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The Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA), better known as Valley Metro, is an institution in Arizona responsible for public transit, including buses and light rail in the area of Phoenixmarker and Maricopa County, Arizonamarker.

About Valley Metro

Organization

Contrary to popular belief, Valley Metro does not actually operate the majority of transit services in the region; it is considered a membership organization, and most services are separately funded and operated by the several individual cities and suburbs in the greater Phoenix region. These cities have agreed to participate in Valley Metro as a unifying brand name to streamline service and reduce confusion among riders.

The three largest operators of bus service are the city of Phoenix, the Regional Public Transportation Authority (operating multi-city routes and services in Mesamarker and Chandlermarker), and the city of Tempemarker (which also operates most services for the city of Scottsdalemarker). There is also a circulator service in Glendalemarker operated by the City of Glendale directly, and another circulator service operated by Ollie the Trolley under contract to the city of Scottsdale. Besides these two circulators, all other services are either operated by Phoenix, Tempe, or the RPTA.

Each city (through its mayor or board of supervisors) appoints a representative to the RPTA board of directors, and a chairman, vice chair, and treasurer are voted on amongst the board members for a one-year term.

The RPTA operates a customer service, marketing and long-range transit planning operation from headquarters in downtown Phoenix which is shared among all Valley Metro member cities. A few routes which operate within several member cities have their funding and operations shared between those cities. Some RPTA funding is used in certain cases to augment service provided by the member cities (this is expected to increase over the next several years due to the 2004 voter approval of an extension to the original 1985 sales tax for transit funding (see below). The City of Phoenix alone operates 73 percent of all Valley Metro routes (several of which also serve suburban cities). [156659]

History

Background information about public transportation in the Phoenix metropolitan area can be found in the main Phoenixmarker article.

The RPTA was formed in 1985 as the result of Phoenix-area voters approving a one-half percent sales tax increase for expansion of the local freeway system, and for expansion of mass transit. The RPTA was then chartered under the laws of the State of Arizona. At the time, almost all transit service in the Phoenix Area was operated by Phoenix Transit System, but bus services in Mesa (Mesa Sunrunner) and Scottsdale (Scottsdale Connection) began around 1990. Valley Metro, as an integrated regional transit service, did not begin operations under its own brand identity until 1993, when the RPTA board of directors chose that name, the logo and color scheme as described below. At this time, Phoenix Transit System and Mesa Sunrunner were rebranded as Valley Metro, and several new routes operating under the RPTA were started.

Prior to the formation of the RPTA, the bus route structure of Phoenix Transit System was quite different, both in terms of numbering and routes. Previously, the bus system was based on a "hub-and-spoke" structure with most routes starting from downtown Phoenix. These routes were split in half by Central Avenue, which most routes used to access downtown Phoenix. For example, the western half of Van Buren Street was served by route 3W, and the eastern half of Van Buren Street was served by route 3E. Most bus routes were numbered arbitrarily as well (for example, route 0-Central was originally numbered route 5). Express routes were numbered in the 80s and 90s (for example: route 510 serving Scottsdale was originally numbered route 90, which is today assigned to route 90-Dunlap/Cave Creek).

In the mid-1980s, the route structure was changed to form the basis for the system operating today. Most routes were restructured so that they would stay on a single street rather than be based out of the downtown terminal. Routes that operated on multiple streets were also split (for example, route 22-Camelback Crosstown covers parts of today's route 50 and route 72). The route numbering system was simplified so that bus routes were numbered according to the block number of the street that they operated on. For example, route 50-Camelback is numbered because it runs mostly on Camelback Road, which is in the 5000 block. Because of the establishment of route numbers in the 80s and 90s, the express routes were renumbered to the 500-series, where they remain today. The second digit of the 500-series express routes denotes the region of the metropolitan area where the bus is traveling to (for example, the 510 series go to Scottsdale, the 530 series go to Mesa, and the 570 series go to the Northwest Valley). The evolution to a full "supergrid" structure continues today as route branches are either replaced with circulators or separated into new routes.

