Thursday, January 22, 2009

A different idea for the fare increase.

I sent my official comments today to Valley Metro regarding the fare increase. I filed comments in support of a fare increase however, I do not support how they are proposing to do the changes.

Specifically, I feel that we should be looking at first targeting the peak hour riders as well as the express riders while lightening the impact on the off-peak transit dependent riders.

Specifically, I am asking that Valley Metro consider the following fare structure:

Local buses and light rail
I support a peak hour fare structure where specific bus trips (those that have 80% of the running time of the trip between 6AM-8:30AM or between 3:30PM-6:00PM) are being ridden. Peak hour fares would also apply to single ride light rail tickets purchased between those hours. In addition, day passes purchased on those trips (or during those times at the light rail fare vending machines (FVM)) would be applied at the peak hour rates. Peak fares would not applied to pre-purchased day passes (from a transit center or retailer), multi-day media, platinum, juror and courtesy passes as well as rural connector service.

Fares would be:
One ride - full fare: 2.00 on peak/1.50 off peak
One ride - reduced fare: 2.00 on peak/0.75 off peak
Day pass purchased on bus/FVM - full fare: 4.00 on peak/3.00 off peak
Day pass purchased on bus/FVM - reduced fare: 4.00 on peak/1.50 off peak
Day pass advance purchase: $3.00 full fare/$1.50 reduced fare
5 day pass: $15.00 full fare/$7.50 reduced fare
31 day pass: $59.00 full fare/$28.00 reduced fare

I would propose to eliminate the 3 and 7 day passes and replace them with a 5 day pass.

Express fares
I would propose that express fares become distance separate using a specific process for measuring mileage. I propose to create 4 express fare zones.

Express fares would be...
Zone 1 (0-8 miles) 2.50 cash/5.00 day/24.00 5-day/96.00 monthly
Zone 2 (8-16 miles) 3.00 cash/6.00 day/28.50 5-day/116.00 monthly
Zone 3 (16-24 miles) 3.50 cash/7.00 day/33.00 5-day/136.00 monthly
Zone 4 (24+ miles) 4.00 cash/8.00 day/37.50 5-day/156.00 monthly

Express zones...
Zone 1: Routes 510, 512, 570 and 582.
Zone 2: All RAPID routes, Routes 520/521, 531, 532, 536, 540, 541, 562, 572, 573, 575, 581 and 590.
Zone 3: 533, 535, 542 & 571
Zone 4: none right now but the regional transportation plan (RTP) calls for routes coming in from Buckeye, Anthem, ASU Polytechnic and near Apache Junction. Once implemented, those services would be in Zone 4.

No matter what they increase the fares to, it is needed to maintain a level of service. Hopefully as the economy recovers, we may see more services come back.

It's a sad day in Arizona.



Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The top 5 mistakes in the introduction of Phoenix light rail

Light rail is new to us here in Phoenix. This is not the first light rail implementation that I have experienced. I have also experienced many of the service changes that took place as a result of the implementation of light rail in Los Angeles. Some implementations such as the Blue Line and especially the Gold Line had some significant bus interface changes.

Several years ago, I had proposed several light rail interface fixed-route bus service changes some were somewhat implemented because they made sense, others were not used at all.

But now, here are the Top-5 issues that I have with the service changes:

5. Route 72 routing around the Tempe Transportation Center.
Tempe did something really nice at the University-Rural station, they placed a mini-transit center at the station for the 72 and two Orbit routes. But, they also kept the 72 going into the Downtown Tempe Transportation Center. I ask why? Downtown Tempe is already loaded up with service and with traffic. The 72 already interfaces at University-Rural and between the light rail and two Orbit routes, there's plenty of capacity between Downtown Tempe Transportation Center and University-Rural. This is also consistent with the changes made to the 81 to take that out of Downtown Tempe (Which I supported). The 72 is already a very very long route and has been very prone to delays. Cutting a little bit of running time will help the route's on-time performance.

4. No changes made to Route 16.
Most of the routes that cross the streets that make up the light rail alignment do so naturally and many of these routes cross the alignment at stations. Some routes, such as the 30, 45, 60, 96 and 104 were modified to serve stations. One of those routes, 104 resulted in a 1.5 mile deviation to the route. While many of these changes were made by Mesa and Phoenix made sense, I still do not understand why no changes were made to the 16. The 16 crosses the alignment at Jefferson/Washington but with the stations at 12th and 24th Streets, the 16 is a half mile from one station and a full mile to another. A simple deviation of the 16 over to the 12th St. Station could have been done to bring this route to the LRT.

3. What Mesa did with the 104.
Now Mesa did several things here. First of all, they put the 104 into the Sycamore Station but they also took the route out of the Senior Center and put it into Mesa Riverview. WHY? Mesa could have prevented the launching of the BUZZ shuttle if they just have kept the 104 on it's current routing. With the 104 going into the Sycamore Station, they did not have to re-route the north terminal to the Riverview. A transfer could have been made at the Station to reach the Riverview on the 96. With the BUZZ not interfacing the light rail, there is no true link between Center Street in the heart of Downtown Mesa and the light rail.

