All the neighborhood circulator buses in Phoenix, including ALEX, could be set for elimination after the state lawmakers took lottery funds used for transportation to help balance the state’s budget last week.
A committee formed to look at making 15 percent reductions in the cost of ALEX, will meet Thursday night to look at sweeping changes and possibly even elimination of the service. The meeting will be at March 25 beginning at 6 p.m. at the Pecos Park Community Center, 17010 S. 48th Street.
The city learned of the $9.2 million shortfall last week of the sudden elimination of the Local Transportation Assistance Fund by lawmakers and initially looked to end the free neighborhood circulators.
"Last week the rumor was to eliminate," all five circulator bus routes, including ALEX, said Councilman Sal DiCiccio, saving $6.9 million.
He called that a "rush to judgment" and with the support of fellow council members, got city officials to agree on Tuesday to have each council district organize a community group to look at potential cuts.
"We stopped it because it was just not a logical thing to do," said DiCiccio of simply eliminating the service without first holding a discussion.
"At the end of the day we may end up (eliminating all neighborhood circulators) but there has to be a thoughtful process to get to that point," DiCiccio said.
ALEX begin in November 2001 after voters approved a transit tax in Phoenix to fund light rail, expanded bus service and a demonstration project to show how public transit could be provided in an area like Ahwatukee Foothills with narrow streets. Quickly the free service was a hit, going from 9,000 riders a month to 25,000.
On Tuesday Warren Segal took ALEX after dropping his car off for service.
"Easier than walking," said Segal, who lives near Piedmont Road and 48th Street.
But a large percentage of passengers are students and teens who us the service to get to and from school and to recreation spots.
"It is a lot of money to do it for free, but the kids use it a lot," said Sue Laskovsky, site manager at Pecos Community Center.
The news that Phoenix has to cut more than $9 million from the city’s transportation budget comes on the heels of an existing 15 percent reduction in service that was part of the city’s budget-balancing cuts agreed on a few weeks ago.