Color schemes

The Valley Metro color scheme used from 1993 until 2006, still seen on many buses
Originally, the buses of one of Valley Metro's predecessors, Phoenix Transit System, were painted with an orange and pink stripe, and a logo on the sides, rear and front, featuring a character known as "Tico", which was a sun wearing sunglasses, and a sombrero. In the late-1980s, this logo disappeared and buses were simply labeled "City of Phoenix Transit System". In 1993-1994, the RPTA changed the colors to a green and purple color scheme (which many vehicles still have), with a green stripe and a large purple "V" on the passenger's side, and the reverse on the driver's side.

In 2006, a simplified new color scheme was introduced with the delivery of the C40LFR buses. This scheme is similar to the original scheme except that the "V" has been removed (it obscured visibility from inside the buses in many cases), there is only a green stripe around the bus, the Valley Metro logo is displayed on the front, rear, and rear sides of the bus, and the sides are lettered "Valley" in purple and "Metro" in white. All new buses delivered to the RPTA from 2006 onwards feature a new interior very similar to that of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority but with darker tinted windows, no Transit TV (since Valley Metro divisions except for Phoenix prohibit advertising) and blue seat fabric (as opposed to the "rainbow" seat fabric used on LACMTA buses). Buses delivered to the city of Phoenix since 2006 feature a similar interior to those delivered from 1993-2006 but with the same seat fabric used on the RAPID bus rapid transit buses.

Most buses are still in the old scheme, but new ones have been delivered with the new scheme and there are a number of older buses that have been rehabilitated with new seat fabric (but only on Phoenix-owned buses) and repainted in the new scheme. (For a detailed listing of the Valley Metro fleet, and vehicle models used, see the "bus fleet" section below).

On December 27, 2008, Valley Metro introduced a new logo, replacing the "V" logo that had been in place since 1993. The green and purple colors were retained, but the green was made lighter and the purple was made darker. The new logo as well as the new shades of green and purple were introduced on the Valley Metro LINK arterial bus rapid transit service, as well as a new interior color scheme.

On October 30, 2009, Valley Metro introduced a concept paint scheme on two New Flyer D40LFR's which are serving as demonstration units for the new scheme, These new buses are operating on Mesa routes 30 - University and 61 - Southern, Riders are provided surveys in which will be collected, and information reviewed. If public response is positive to the new scheme, Valley Metro plan to paint most buses (Including D40LF's, D60LF's, D40LFR's and the new NABI BRT Articulated vehicles.) into the new scheme. It consists of a high visibility silver, with green and purple swirls as well as the new logo. New Flyer D40LFR, 6667 has been seen running Route 30 - University and was also used for photographs.

Service improvements under RPTA

In the early years of Valley Metro and throughout the 1990s, the Phoenix metropolitan area was the largest in the United States with transit service operating only Monday through Saturday, with no Sunday service or Saturday night service (after 8 p.m.) at all. Even on weekdays, some bus service ended as early as 7 or 8 p.m. This schedule was a huge hardship for a large portion of the Phoenix labor force (some of whom had to walk or bicycle long distances to and from work when bus service didn't operate) and may have deterred some who wanted to relocate to the Phoenix area.

That began to change in 2001 when Valley Metro expanded to Sunday service in Phoenix, Glendalemarker and Scottsdalemarker, with Tempemarker having Sunday service since 1999 (this resulted in large part from the approval of the Transit 2000 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), which involved a new 0.4 per cent sales tax in the city of Phoenix, with the other cities approving similar measures around the same time).

In 2002, the cities of Tempe and Scottsdale merged BOLT (Better Options for Local Transit) and Scottsdale Connection into the Valley Metro system in order to unify the Valley Metro brand and to reduce confusion (especially along the Red Line, which was operated by both Phoenix and Tempe and used Valley Metro and BOLT branded vehicles). All of the BOLT buses were repainted into standard Valley Metro colors (they still have a different interior from other Valley Metro buses) and the Scottsdale Connection buses were replaced. However, before the merger, the systems were featured in the Valley Metro Bus Book and had the same fare structure as the rest of the system. They were basically a different brand.

In addition, in 2004, Proposition 400 was passed, which extended a half-cent sales tax originally earmarked entirely for freeways. The tax was revised to provide funding for not only freeways, but "supergrid" bus service, (concentrated along Phoenix grid streets), bus rapid transit, and light rail extensions.

