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Tempe Invites Public Comment on Proposed Bus, Light Rail Service Cuts

March 1, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Tempe officials explained options for cost-cutting reductions in bus and light rail service and heard concerns in a Tuesday evening public comment meeting.

The proposed cuts include increased wait times on buses and light rail and the complete elimination of Sunday service.

Around 40 Tempe residents and those who pass through the city’s transit system told officials how the service reductions would impact their lives.

Tempe resident Jeff Sargent relies on the blue neighborhood buses to get around the city.

“I always use the Orbit to get downtown because parking and traffic is a zoo,” Sargent said prior to the meeting. “I rode down here on Orbit Earth.”

Sargent said his biggest concern is keeping the Orbit buses running every day on a reasonably frequent schedule. He said he does not like the idea of eliminating Sunday service.

Sargent said Tempe might lose him as a transit customer if cuts run too deep.

“In that case, I’ll have to use my car, and that’s sad,” he said.

Greg Jordan, transit administrator for the city of Tempe, said the goal is to cut costs in ways that cause as little impact on customers as possible.

“Ridership is a key factor in determining which routes we change or eliminate,” Jordan said in the meeting. “It’s about efficiency and productivity.”

Jordan said there has been an average nationwide 12 percent dip in transit budgets while Tempe is coping with a 29 percent drop in funding.

Tempe funds transit service through a half-cent sales tax enacted in 1996.

“There is a firewall between the funds for transit service and those for the city’s general fund,” Jordan said. “The city can’t draw from transit, and the reverse is also the case.”

Tempe resident Rachel Phillips said prior to the meeting that she doesn’t like the cuts, but is grateful for the service.

She expressed concerns about her continued ability to get to work and take her children to the Boys and Girls Club.

“I would not be able to get to work and my kids wouldn’t be able to utilize an after-school program,” she said.

She said she was surprised with the meeting’s low turnout.

“The customers who complain, but aren’t here, I tell them I don’t want to hear anything about it because you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” Phillips said.

Jordan said the public comment meetings are held in two rounds.

Round one involves the presentation of 18 options for reducing transit service.

The feedback from the first round will be used to aid in refinement of the options into proposals for consideration in the second round of meetings to be held in late March.

The next first-round public comment meeting will be held on March 1 at 6 p.m. in the Pyle Adult Recreation Center at 655 E. Southern Ave.

Information about the proposed July 2010 service changes, the dates, locations and times of public comment meetings and an online survey are available on the city of Tempe’s Web site.

Categories: transportation