A $3 million expansion at Phoenix’s busiest park-and-ride, in Ahwatukee Foothills, may have solved the facility’s occasional parking crunch, but commuters also will have to wait longer between buses to ferry them to and from downtown.

Previously, commuters had to wait only five minutes between buses during peak morning and evening hours at the park-and-ride, situated northwest of 40th Street and Pecos Road. But recent budget cuts have forced the Phoenix Public Transit Department to reconfigure the schedule, eliminating the 7:10 a.m. and 4:56 p.m. buses and doubling the wait interval to 10 minutes beginning July 26, said spokeswoman Yvette Roeder.

On average, the service provides about 15,000 commuter trips per month, she said.

“Hopefully commuters can still get to the office on time,” Roeder said. “Cutting one trip here and there is better than cutting the whole program.”

The budget cuts also threatened to delay a $3 million expansion project at the site, which added 350 new parking spots to the existing 500-spot facility, she said. However, the project commenced in January after Phoenix secured federal stimulus funding. Officials held a small grand opening ceremony for the expansion on Tuesday. The city hired Kroll Contactors for the work.

Roeder said that during busy times, particularly in the winter months, the existing parking lot would fill up rapidly, and commuters would park along curbs and in other non-designated spaces.

“It could be hazardous,” she said.

Overflow parking at times has spilled out into nearby residential streets, prompting complaints from neighbors, she said.

Barb Niebel, who works for a private downtown law firm, said she uses the park-and-ride nearly every weekday. She said that after the interval between buses increases, each bus likely will be more crowded, particularly during the winter peak season.

Another commuter, Shane Miller, who works downtown in the County Attorney’s Office, said winter is when the impact might become apparent.

“It gets pretty packed on the way back,” Miller said. “Sometimes on the way there I have to stand.”

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