The rest of the service area still has no Sunday service as of the fall of 2008, with the exception of the portion of Route 72 (see below) that runs into Chandlermarker, the section of route 156 that runs across Chandler, and Routes 61 and 96, which established regular Sunday service in selected portions of the city of Mesamarker in July 2008.

Bus service

Metro operates bus routes around the Phoenix area through private companies in Phoenix, Mesamarker, Tempemarker, Glendalemarker, and other parts of Maricopa County. These include fixed routes on city streets, suburban Express buses, RAPID buses, and circulators in downtown parts of Phoenix, Glendale, and Tempe. Dial-a-Ride paratransit for elderly and disabled residents is also offered.

Fares

The basic local fare is $1.75. Reduced fare (for youths 6-18, seniors 65 or older, people with disabilities, and Medicare cardholders) is 80ยข. Day passes, 3-day passes, 7-day passes, and 31-day passes are available. (some of these passes are available at reduced prices through various employers, schools and colleges such as Arizona State Universitymarker.)

On December 1, 2007, transfers were eliminated. An "All-Day Pass" that costs $2.50 was introduced to replace transfers, which will not substantially increase costs for riders (because most bus trips are round trips anyway). However, "31-Day Passes" increased in price from $34 to $45 (32% increase) for standard fare passes, $17 to $22.50 (32% increase) for reduced fare passes, and $51 to $68 (33% increase) for express bus passes. Compared to other recent transit agency fare increases (such as a 33% increase by Miami-Dade Transit), this was a relatively average increase and is the first in 13 years. Fuel costs have not risen as rapidly as that of other transit agencies because the majority of the Valley Metro fleet is powered by natural gas rather than diesel fuel, and liquid natural gas (LNG) has not seen price increases to the degree of oil price increases. This fare change helps Valley Metro catch up with simultaneous rising incomes and costs of living, which have substantially changed since 1994.

Starting July 1, 2009, Valley Metro after consulting public opinion, opted to raise fares on Bus, Light Rail and RAPID/Express service, sighting decreases in revenue from state sales tax as well as increased operational costs as the reason behind the increase.

This was also the first time Valley Metro opted to use dual pricing for those whom purchase an "All-Day Pass". All-Day pass pricing increased from $2.50 regardless of where the pass was purchased, to $3.50 if purchased off-board, or $5.25 if purchased on-board. Some believe that this will cause more people to purchase passes off-board, therefore allowing buses to stay on schedule, and increase operating efficiently entirely.

Pricing for multipule day passes (such as 3, 7 and 31 day passes) was also increased for both full, reduced and Express/RAPID riders by varying percentages.

Route designations

As mentioned above, most bus routes, especially those mainly serving the city of Phoenix, are numbered roughly according to the streets on which they travel. For example:
  • Route 35 is a north-south route which runs along 35th Avenue
  • Route 0 runs north-south along Central Avenue, which is the dividing street or "zero point" separating East and West Phoenix on the city's street grid (Central Avenue and Washington Street is the actual point of origin)
  • Route 50 runs east-west along Camelback Road, which is the 5000 block, north, on the street grid
  • Route 72 runs north-south along Scottsdale Road, which is the 7200 block, east, on the street grid (Scottsdale uses the City of Phoenix street numbering system).
  • Route 15 is a north-south route which runs along 15th Avenue


LINK routes are limited-stop versions of local routes (unlike RAPID, which is a limited-stop version of the 500-series routes described below). Currently, only one LINK route is operational (on Main Street in Mesa) but in 2010 a second route will start service on Country Club Drive/Arizona Avenue in Mesa and Chandler). These routes use special bus shelters that have LED "Next Bus" signs and use 10 2008 New Flyer D60LFA bus rapid transit-styled vehicles (6 more will follow in 2010 for the second LINK route). The first 10 buses were purchased as part of a larger order for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

