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Don’t throw us under the bus – proposed changes affect Scottsdale, Fountain Hills

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Express bus service from Fountain Hills and Scottsdale to downtown Phoenix and the Capitol area is under siege. The decision-makers – Valley Metro Board of Directors and the Scottsdale City Council, which is advised by the Scottsdale Transportation Commission – are talking about eliminating the 514 express route altogether, or cutting it back so that it no longer provides direct service to the Capitol complex.

Don Harris

Don Harris

There are various alternate plans allegedly being considered, but there is a feeling among 514 riders that the decision has already been made, despite dog-and-pony shows that masquerade as opportunities to solicit public input.

All of the changes said to be under consideration would greatly inconvenience Scottsdale and Fountain Hills commuters, who would likely have to drive to the nearest bus stop or all the way to their offices, adding to traffic congestion, pollution and the time it takes to get to and from work. Whatever change is approved is to take effect in October.

To give you an idea of how the decision-makers think, they eliminated a loop the 514 took that served hundreds of residences in Scottsdale on April 23 – to save, get this, $2,000 a year! Wow. There was no change in the schedule, so eliminating the loop, which took about 10 minutes to traverse, resulted in no fuel saving. Bus drivers have to slow down or wait, keeping the motor running. Unfortunately, there seems to be no interest among Scottsdale leaders to restore service to the Via Linda/96th Street loop.

One would think that elected officials at the state, county and municipal levels would be looking out for their constituents. Especially, Suzanne Klapp, who is a member of the Scottsdale City Council and doubles as chair of the Valley Metro Board of Directors. And because federal money substantially subsidizes public transit service, Congressman David Schweikert should have on his radar any changes that affect voters in the 6th Congressional District, which takes in Fountain Hills and Scottsdale. Where are influential state Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills; powerful House Majority Leader John Allen, R-Scottsdale; or Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, another Republican, when their constituents need them to speak up?

One plan would continue to run the 514 from Fountain Hills to the Capitol, using a freeway route that bypasses current Scottsdale stops along McDowell Road. A new second route would run from Hayden and McCormick Parkway to McDowell, and then on to the Capitol. Most 514 riders could live with that, but the Valley Metro’s nameless, faceless staff is opposed.

Short of killing the 514 altogether, there is a proposal to run the express bus as a shuttle to the Dreamy Draw Park and Ride near Shea and 32nd Street, where Capitol-bound commuters could then transfer to other express buses. If the real purpose of trashing the 514 is to spend more money on costly trolley service, which charges no fares, it has been suggested that eliminating one of the two daily 514 runs to and from the Capitol would cut the cost of the 514 in half. Again, the Valley Metro staff doesn’t like that, either.

The bottom-line question is: Why are Valley Metro and Scottsdale officials messing with the 514 and what is their goal – what do they think they’re going to accomplish?

At a recent meeting of the Scottsdale Transportation Commission, which advises the City Council, some members of the commission asked questions indicating they didn’t even know what type of buses are used on the 514, how many seats the buses have, and how many passengers are using the service.

What’s even more ludicrous, a flier distributed by Valley Metro announcing numerous schedule changes throughout the Valley that went into effect April 23, including cancellation of the Via Linda loop, said the changes were made “to better serve our riders.” Really?

Don’t let these bureaucrats and elected officials throw us under the bus!

— Don Harris is a Scottsdale resident and copy editor/reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

2 comments

  1. I’m one of those Scottsdale Transportation commissioners who did not know how many seats are on the buses you ride. That discussion addressed would a smaller bus be cheaper, or could you organize a more efficient (cheaper) vanpool. What I do know — something you failed to mention — is that each ride you take on the 514 is a $15 subsidy for you. It would cost you $6 to drive yourself, but you want your neighbors to give you $15 to enable you to keep your $6. And remember — the money saved from the 514 is used on other bus routes with more traffic.

  2. Thank you for speaking up for us Scottsdale to Phoenix commuters, Don. By using the option you mention (running the 514 from Fountain Hills on freeways to the Capitol and also bringing back the old 510 to run through downtown Scottsdale to the Capitol) we’ll get good ridership on both routes. The 514 was a nice attempt at consolidation of three routes back when the economy crashed, but as the resulting drop in ridership clearly shows, it’s not practical for commuters. The economy has returned, and it’s time to return commuter service that works between Scottsdale and Phoenix.

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