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ALEX decision up to council

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Posted: Monday, April 5, 2010 11:00 pm

It isn’t looking good for ALEX and the other four free neighborhood circulators in Phoenix.

Faced with a sudden loss of Local Transportation Assistance Funds, after state lawmakers took the money back to balance the state budget, city staff is scrambling to propose cuts to transit services to make up the shortfall, from changes to Dial-A-Ride to the elimination of the neighborhood circulators.

Whatever the Phoenix City Council decides April 27, the changes will impact people.

“There is no way to cut $9 million without affecting someone,” Assistant City Manager Ed Zuercher told a council subcommittee last week.

A committee formed by Councilman Sal DiCiccio met twice to pencil out a plan that would cut costs of the ALEX service from around $700,000 a year to $452,000, plus they recommended ending the Route 56 bus near Elliott Road, to save another $600,000.

But Councilman Tom Simplot said that faced with the sudden need to cut $9 million, he thought it would take a sudden influx of money to keep the $6-million-a-year neighborhood circulator systems.

“Barring that, I’m not seeing a way out of eliminating the circulators,” said Simplot, a member of the council’s transportation subcommittee.

The council has a list of possible budget cuts, including the elimination of bus Route 32, which saves $1.4 million; a 10 percent cut to RAPID service, which would save $300,000; and the elimination of pre 5 a.m. service, which saves $1.7 million.

The five neighborhood circulators, at $6 million a year, are the largest single item on the list of possible cuts.

A proposal to add a 50-cent fare was also briefly discussed. But transit staff estimated that while it would raise between $250,000 to $350,000, ridership would drop by 45 percent if a fare were introduced.

Before the council makes a decision later this month, transit staff will survey passengers to see what riders are willing to sacrifice to keep some service.

In Ahwatukee Foothills, transit staff will be on the ALEX bus April 9 to survey passengers.

Comments can also be made online at www/Phoenix.gov/transit.

ALEX carries 1,000 passengers a day and began in 2001. It was designed as a demonstration project to show how public transportation could be provided to residential areas with narrow roads.

ALEX, which stands for Ahwatukee Local Explorer, was an immediate hit. Within months other areas of Phoenix were asking for the same type of service.

The other neighborhood circulators are SMART in Sunnyslope, which carries 2,000 passengers a day; MARRY in Maryvale with 2,100; Deer Run in Deer Valley with 320; and DART in the Desert Ridge area, which carries 75 people a day.

 

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