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Valley Transit Service Reductions Hit Disabled Hard

July 24, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

This enterprise story was recently published on a local Phoenix-area news website.

Going to work, getting an education, visiting friends and relatives and other activities could be severely cut for disabled valley residents when July transit services reductions go into effect.

Transit officials said the service cuts are necessary due to declining city sales tax revenue and a loss of state funding.

“The state Legislature repealed the Local Transportation Assistance Funds in March,” said Bryan Jungwirth, chief of staff with the Regional Public Transportation Authority. “We’ve become one of five states that no longer provide funding for public transportation at the state level. The others are Alabama, Alaska, Colorado and Hawaii.”

Susan Tierney, RPTA’s public information officer, said the loss of the $22 million from the state funds, which came from lottery proceeds, hits some Valley communities particularly hard.

“The state took away a funding source we had for 30 years,” Tierney said. “So, what happens is that anyone who was using these funds for operations is impacted immediately. The city of Chandler doesn’t have a dedicated funding source, so they were relying on this money to support transit.”

“We’re concerned that cities like Chandler and rural communities like Yuma may be forced to completely shut down their transit services due to the loss of these funds,” Tierney said.

Tierney said the service cuts include fewer bus and light rail trips each day, reduced service hours for the entire transit system, the elimination of some bus routes and significant restrictions on the availability of Dial-A-Ride, a paratransit system that transports people with disabilities and senior citizens who are not able to ride the bus.

She said Dial-A-Ride served nearly 11,500 Maricopa County residents with disabilities in 2009.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that we provide door-to-door transportation to people who are unable to ride the bus whenever they live within three quarters of a mile of an existing route,” Tierney said. “We must respond to funding cuts by readjusting Dial-A-Ride as our other services are reduced.”

According to a 2009 transit performance report, providing Dial-A-Ride service comes at a steep price. Each trip taken on Dial-A-Ride costs $36.44 as compared to $4.49 for a ride on the bus.

David Carey, advocacy specialist with Arizona Bridge to Independent Living, said Phoenix will implement cuts and restrictions to Dial-A-Ride on July 26.

“We’re losing two hours of service from 10 p.m. to midnight,” Carey said. “Senior citizens without disabilities are no longer able to use Dial-A-Ride and we’re also no longer allowed to choose to go somewhere whenever we want because we must now make reservations at least 24 hours in advance.”

Carey said using Dial-A-Ride is challenging enough without these new cuts.

“Suppose you have a doctor’s appointment, but they’re behind schedule and you’re not seen for a couple of hours,” Carey said. “You allowed two and a half hours for this appointment, but your ride arrives before you are finished. Now, either you have to leave before your business is done or you’re just stuck without a ride home. You can’t just call Dial-A-Ride and ask them to pick you up later.”

Donna Powers, senior program coordinator with the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council, said the reductions in bus and light rail service will greatly extend her daily work commute and aggravate a spinal cord injury that makes it dangerous for her to travel long distances outdoors.

“Part of the spinal cord injury is the inability to control internal body temperature,” she said. “When it’s over 100 degrees, it becomes a life-threatening event to have to travel a far distance.”

She said three seemingly minor changes will turn her 50-minute commute from Tempe to her office near 50th and Washington streets in Phoenix into a trip lasting at least an hour and a half.

“They’re proposing changing the frequency of the No. 81 from 15 minutes to 20 minutes, but it’s not exactly the most timely route so it’ll probably be more like 30 minutes,” Powers said. “This is going to delay my transfer to the light rail, which is also reducing in frequency from 10 to 12 minutes. If I’m really lucky and I make every connection, I have an 8-minute wait to catch my last bus. That’s going to blow everything out of the water because they’re proposing that the frequency of the No. 1 change from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.”

She said the presence of the light-rail route alongside the No. 1 doesn’t help because the stops are too far apart.

She said she wouldn’t trust Dial-A-Ride as an alternative to make it to work on time.

“In this case it’s not consistent,” Powers said. “I may get to work on time one day, be 25 minutes late the next day and get there 30 minutes early the next.”

Tierney said a good public transit system is a key part of any vital metropolitan area.

“Only about 25 percent of the funding for transit, on average, comes out of the fare box,” she said. “The rest of it is subsidized by local sales taxes and state funding just like other critical services such as the fire and police departments. You may never use it, but many in the community need it in order to get to jobs, school and medical appointments.”

Categories: transportation

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

Phoenix Area Dial-A-Ride Fares Increase on July 1, 2009

May 26, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We have been asked by a Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) official to post the following important announcement concerning fare increases for Dial-A-Ride customers in the greater Phoenix area.

  • 602.253.5000
  • TTY 602.261.8208

Due to tax revenue shortfalls and increased operating costs, fares will increase on July 1. The new fare structure is designed to maintain transit service at levels that Valley residents need, although service cuts may continue to occur with the ongoing decline in sales tax revenues. Sales taxes provide a majority of the funding for bus and light rail service.

New East Valley ADA Paratransit Fares



Why have fares increased?

Valley Metro’s funding is based primarily on sales tax revenue. Since people are not buying as much in this economy, sales tax revenues for transit have declined by millions of dollars. At the same time, the cost to provide transit service is continuously rising.

How does this affect Dial-a-Ride fares?

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Paratransit Dial-a-Ride fares must keep pace with the bus/light rail fares. In the East Valley, the ADA Dial-a-Ride fares are $2.50 beginning July 1, 2009 with an increase of $.50 each July 1 thereafter until the ADA fare reaches $3.50. Please note that non-ADA fares for East Valley Dial-a-Ride are not increasing. In Phoenix, ADA Paratransit Dial-a-Ride fares will be two times the local bus fare or $3.50. For seniors and persons with disabilities using non-ADA services, fares are changing as follows: $1.50 to $2.50 for same day/first zone fare and $.50 to $1.50 for same day/each additional zone. For other city Dial-a-Ride fares, please contact your local Dial-a-Ride provider for specific changes to their fares. For your local Dial-a-Ride provider, visit or call 602.253.5000.

Categories: ADA, transportation


May 10, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Please allow me to present all of you with a thought provoking question. Feel free to comment.

If something bad happens and all of the causes are totally outside of your control, should you be punished in the same manner as though it was under your control and you were involved in the situation out of carelessness or purpose?

I really can’t say anymore about the situation right now, but, of course, you can bet that it is most certainly blindness related. If you have questions or would like further clarification, please post a comment. Let’s get a little dialogue going in the comments to this post.