Mesa studies first bus service east of Power Road - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa studies first bus service east of Power Road

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Posted: Monday, April 2, 2012 4:34 pm | Updated: 10:14 am, Mon Apr 9, 2012.

One-third of Mesa is east of Power Road, yet the area is served by zero percent of the city’s bus system.

After years of requests from unserved residents, the city is looking to experiment with a seasonal bus route that begins at Superstition Springs Mall and runs on a loop east of Power.

The city’s eastern flank has become more densely populated in the last decade with housing developments that feature small lots, said Mike James, Mesa’s transit services director. Many senior housing communities and manufactured housing parks add to the density, he said.

More and more, those residents have been asking for transit service.

“It’s summertime or it’s holiday time and they want to go in to the mall or they want to go other places on the bus, and they just don’t have that connection,” James said.

The route would run clockwise and begin at the mall, which is at the northwest corner of U.S. 60 and Power. It would go north on Power to Broadway Road, then go east to Crismon Road. It would jump east to Signal Butte Road at Southern Avenue, and head back west on Southern until it reached Power.

The route would serve several shopping centers, several senior communities and the Mesa Express Library. It would also connect to other routes and a transit center at the mall.

“We think there’s not only a quality of life benefit, but also an economic benefit as well,” James said.

Mesa expects the bus would run every 30 minutes. The city will spend the next few months identifying potential bus stops, studying ridership projections and developing benchmarks to determine what it would consider successful. Preliminary cost estimates for the route are $350,000 per season.

Vice Mayor Scott Somers represents southeast Mesa and emphasized the service would be a pilot to determine its viability.

“It may have to be seasonal for a couple of years,” Somers said. “Funding is improving overall, but we’re taking a very cautious approach, which is why we’re looking to start with a seasonal trial.”

Mesa is also studying the fares as it looks for sponsors to offset costs, James said. The city looked into that in 2009 and 2010 for a similar circulator route by Fiesta Mall that never materialized. The city couldn’t get sponsorships at that point in the economy, but James said Mesa will try again for the east Mesa route.

Also, Mesa is looking into improving service on the Express Route 533. That line runs on Power Road and heads to downtown Phoenix, with five morning and five afternoon trips. The city is considering spending $50,000 to add another morning and another evening route because each trip is standing room-only. The route is the busiest express line in the Valley with 83 passengers on average, James said.

Mesa has heard some potential riders have avoided the express route because they don’t want to stand, James said.

Somers said east Mesa is an untapped area for transit service.

“With gas north of $4 and heading north fast, there’s a great opportunity for folks to get out of their cars and use mass transit options, which currently don’t exist east of Power Road,” he said.

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