Scottsdale is poised to slash its transit budget, a move that would leave senior citizens waiting at bus stops longer, cause students to scramble to make class on time and force commuters to wake up earlier.
Reacting to the current budget crunch, city officials have proposed a $1.4 million reduction in bus service that would affect 6,300 passengers each day.
If approved, Scottsdale will eliminate its only two express routes to downtown Phoenix and reduce bus frequency on six routes to 60 minutes from 30.
"I just worry about the seniors," said bus driver Anita Willis. "A lot of them depend on it coming every 30 minutes. They don't want to stand out there in the hot sun. If they miss their bus they will have to wait 60 minutes for the next one."
Willis has driven a bus for Valley Metro on Route 76 between Scottsdale Community College and Arizona State University for five years.
Scottsdale's Emily Maid, 76, boards Willis' bus at Miller and Camelback roads almost daily to run errands and take classes at SCC.
"I moved here because of the fine bus service," Maid said. "I don't know what I am going to do. Sixty minutes is a long time."
At 14, Saguaro High School freshman Stephen Morse isn't old enough to have a driver's license and depends on Route 76 to get to class on time.
"I probably won't take it if I have to wait longer," he said. "I'll just get a ride somewhere else."
Ridership on Scottsdale bus routes peaks between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Mondays, said John Little, Scottsdale transportation director. Fridays are when the bus is used the least during weekdays, and Sunday ridership is even lower.
The Scottsdale City Council will consider the proposed cuts at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.
"I am very reluctant to support cuts," Mayor Mary Manross said. "I hope it is as painless as possible."
Scottsdale has a contract with Valley Metro to provide bus service, but the city controls its level of service.
"What makes these cuts so difficult is that there is no route that carries no riders," Little said. "No matter what you cut, someone will be impacted."
Little said the affected routes were chosen because of low ridership. Routes that fell below the city's goal of one rider for every 1.8 bus miles traveled were targeted.
"If we cut back more, we will be forcing people to drive more," said Michael Brady of Scottsdale, who depends on Route 76 to travel to Tempe for classes at Arizona State University. "It doesn't make sense to reduce the frequency when they are trying to encourage more people to take the bus."
Scottsdale resident Lisa Clark, who works for a county agency in downtown Phoenix, uses the Route 510 express weekly. The route carries about 100 passengers a day.
"I do have alternate means of transportation if they cut it," Clark said. "But a city the size of Scottsdale should have transportation downtown."
Route 512, the city's second express route to downtown Phoenix, carries about 50 passengers a day.
About 1,500 employees and volunteers at both Scottsdale Healthcare campuses depend on the affected routes, said spokesman Brian McAnallen.
"I'm one of those north Scottsdale residents (who critics) say never rides the bus," said Dixie Lee Melkus, 73, a volunteer at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea hospital. "We are just going to be waiting around longer and longer."