The 500-series routes are commuter express routes, which for years only connected office workers from outlying suburban neighborhoods into central Phoenix (including the state capitol complex) in the morning and back again in the afternoons. However, in 2007 Valley Metro began suburb-to-suburb express routes, starting with route 534 from Tempe, AZ to Queen Creek, AZ. This route lasted only eight months and was discontinued due to extremely low ridership and the fact that an all-day, high-frequency Arizona State Universitymarker free express shuttle bus already served part of the route (near the end of its service, the route was using paratransit vehicles due to the low ridership, which was often two or three people each way). However, in July 2007 route 572 from Surprise, AZ to the Scottsdale Airpark started with a higher frequency of service and more publicity, and a year later (July 2008) route 511 (essentially an extension of route 572) started service from downtown Chandler to Scottsdale Airpark. These routes use a mix of bus types, ranging from transit-style buses with hard seats to "semi-suburban" buses (with highback, non-reclining seats) to full suburban buses (with a single door, luggage racks and personal reading lights) built by Nova Bus.

RAPID routes are similar to 500-series routes, but only operate within the city of Phoenix, have special bus stops that are similar to the LINK stops (but of a different design), and only make limited stops both in downtown Phoenix and in the suburbs (in contrast to 500-series routes, which operate as receive/discharge only locals in downtown Phoenix and in the suburbs). Most routes serve park and rides, as well. These routes use NABI 45C-LFW suburban buses with a special paint scheme, and the fare ($1.75) is equivalent to that of the 500-series routes. RAPID-branded services currently operate on I-10 West, I-10 East, I-17, and State Route 51. Loop 101 has "RAPID-style" service along its length, but this service is actually three separate bus routes (573, 572, and 511) that are not branded as RAPID routes.

Although the great majority of express routes only operate during rush hours, two new routes, Route 536 and Route 576 (which began service on December 29, 2008), operate services during midday hours. Route 536 is essentially a shorter version of route 535 and connects downtown Tempe with Power Road and McDowell Road via Loop 202 (route 535, which operates during rush hours only, extends to downtown Phoenix). Similarly, route 576 is essentially a shorter version of route 575 and connects Chris-Town Mall with Arrowhead Towne Centermarker via I-17 and Loop 101 (route 575, which operates during rush hours only, extends to downtown Phoenix instead).

Route List

Local Routes

  • GL Grand Avenue Limited
  • 0 Central Avenue
  • 1 Washington Street/Jefferson Street
  • 3 Van Buren Street
  • 3A Avondale via Van Buren
  • 7 Seventh Street
  • 8 Seventh Avenue
  • 10 Roosevelt Street/Grant Street
  • 12 Twelfth Street
  • 13 Buckeye Road
  • 15 Fifteenth Avenue
  • 16 Sixteenth Street
  • 17 McDowell Road
  • 17A Avondale via McDowell
  • 19 Nineteenth Avenue
  • 27 Twenty-Seventh Avenue
  • 29 Thomas Road
  • 29A Avondale via Thomas Road
  • 30 University Drive
  • 32 Thirty-Second Street
  • 35 Thirty-Fifth Avenue
  • 39 Thirty-Ninth Street
  • 40 Apache Boulevard/Main Street
  • 41 Indian School Road
  • 41A Avondale via Indian School Road
  • 43 Forty-Third Avenue
  • 44 Forty-Fourth Street/Tatum Boulevard
  • 45 Broadway Road
  • 50 Camelback Road
  • 51 Fifty-First Avenue
  • 52 Roeser Road
  • 56 Priest Drive
  • 59 Fifty-Ninth Avenue
  • 60 Bethany Home Road
  • 61 Southern Avenue
  • 62 Hardy Drive
  • 65 Mill Avenue/Kyrene Road
  • 66 Mill Avenue/Sixty-Eighth Street
  • 67 Sixty-Seventh Avenue
  • 70 Glendale Avenue/Twenty-Fourth Street
  • 72 Scottsdale Road/Rural Road
  • 76 Miller Road
  • 77 Baseline Road
  • 80 Northern Avenue
  • 81 Hayden Road/McClintock Drive
  • 84 Granite Reef Road
  • 90 Dunlap Avenue/Cave Creek Road
  • 92 Forty-Eighth Street/Guadalupe Road
  • 96 Dobson Road
  • 104 Alma School Road
  • 106 Peoria Avenue/Shea Boulevard
  • 108 Elliott Road
  • 112 Country Club Drive/Arizona Avenue
  • 120 Mesa Drive
  • 122 Cactus Road/Thirty-Ninth Avenue
  • 128 Stapley Drive
  • 131 START
  • 136 Gilbert Drive
  • 138 Thunderbird Road
  • 154 Greenway Road
  • 156 Chandler Boulevard
  • 170 Bell Road
  • 186 Union Hills Drive
  • MetroLINK