2. Frequency of service north of Montebello on Route 15
The 15 replaced a section of the old Red Line. This is a very very very highly ridden segment, especially since it's a direct link to Metrocenter. When the Red Line was around, it had 15 minute headway (frequency of service) and 30 on the weekends. With extending the 15 along this section, the 15's headway came with it (30 weekdays and 60 weekends). With the 15 being the primary link between the light rail and the city's second largest transit center, why are we causing such a substantial bottleneck (1:3 ratio on weekdays and 1:4 ratio on weekends). I feel that the City of Phoenix could have lightened that load by putting additional service on the 15 north of Montebello only. I feel that north of Montebello, route 15 should provide service every 15 minutes on weekday peak hours, 30 minutes on weekday base and evening hours and every 30 minutes on weekends. South of Montebello, service should continue to be every 30 minutes weekdays and every 60 minutes weekends. There is no need to change the south end of the 15 since a viable method for accessing the airport (44th Street Station to the Airport Shuttle) is available.

and now for what I feel was the biggest mistake....

1. Creation of the Valley Metro Link
I really think this was a really bad idea. The idea of trying to use a limited stop bus on a street that has not been tried or tested with a local route first. Because this alignment has not had service before and there is not a major demand for service in this area yet, the Link only has about a 5-7 minute improvement over the local route 40 along the route between Superstition Springs Mall and the Sycamore Station. Instead of the Main St. Link, express trips from Superstition Springs Park & Ride to Sycamore Station during peak hours should have been established. I feel that there are better candidates for limited stop service, such as reassigning some of the resources that are doing Pima-bound local trips on the 29 and making those Pima-bound limited stop between 67th Avenue and 44th Street with full stops outside that area. Now, they are looking at doing one for Country Club/Arizona Avenue, a street that right now does not have weekday service after 7PM or any weekend service.

If they worried less about marketing and bringing the service to where it is needed, we would have the services where the people need it instead of creating a second class of service.

Opinions are those of my own as a private citizen only. They do not reflect the opinions of the RPTA or any member agency or contractor.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Phoenix Light Rail - One Week Later

Well... we have now had a light rail system in Phoenix for one week now. I have taken several rides on the train (since I work in Downtown PHX and also, I work for transit.. so it would only make sense). Now, while the system was free, people flocked to the train like people flocking to Six Flags' newest coaster. Many people wanted to try it out and ride it because "it was free".

Now that the "free" part has been removed from the equation, let's see where we are now. Before the light rail, I was a frequent rider of the 1-Washington and the Red Line. The 1 buses have always been pretty empty and the Red Line was filled with every walk of life and in some cases, the odors to go wih them. This is why I preferred riding the 1. (Also, because on weekends, the Red Line was operated by a different contractor and I found myself having to guide them through the route).

The people I have been seeing on the light rail are not the same people who have been riding the buses. I am seeing more older folks, more families and more people who have realized that they can either park their car at a station and get on the train or they live near the alignment.

While there are many riders on the trains who are dependent on transit, I am noticing a lot of riders on here who have the option to drive but are using transit. This is more than just your typical express riders.

When I ride a train here, I feel like I am in a more progressive city riding the trains such as San Francisco, Portland or Denver. I have been able to strike up some good conversations, both with and without the lanyard (identifying me as a Valley Metro employee) on. Most of my experiences since I moved back to Arizona 13 years ago is there's a lot of animosity and a lot of people with a "me" attitude. This can be seen in various aspects of Valley life, especially on the freeways.

But for some reason, the people who have been riding the trains do not meet that criteria of animosity. They are getting out, chatting with total strangers and exploring. The way I see it, it's a support group meeting in Phoenix that meets every 10 minutes.

There have been a couple of minor problems. I have noticed stops that are not being called by the automatic annunciator system (especially this early in the game when blind riders may not know all the stations yet to be able to count stops as a contingency). We are supposed to have next train displays and announcements at the stations, those are not working. Also, it would be nice if Valley Metro publishes a more detailed schedule.

There have been a couple of accidents where people have ran the lights and ran in front of railcars.

I have been hearing complaints about the traffic signal coordination and that the train seems to get stuck at red lights even though the train is supposed to have signal priority. I have not seen much of this in Phoenix. I have been noticing it more in Tempe. Perhaps it's just me.

There are many fun opportunities along the rail. In addition to Chase Field and US Airways Arena, the venue for the Renegade Rollergirls, the 5th & Madison Event Center is within walking distance of the trains.

Now that the Red Line is gone, I am more likely to ride the rails on Saturdays (except derby nights) instead of driving in.

This system has given me a new outlook on this city.

Welcome to my light rail sytem.. I am proud of it.
This is your light rail system too... I hope you are proud of it.