may not gain wings to take flight as a full-fledged city transit effort two years from now.
“Council gave us a commitment last year three different times that they wanted to go forward with this,” said Billingsley, who has been backed heavily by the Arizona Department of Transportation in this transit foray. “Everybody has got their eye on us to see if transit is going to work in Pinal or not.”