Express Routes

  • 510 Scottsdale
  • 511 Chandler/Scottsdale Airpark
  • 512 Scottsdale/Fountain Hills
  • 520 Tempe
  • 521 Tempe/Broadway
  • 531 Mesa/Gilbert
  • 532 Mesa
  • 533 Mesa/Decatur Street
  • 535 Northeast Mesa/Downtown
  • 536 Norheast Mesa/Tempe/ASU
  • 540 Chandler
  • 541 Chandler Park and Ride
  • 542 Chandler/Downtown
  • 560 Avondale
  • 562 Goodyear/Downtown
  • 570 Glendale
  • 571 Surprise
  • 572 Surprise/Scottsdale
  • 573 Northwest Valley/Downtown
  • 575 Northwest Valley/Loop 101/Downtown
  • 576 Northwest Valley/Montebello
  • 581 North Mountain
  • 582 North Mountain Park and Ride
  • 590 Deer Valley


Rapid Buses

  • SR-51 Rapid
  • I-10 East Rapid
  • I-10 West Rapid
  • I-17 Rapid


Hours of operation

Most buses on major arterial streets operate from about 5 a.m. until at least 10 p.m.; some bus lines, especially within Tempe, operate as late as 1 a.m.

Newer long-term plans (through the years 2015-2020) call for more buses on arterial streets, especially those currently underserved (or not served at all in a few cases) by buses, extension of existing bus routes into fast-growing suburban neighborhoods, and expanded Express/RAPID service onto more freeways. Bus routes that end operations before 10 p.m. may see service extended later in the evening, perhaps as late as midnight, and begin service earlier in the morning. [156660] There is no 24-hour service on any Valley Metro route, and no current plans to implement 24-hour service.

In July 2006, Route 72 Scottsdale/Rural was converted to "supergrid" service. This conversion extended 15-minute weekday daytime frequency to the entire route (whereas previously only a segment between downtown Tempe and downtown Scottsdale had 15-minute weekday daytime service), extended "short" trips to cover the entire route (except for a couple of late-night runs), and extended 30-minute frequency to weekday nighttime and weekend service over the entire route. In addition, the route was extended to Chandler on Sundays, becoming the first route in history to run to Chandler on Sundays. Most trips on this route use modern 2006-2007 New Flyer C40LFR/D40LFR buses (some with highback seating), the delivery of which enabled this "supergrid" service to start.

Previously, service frequency had been based on the availability of operating funds, or lack thereof at times, from each of the member cities, with the most trips going into Tempe and downtown Scottsdale, half-hour frequency in Scottsdale, south Tempe, and Chandler, and no Sunday service in Chandler. This effectively converted funding from city-based to county-based, eliminating short trips and restrictions imposed by city funding. All other major routes will be converted to Supergrid service through 2025. Sunday service is planned for Mesa within the next 10 years [156661].

In 2007-2008, nine new circulator bus routes began in both Phoenix and Tempe. Four circulator routes in Phoenix serving the Sunnyslope, Maryvale, Deer Valley, and Desert Ridge neighborhoods began service, the Ahwatukee Local EXplorer (ALEX) service was extended, and a new circulator system known as ORBIT began service on five routes: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter. This new service replaced the former Neighborhood FLASH service and opened up service into areas that had never been served by bus before, making connections much easier. In the future, these circulators will supplement the "supergrid" bus service, which will replace bus routes that do not operate on major streets. This is one of the largest expansions of bus service in the history of the Phoenix area, and also includes more "supergrid" routes and several new routes.

The next routes to be converted to "supergrid" service were Route 61-Southern and Route 96-Dobson, which brought Sunday service back into Mesa on July 28, 2008.

