The title of this post is “Solutions to Phoenix Transportation Issues for Everyone,” but the arguments being put forth don’t address the needs of everyone — just motorists. First, the Phoenix Metro Area is home to nearly five million people, so even a little percentage (whatever that might be) of the population is still a big number.
That’s reinforced by light rail ridership that is well above forecasts and better than in a great many other cities. I ride the trains nearly every day and they’re more often than not full — not merely with the homeless as some would have you think, but with an easy range of individuals traveling for a variety of purposes. Second, the small percentage argument used against a 28-mile light rail collection could be utilized against any 28 kilometers of freeway or arterial road.
I pay fees for freeways I never use in elements of the metro area I never visit. I don’t complain about that because I understand that part of living in a society is funding a multimodal local transportation network. Even if I don’t directly take advantage of the 303, I understand how it matches into the dilemma. Finally, no one has ever suggested that light rail is appropriate for each accepted place and every person. It’s high-capacity transit befitting creating a number of spines of a system by connecting major destinations.
Light rail doesn’t replace buses or vehicles; it works with them. The same transport taxes which have funded light rail expansion have also resulted in major improvements in bus service and the creation of park-and-rides for combined mode commuters. This cliche was used over a decade ago to argue that no one would ride light rail. It has been thoroughly debunked by a decade of ridership well above forecasts.
This debate also ignores the fact that despite stereotypes Phoenix is not the poster child for decentralized employment it is manufactured out to be. Phoenix is right around the middle in terms of employment concentration actually, and public transit, while not workable for everybody, is an essential part of the picture. They will probably, but we have to be cautious in distinguishing between policies that reflect actual individual choices versus insurance policies that promote vicious cycles by overwhelmingly favoring one setting over another.
If we say that we should favor vehicles in all plan decisions because most people travel already by car, we then ensure that other settings do not receive the necessary investments and be even more stigmatized. That motivates more people to operate a vehicle, making life even more unpleasant for individuals who can’t. Government must not be forcing people out of vehicles, but it also must not be forcing people into vehicles by neglecting public transit and pedestrian infrastructure.
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This is the surest way to make buses slow, lumbering, and unreliable. Rail competitors often say that buses can do anything that trains can do only for less overall. I’m skeptical of this claim, but whether it’s a serious debate, then rail competitors should be advocating for dedicated bus lanes. The contrary of bus pull-outs, dedicated lanes give concern to buses. When implemented properly, they can make bus travel considerably faster, but when we always put vehicles first, the bus may very well be caught in a loss of life spiral of unreliable and slow service.
Most bus routes in the Phoenix Metro Area are quite long — often 10 miles or more. During that time, the bus might be passing through regions of both high and low ridership. A typical east-west route, for example, might run between 99th Avenue and Pima Road. Near both ends of its route, it’s going to be pretty empty. It doesn’t mean it certainly is empty, though.
The top capacity within an articulated bus may reveal the ridership at certain tips along the route — usually near light rail channels, major employment centers, and colleges and schools. Also, retain in mind that some buses have to perform with low ridership in order to promote higher ridership overall. Consider, for example, late during the night the last bus. The last bus on any route is usually going to be almost empty almost.
Because no one desires to risk missing the last bus, so instead everyone attempts to capture the bus before it (or possibly two or three before it). You will find issues of frequency also. If people know that missing a bus means they’ll have to wait 30 minutes for the next one, they may entirely miss using the bus. If buses run 10 or 15 minutes apart, more folks are prepared to take their chances on the bus, and overall ridership increases, even if some buses appear less full. Due to induced demand, this won’t always work.