Road Runner

Road Runner: RTA asks city to hold off on some bus service cuts

2014-05-19T00:00:00Z Road Runner: RTA asks city to hold off on some bus service cutsBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Sun Tran officials are preparing their final recommendations for service changes — mostly cuts — to certain bus routes and schedules.

The agency expects to present those recommendations to the City Council on Tuesday, but the Regional Transportation Authority wants the agency to put off some of the changes.

Last week, RTA Executive Director Farhad Moghimi sent a letter to city Transportation Director Daryl Cole, asking city staff to not recommend some of the proposed service changes proposed by Sun Tran.

Moghimi, speaking on behalf of the RTA, asked staff to OK changes to Route 37 and express Routes 102, 103, 104, 105, 107, 109, 201, 202 and 312.

The RTA supports all of the other changes in the original recommendations.

Sun Tran has not released its final recommendations and wouldn’t disclose any potential revisions to the original recommendations presented to the public.

The RTA still made its plea to city officials, just in case the original recommendations stay intact when presented to the City Council.

There were a couple of concerns expressed in the letter.

For Route 37, Sun Tran wants to discontinue a portion that serves North Sabino Canyon and East Cloud roads. The RTA wants that service retained because of a new multifamily rental home project planned along that portion of the route.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors recently approved the rezoning of 15 acres of property at Sabino Canyon and Cloud, clearing the way for 130 “luxury casitas.”

The RTA, which pays for that portion of the route, wants to wait and evaluate ridership on the buses after the homes are built.

“It is important to preserve the Route 37 ‘as-is’ until ridership rates from the new residents can be evaluated,” Moghimi said in the letter.

Jeremy Papuga, transit services director for the Pima Association of Governments, which manages the RTA, reiterated those concerns on Friday, saying residents of multifamily housing usually make “good candidates for transit riders.”

The RTA wants to postpone changes to the express routes, which it also pays for, to allow for more public feedback from riders who are affected by the potential changes.

“Staff and RTA member jurisdictions believe that additional study is needed to collect public comments on a route-by-route basis,” Moghimi said.

Sun Tran collected about 1,800 comments through bus and online surveys, as well as more feedback at public events and through the agency’s customer service department, said Sun Tran spokeswoman Kandi Young.

But many passengers were skeptical of the survey results, with some saying the comments didn’t reach enough people or accurately reflect their opinions.

“It was a poorly thought-out survey,” said Jim Forbus, who catches the Route 107 express bus almost daily. “They didn’t survey ridership to the extent that they got an accurate reading.”

Postponing the recommendations would allow officials to more thoroughly analyze how the changes would affect passengers, the RTA asserted.

The original recommendations for the express buses outlined a variety of route changes and realignments.

For example, Sun Tran would discontinue service along West Lambert Lane and La Cañada Drive on the Route 107, replacing it with the Route 103, which would be expanded to serve the area.

But the 103 would stop traveling downtown, as it currently does, and end at the University of Arizona.

So those passengers would presumably have to drive farther to catch the 107, or hop on the 103 and transfer to another downtown express bus at Foothills Mall.

Forbus said it’s an added inconvenience, especially for people who live along that portion of the route and can now walk to bus stops in the area, like he does.

He and other passengers, Forbus said, also dislike the idea of transferring to another express bus, which only runs a few times a day in each direction. Forbus, one of 49 passengers from Route 107 who signed a petition opposing the changes, said he was pleased with the RTA’s response.

“We’re very hopeful Mayor and Council can do the right thing,” he said.

Send your Road Q questions by email to roadrunner@azstarnet.com or to 4850 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85714. Please include first and last names.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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