In addition to the routes operated exclusively in Maricopa County, the MAX MaricopaXpress bus service operates from Maricopa, Arizonamarker in Pinal County to downtown Phoenix and Tempe during rush hours. This service is funded by Pinal County and the city of Maricopa rather than Valley Metro. As a result, it is completely separate from the Valley Metro system, does not appear in the Bus Book or maps, and does not accept Valley Metro fare material (such as express bus passes). However, it does appear on bus stop signs.

Customer service

The Transit Book (known until December 2008 as the Bus Book, and mentioned above) is updated twice yearly and contains maps and schedules for all routes. Copies are available at no charge at Valley Metro ticket offices, many public libraries, community colleges and other civic facilities around the metro area, and on the buses themselves. Because the Transit Book is difficult to carry around easily (the size is similar to a medium-sized catalog, averaging about 250 pages), patrons often use it to quickly reference the time when their next bus will arrive, and simply leave the book sitting at their bus stop when finished, for the use of other riders.

Additionally, route schedules are posted at most bus stops in Tempe, selected bus stops in Scottsdale and Glendale, and at major transit centers in the city of Phoenix and throughout the Valley. On RAPID routes, schedules are electronic and are based on real-time information.

A customer service call center is operated for passengers to plan their bus trips with the assistance of either an automated voice response system or a live customer service representative. The Valley Metro website [156662] also has an online trip planning function, and includes all schedules and maps featured in the Transit Book; since 2006, Valley Metro is relying more on the website to post schedule information and is printing fewer paper-based copies of the Transit Book.

Passenger Information Systems

Like most major cities, all buses (except for the (now largely retired) Nova RTS and non-Phoenix circulator vehicles) include the Route Scout on-board passenger information system, which includes a lighted marquee displaying the correct date and time, and an audio and visual Stop Requested announcement. Automatic Voice Annunciation (AVA) for audio and visual announcements for each major intersection are voiced by longtime Phoenix radio personality, Liz Boyle [156663] [156664] These automated announcements are prone to malfunction; when that occurs, the drivers often (but not always) call out each major intersection over the vehicle's public address system. This same system is used by the Los Angeles Metro buses and was introduced on the 2004 New Flyer D60LF buses.

Valley Metro Rail has a similar passenger information system, used on the rail vehicles and at the stations, which uses speech synthesis technology, rather than a recorded voice, to announce approaching stations and give other travel-related announcements. Train operators may also use the vehicle's public address system at their discretion.

Select RAPID bus stops include a display of when the next bus will arrive, this service is coming soon to METRO Light Rail trains, and Valley Metro LINK bus service. (Real-Time bus arrival)

Valley Metro service providers

Name of Provider Service Contracted By Local Routes Express Routes RAPID Routes Local Area Shuttles Paratransit Routes Previously Operated
Veolia Transportation City of Phoenix 0, 1, 7, 7L, 8, 10, 12, 15, 16, 19, 27, 32, 35, 39, 44, 50, 52, 60, 70, 80, 90, 106, 122, 138, 154, 170, 186, Light Rail (ATC) 581, 582, 590 SR-51, I-10 East, I-17 DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle), DART (Desert Ridge Area Revolving Transport), Deer Run, SMART (Sunnyslope Multi-Access Residential Transit) Red Line (Weekday operations, route discontinued 29 December 2008), Blue Line (Route discontinued 29 December 2008)
Veolia Transportation RPTA 30, 40, 45, 61, 96, 104, 112, 120, 128, 136, 156, LINK 511, 531, 532, 533, 535, 540, 541 BUZZ (Downtown Mesa BUZZ) East Valley Dial-a-Ride 81 (Service transferred to Veolia's Tempe operations), 72 (Swapped with Tempe for 45 in July 2008)
Veolia Transportation (Branded as Tempe in Motion, or TIM) City of Tempe 56, 62, 65, 66, 72, 77, 76, 81, 84, 92, 108, 114 510, 512, 520, 521 FLASH (Free Local Area Shuttle), ORBIT Red Line (Weekend operations, route discontinued 29 December 2008), 45 (Swapped with RPTA for 72 in July 2008)
MV Transportation City of Phoenix ALEX (Ahwatukee Local Explorer) Phoenix Dial-a-Ride
First Transit (formerly Laidlaw Transit Serivces) City of Phoenix 3, 3A, 13, 17, 17A, 29, 29A, 41, 41A, 43, 51, 59, 67, 131, Grand Avenue Limited 560, 570 I-10 West MARY (Maryvale Area Ride for You) Green (Renamed Route 29 on 29 December 2008), Green-Avondale (Renamed Route 29A on 29 December 2008)
Valu Trans RPTA, City of Glendale 70X (Glendale Express), 562, 571, 572, 573, 575, 660 (Wickenburg Connector) GUS (Glendale Urban Shuttle)
Ollie the Trolley City of Scottsdale Downtown Trolley, Neighborhood Trolley
Ajo Transportation RPTA 685 (Gila Bend Regional Connector)


