Scottsdale Road Alternative Analysis for Transit
Project Background and Purpose
The Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA), together with the cities of Scottsdale and Tempe, are evaluating transit alternatives along Scottsdale and Rural roads, from University Drive in Tempe to Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard in Scottsdale. The study also includes Goldwater Boulevard and Drinkwater Boulevard as alternatives to Scottsdale Road through Downtown Scottsdale. (Download project map)
Transit alternatives currently being studied include different types of transit that are designed to make fewer stops than existing local buses and can carry more people a longer distance per hour. Typically, this type of service is referred to as “higher capacity” transit.
For this study, the Scottsdale and Rural roads corridor is divided into two sections; the “primary” and “secondary” study areas. The primary study area extends from University Drive to Shea Boulevard, approximately eleven miles, with a potential extension to a new park and ride lot under design at Thunderbird Road. In addition, at the south end of the corridor in Tempe, the new service may extend west from University Drive to the Tempe Transportation Center.
The remaining four miles, from Shea to Frank Lloyd Wright boulevards, could be implemented in a later phase and is being studied at a broader level.
To pursue federal funding the study must follow a prescribed process, called an Alternatives Analysis (AA). The purpose of this AA is to begin development of transit alternatives that can enhance the current system and successfully attract federal funding. The goal is to implement the first phase of service as early as 2014. Federal support will be required to supplement the limited regional dollars available.
Reductions in local sales tax revenues due to the economy have forced Scottsdale and Tempe to cut back transit service on some routes. However, money for the proposed Scottsdale Road/Rural Road project will come from a separate regional funding source. This study is required to help ensure that the project will be eligible for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) capital grant funding.
Why Scottsdale Road now?
North and southbound travel demand along Scottsdale Road is increasing each year. Local and regional studies have recommended implementing significant transit improvements beyond the existing local bus service, especially with two of the largest employment centers in Arizona—downtown Tempe/ASU and Scottsdale Airpark—located at opposite ends of the corridor.
In between lies the Shea Boulevard business hub, the Scottsdale Road Resort Corridor, downtown Scottsdale (with local government facilities, renowned retail shopping, the Scottsdale Healthcare medical hospital and medical offices, and high-density residential development), and the ASU/City of Scottsdale SkySong research campus, which is currently twenty-five percent complete.
Bus Route 72 (Scottsdale/Rural Road) has the highest ridership of any route that operates outside the city of Phoenix.
The area within one mile of Scottsdale/Rural Road actually has more jobs than residents. Offering enhanced transit service in such a promising travel corridor can attract new riders to transit and new businesses to the corridor.
There are several transit modes or technologies available for this corridor and include rail (streetcar or light rail transit) and bus (rubber-tired vehicles). METRO light rail has operated in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa since 2008, and a modern streetcar technology —a “lighter” and less costly version of light rail—will soon be under construction in Tucson.
Due to its relatively high cost and limited community support in Scottsdale, urban light rail transit is not considered a suitable candidate for implementation in the near term.
The study team, consisting of RPTA and its consultants, will explore it as a possible option in the future (15 to 20 years or more).
Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a form of advanced bus service that combines many advantages of light rail transit with the flexibility of buses. Compared with local buses, BRT typically has fewer stops, priority at some intersections and amenities to enhance the comfort of passengers. A local example of BRT is the Mesa Main Street LINK which shares travel lanes, but stops less frequently than local buses – approximately every mile.
This study is considering several types of BRT for Scottsdale and Rural Roads:
1. Operate buses in curb lanes shared with general traffic, similar to local buses or the Mesa Main Street LINK.
2. Use of “business access and transit” or BAT lanes. In this concept, the curb lanes would be reserved for buses and vehicles turning into cross streets or driveways. It offers the potential for additional travel time savings at a moderate cost. Rigorous enforcement would be necessary to make this idea work, however.
3. Dedicated bus lanes in the median of the street. Buses would operate much like the existing METRO light rail, with stations located in the center of the street and left turns across the tracks permitted only at protected locations (with left turn signals). In effect, buses would serve as a form of trackless light rail. This concept is cheaper to build than light rail, but would also require reducing the number of general traffic lanes on Scottsdale and Rural roads from six to four, because additional right-of-way does not exist in this corridor.
In downtown Scottsdale, with its narrow four-lane cross-section on Scottsdale Road, this concept is not considered feasible.
4. “Transportation System Management” or TSM, would add limited-stop bus service with no other capital improvements or amenities.
Based on the four general concepts described above, six alternatives are being presented to the public at two public meetings in July. Both meetings are scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. A 30-minute presentation of the study will begin at 6:15 p.m. followed by an open house until 8:00 p.m. The same presentation will be made at both meetings on:
- Mon., July 19, Scottsdale Airport Terminal: 15000 N. Airport Drive (free parking is available in the main terminal parking lot)
- Wed., July 21, SkySong: 1475 N. Scottsdale Road, Convergence Room (located on the 1st floor-southeast corner; free parking available nearby)
Input from the public meetings will help determine which alternative (or a combination of alternatives) would best serve the needs of the community while still meeting the eligibility requirements for FTA funding.
Additional public meetings will be held in the fall to present the Locally Preferred Alternative for public review and comments.
For additional information or to be added to a project mailing list, please contact:
City of Scottsdale
Principal Transportation Planner