I live in north Ahwatukee and use the Route 540 Express bus to commute to work downtown. The Regional Public Transit Authority (RPTA) is planning to eliminate Route 540 at its board meeting this week (May 17). In place of the existing Route 540, RPTA plans to implement a new Route 522 that will begin service at Tempe Sports Complex and access Interstate 10 at Elliot Road. This means that there will no longer be Express bus service between downtown Phoenix and the Warner-Elliot Loop. Several riders currently access this route by walking or using a bicycle along the Warner-Elliot Loop. Unfortunately, the Tempe Sports Complex will be too far for Ahwatukee residents to walk to and there are concerns about the safety of bicycle access to the site.

As a Phoenix resident, I have concerns regarding lack of alternatives considered during the planning process. During the Citizens Transit Commission meeting I attended, Route 540 was proposed for elimination, with staff identifying that they have been planning the “restructuring” concept for express buses for the past 15 months. Many of the Route 540 passengers I’ve talked to during the past few weeks understand that in the present economy, the city and RPTA must make tough choices about the distribution of existing funds. However, I feel that there are other alternatives to the complete elimination of Route 540 that could save public funds AND provide Express service to the Warner-Elliot Loop in Ahwatukee. These potential alternatives include reducing Route 540 from four trips to three trips and/or shortening the route.

In addition, I have concerns about the Ahwatukee North Park and Ride (ANPR) that was included in the Phoenix Transit 2000 .4 percent sales tax and Proposition 400, the .5 percent sales tax. The park-and-ride construction is not moving forward, and it appears that north Ahwatukee is now at risk of losing access to Express bus service. The Ahwatukee North Park and Ride is part of a larger commitment of taxpayer money to transit access and should continue to be a part of plans for our future regional transit system. I am concerned that the public has not been provided with a solution for the park-and-ride, and I have not been offered any reassurance that the northern part of Ahwatukee will continue to enjoy access to the same type of commuter express bus service seen in other parts of the region.

I believe it is a poor decision to remove service to a dedicated passenger base. Although Route 540 does not have the highest ridership in the regional system, it does have a solid and committed ridership base. Several Route 540 riders have voiced opposition at public meetings and also signed petitions (135 signatures). Information provided at public meetings, including the RPTA Board May 17 agenda, have identified that “the comments received through the public hearing process, as well as additional input through local city processes, were taken into consideration in the development of the final recommendation for restructuring the express system.” Considering the opposition and concerns of Route 540 riders, it’s unclear how our input has been taken into consideration.

I understand Mayor Greg Stanton is committed to bringing more transit to Ahwatukee. As a member of the RPTA Board, I would appreciate his support in finding a viable solution to maintaining Express bus service to the Warner-Elliot Loop in Ahwatukee.

Mike Luecker

Ahwatukee resident and Route 540 Rider

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