Bus fleet

Valley Metro maintains a growing fleet of over 700 vehicles for public bus routes and nearly 300 for paratransit.

Rideshare

Other Commuting Options are coordinated by Valley Metro's Rideshare department, funded by contracts with the County and the Maricopa Association of Governments. The primary outreach effort of the Rideshare team is the Maricopa County Trip Reduction Program, which seeks to reduce traffic impacts on air pollution and emissions throughout the Valley. Any employer with 50 or more full time employees is required to participate in the program, which seeks to convince employees to use transit alternatives. The 25,000 State of Arizona employees working in the Valley have their own Rideshare department, called Capitol Rideshare.

Light rail

The planning of rapid transit in the Phoenix area has been an objective since before Valley Metro's formation. Various public initiatives, however, had been offered to and rejected by the electorate. It was not until the 2000s that a definitive rapid transit policy was developed and a consensus was reached on light rail.

1989 ValTrans proposal

In 1989, a referendum took place in the RPTA constituent cities on expanded bus services (the fleet size would nearly have been tripled) and the implementation of elevated rail as part of a plan called "ValTrans".

The locations of three of Valley Metro's most heavily traveled bus routes (before the December 2008 start of light rail service) would have been the elevated rail lines' paths, and referred to by these color designations:



  • , traveling from South Phoenix, through downtown and the Central Avenue corridor, along Camelback Road and the upscale Biltmore area, along 24th Street (passing the historic Arizona Biltmoremarker resort), Lincoln Drive, a brief express portion on the State Route 51 freeway, 32nd Street, Shea Boulevard, Tatum Road, and eventually serving Paradise Valley Mall and Mayo Clinic Phoenixmarker.


  • , traveling along Thomas Road between Desert Sky Mall in West Phoenix, to the intersection of Thomas and 81st Street in the city of Scottsdalemarker (the resulting bus line is now the most heavily used in the Valley Metro system).


:* In addition, there was a route called the that operated from 83rd Avenue/Peoria, down Grand Avenue (a major arterial street which runs diagonally from the northwest into downtown Phoenix and is a major section of US 60) to the Washington/Jefferson couplet, and down Washington Street to Sun Devil Stadiummarker and the ASU campus in Tempe. This route was discontinued in 2003, as a result of a road improvement project for Grand Avenue/US 60 led by the Arizona Department of Transportation; the project made Grand Avenue more expressway-like by eliminating seven major at-grade intersections on Grand in the cities of Phoenix and Glendale (the new overpasses/underpasses did not have bus stops, making transfers impossible). The part of the route that traveled on Washington was renamed Route 1-Washington, and the Grand Avenue segment was converted to the "Grand Avenue Limited" commuter bus route that operates during rush hours and makes only limited stops.


  • Other routes, such as a commuter line to Chandlermarker and an inter-city route serving Tucsonmarker.


Funding for would have come from a sales tax plan with a set expiration and reapproval date in 30 years. The ValTrans proposal was soundly defeated at the polls. Concerns about noise, cost, and overall effectiveness were prominent, as well as voter frustration over the lack of progress on existing road and freeway construction.

Similar referendums were later voted down in 1993 and 1997, although Tempe voters passed a half-percent sales tax dedicated for transit (which partly allowed officials to study light rail) in 1996.

With the start of light rail service in December 2008, these color-coded designations were retired. The Red Line was eliminated altogether as most of the route is now covered by the light rail line (with several portions, including Sky Harbor International Airport, now also covered by Route 15-15th Avenue); the Blue Line was renamed to Route 39-40th Street and now terminates at the intersection of Camelback Road and Central Avenue; the Green Line was renamed Route 29-Thomas (its original pre-ValTrans name); its routing remains unchanged.

