While no plan has been drawn up and only the Maricopa Association of Governments has approached the creation of a regional transit system, all interviewed agree that for San Tan Valley to grow transit and transportation options have to be created.
MAG has created a regional transportation plan calling for multi-modal transit options for Phoenix and its surrounding communities linking people from edge to edge of Maricopa County and portions of northern Pinal County.
The plan calls for three scenarios such as commuter rail, light rail and arterial bus routes — but comes with a projected price tag of $1.5 billion and would span construction until 2031, according to Independent archives.
Formed in 1967, MAG is a coalition of local government officials focused on providing long-range planning for transportation, air quality, water quality and human services, according to http://www.mag.maricopa.gov.
The Central Arizona Association of Governments has plans to put a request for proposal out to the general public this November for the creation of a northern Pinal County transit plan, according to Brian Tampp, CAAG executive director.
Formed in 1970, CAAG is a council of governments serving as the regional planning agency for Pinal and Gila counties, according to http://www.caagcentral.org.
Pinal County Board of Supervisors member Bryan Martyn said “surprisingly, no” in response to being asked if any of his constituents have voiced concerns about transportation or transit concerns.
Supervisor Martyn represents District 2, which encompasses San Tan Valley, Apache Junction and Gold Canyon.
“When I first came into office that was the path I went down immediately,” he said in a Sept. 27 phone interview of approaching Valley Metro to try and create a singular bus line for San Tan Valley up to U.S. 60 connecting at the Power Road transit station. “I told them, I need a bus that goes into Apache Junction and San Tan Valley and ties into the system.”
But with no dedicated revenue stream the possibility of such an option is a pipe dream, Supervisor Martyn contends.
“That is kind of the reality of the situation — there is no money for it,” he pointed out. “Public transportation is subsidized and the county is not in a place to subsidize transit. Unfortunately, that’s the harsh reality of it.”
For the immediate future it is unlikely any mass-transit option would be developed for the San Tan Valley area or northern Pinal County, according to Supervisor Martyn.
“San Tan Valley is not served or subsidized at this time relative to public transport,” he said. “Not that we don’t have the need.”
David Batey, a New Vista Realty Desert Properties Realtor, says he has sold homes in San Tan Valley since 2006, and says transit concerns really don’t exist in the area.
“No, I can’t say that any buyer that I have helped has ever made a comment about public transportation options,” he said in a Sept. 27 phone interview. “They are just assuming that the added transportation is the added cost of living.”
While he says the existence of public transit in San Tan Valley would be helpful it is not a make-or-break amenity sought by prospective San Tan Valley homeowners, Mr. Batey says.
“It would definitely be a buyer benefit and I think it would help the area grow,” he said of the benefits of establishing a mass-transit system.
Mr. Batey says client concerns typically revolve around the lack of shopping and businesses.
“I have been seeing an influx of more families having children that are getting toward the workforce age,” he pointed out. “Their concerns are what kind of employers are around for their children ... When it comes to a 16- or 17-year-old in high school making a trip to Mesa or Apache Junction it is a far distance.”
In his experience, he says transit options become a reality when higher learning options become available to an area.
“I think it is going to be the public transportation item that is more sought out by individuals with their schooling,” Mr. Batey said of college students. “I think public transportation plays a big role in students getting to and from campus, but you need to have an influx of students to help drive the call and need for public transportation.”
The magic number
According to Pinal County officials, the development of a public transit system — light, commuter rail or bus route — comes down to dollars and cents.
“I would love to be able to provide bus services to bring consumers into the community, but we don’t have the money right now,” Supervisor Martyn said. “If you live in San Tan Valley and you want the opportunity to get around you need a car.”
Until a revenue source is found or created public transit will remain a figment of a planner’s imagination, Supervisor Martyn says.
“You can get anything you want, but how much do you want to pay for this charter service?” he asked. “The magic number is when you can afford it and you are willing to pay for it.”
Figuring what northern Pinal County wants is what CAAG seeks to accomplish in next month’s request for proposals.
“Part of that RFP is looking at the modes transportation that can occur,” Mr. Tampp said. “That process is going to start in November.”
Mr. Tampp says existing railway along Rittenhouse Road in northern Pinal County and southern Maricopa County may be the backbone to a mass-transit system connecting the Phoenix metropolitan area.
“There could be some connectivity to it all the way there,” he said of a regional system from northern Pinal County to Phoenix.
The planned transit guide will look at every transit option out there, Mr. Tampp expects.
“It will identify all the different modes and the centers and the growth opportunities that the transportation system can bring,” he said. “To put this whole plan together, but this will be revenue constrained.”
Commuter rail can happen in northern Pinal County, Mr. Tampp contends.
“If it works in other cities on a commuter line there is no reason that it can’t work here. It just takes someone saying, ‘yes, let’s take it there,’” he said. “It needs to pay for itself and you know that is not going to initially happen. And, I think on the rail side it is going to take someone to champion this.”