Using Bus Route 522 will add at least one hour to my day, as compared to Route 540.
Throughout this whole process, it has been acknowledged that 540 ridership have been the most vocal. It appears that Tempe did their best to make changes in response to their ridership. Tempe actually added length to Route 522 within Tempe (compared to Route 540), even though they acknowledged that most of the ridership was in Phoenix. Phoenix ridership never had a forum or means to get any type of consideration/alternative, other than the park and ride model (located in Tempe — no Ahwatukee option) —- up until the last minute when the two buses were hastily added back to the route in Ahwatukee.
Is there any doubt that if Ahwatukee were a part of Tempe, Route 522 would better serve Ahwatukee residents? I suspect it would have included the minor suggestions outlined in my June 16 letter, considering these are cost neutral, except for including the loop, which may cost an additional $4,000.
Whether intentional or not, I believe the current 522 in Ahwatukee is set up to fail. Numerous riders have expressed concerns and suggestions since it was announced. My concern now is that if ridership is low on the two Ahwatukee buses, this portion of the route will be eliminated. Based on how Phoenix officials have cherry-picked data to support their current plans (eliminating the Loop and having buses only 15 minutes apart), I suspect that they will look to poor ridership on the Ahwatukee buses as means to eliminate this portion of the route, rather than fix it. This gets to the end goal they have always been pushing for, which is no Express Service in Ahwatukee and the Park and Ride in Tempe.
At the May 17 board meeting, in discussing Route 540, Valley Metro identified “all the transit planning principles as well as our own experience on the street here in the Valley tell us that cutting frequency on a route will hurt ridership in the long run. Over time the decreased frequency on the route will cause the route to lose riders due to attrition and due to people simply finding better ways to get to work. Slow route with low frequency is not in a position to attract new riders. It may keep the existing riders happy. Slowly over time they’re going to go away and we are not going to attract new riders.” With the Ahwatukee segment of Route 522, the frequency is reduced and the route is slower than Route 540 (which does not keep existing riders happy). So based on Valley Metro, it appears that my assessment may be valid, and ridership will be reduced in Ahwatukee. If Ahwatukee is only to have two buses, it makes sense for the route to be structured such that it keeps existing riders and also attract new riders (in Ahwatukee). Considering that Phoenix funds most of the two buses that will serve Ahwatukee (along with a significant portion of Route 522 as a whole) I would think the goal would be to improve the route for Ahwatukee residents, rather than make it worse.
I understand changes can’t be made until January 2013 (according to officials). It would be appreciated if Ahwatukee ridership had a forum/dialog with the city to work towards a better solution (similar to the Tempe focus group/outreach). I wonder how much outcry/concern continues to be expressed by Tempe ridership (540 riders)? I would suspect that this pales in comparison to the concerns of Ahwatukee ridership. I think seeing how each municipality handled this process and responded to ridership may explain why.