Transit 2000 light rail proposal

In 2000, the Transit 2000 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), which involved a 0.4 per cent sales tax, was approved by voters in Phoenix. It sought to improve the local bus service and create bus rapid transit and light rail, among other things. Valley Metro Rail has a goal of a one-third farebox ratio according to [156666], and the RTP anticipates this to rise to 45% by 2025. The plan implemented studies for further rail service, though for some time in the future. It also used the route placing and color designations from the 1989 plan.

Planning and current status

The first line of the light rail system, named METRO following the results of a 2003 contest, is a 20-mile (32-km) line serving Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. The line cost $1.4 billion USD (from a combination of revenues from the above-mentioned tax and Federal matching funds). It officially opened December 27, 2008 to positive public reaction, speeches from Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon , U.S. Representative Ed Pastor and other dignitaries, and large crowds estimated at more than 90,000. Construction began in March 2005. The line mainly operates on city streets in a "center reservation," similar to the Red Line of the METRO light rail system in Houstonmarker, the surface sections of the Green Line in Bostonmarker, and some surface sections of the Muni Metro in San Franciscomarker.

Prototype on display, November 2005


The line starts at the area of 19th Avenue and Montebello (just south of Bethany Home Road), then follows 19th Avenue, Camelback Road, Central Avenue, the 1st Avenue/Central Avenue couplet, the Washington/Jefferson Street couplet, Washington Street, a private right-of-way around Arizona State Universitymarker (including a crossing of the Salt River at Tempe Town Lakemarker), Apache Boulevard, and Main Street to an intersection just east of Dobson Road (a bus rapid transit route, Valley Metro LINK, is available at this end-of-line stop for passengers wishing to travel eastward to Superstition Springs Center; this is the first of many such routes in the planning stages to connect various parts of the metro area to the rail line). There are twenty-seven stops along the route (see map).

Future extensions

Greater Phoenix covers many suburban areas previously not viewed as appropriate for rail. This has changed as the cities grow and increase in density.

Proposition 400 was approved in the 2004 elections. This initiative allows for construction of yet more light rail extensions, such as:
  • North to Metrocenter mall (the "Northwest Extension", currently under construction),
  • West to Glendale from the current terminus at Montebello,
  • West from Central Station to the Arizona State Capitolmarker complex, then north, and then west and adjacent to I-10 toward suburbs such as Goodyearmarker and Buckeyemarker,
  • North along Route 51 to Paradise Valley Mall in northeast Phoenix,
  • South from the flagship campus of Arizona State Universitymarker to southern Tempe,
  • East from the Mesa terminus, and
  • North to Scottsdalemarker, running along Scottsdale Road past the new ASU "Skysong" Center, a high-tech research area.


The plan also identifies several "eligible high capacity corridors" ( Figure 8-4) for added service within a few decades, committing to future study of light rail as an option for these routes:
  • North on Tatum Blvd. past Paradise Valley Mall,
  • West to the southwest Valley communities of Avondalemarker and Tollesonmarker
  • North on I-17 to the Anthemmarker community,
  • Northwest along Grand Avenue in Phoenix to the West Valley cities of Glendale, Youngtownmarker, El Miragemarker, and Surprisemarker,
  • Southeast to Gilbertmarker, Chandlermarker, Ahwatukeemarker, and southern Phoenix proper, using a separate new rail line starting in downtown Phoenix, and
  • North on Scottsdale Road as mentioned above.


The above projects all have completion dates ranging from the 2010s to 2020s, since numerous studies and public consultations must take place well before the construction begins. Reporting requirements also exist as stipulated by regional and federal grant sources. Future increasing cost, especially in relation to right-of-way acquisition where land values are rising, is another issue. It is hoped that creating rider satisfaction with existing services will lead to support for more transit expansion.

Leaders in the Valley have promoted suburban commuter rail as a complement to light rail.[156667] Commuter rail uses less frequent stops in places with lower population density and may be more suited to the particular features of this metropolitan area.

See also



References

  1. "Crowds say lines, construction worth the wait for light rail", Arizona Republic, December 28, 2008.


External links




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