Mesa updating transit plan for estimated population boom in next three decades - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa updating transit plan for estimated population boom in next three decades

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013 5:15 pm

After significant growth over the last decade, the City of Mesa is revamping its transit plan to adapt to what city staff believes will be a large influx of people over the next 30 years.

Addressed during an Oct. 3 study session by the Mesa City Council, Planning Director John Wesley said the city is looking at ways to adapt to a population city staff estimates will grow by 170,000 people over the next three decades. Similarly, the city anticipates it will add approximately 130,000 jobs during that same span.

The component of the general plan the staff presented on Thursday entailed adapting the transit system for three stages of expansion encompassing five, 10 to 20 and 30 years from 2013. Since 2002, Transit Director Jodi Sorrell said the city went from having 12 local transit routes and four express routes and no Sunday service to 17 local and regional routes, five express routes and weekend operations.

Also new is Light Rail service to Main Street and Sycamore Drive that connects Mesa to downtown Phoenix.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the last 11 years,” she said.

Some of the transit expansion, most notably the Light Rail, is underway already, but the city expects to expand the lines for rail and bus services.

Consultant Matthew Taunton said the options are split into short-term, medium-term and long-term scenarios using the current system as a basis. The three specific areas Taunton said researchers analyzed to create the scenarios were the transit as it functions now and how it’s planned to proceed in the future, the spots where the city expects to see the most usage of public transit — places with a large amount of residents ages 18 and younger or 65 and older are given high emphasis — and locations with a high population density.

The first scenario entails what the city expects to happen in five years, when the Light Rail extension opens along Gilbert Road. It could also feature an extension of the bus transit system farther down Arizona Avenue and closer to Chandler.

Taunton, however, said two of the routes — one along Mesa Drive and the other along Stapley Drive — might face problems if they don’t extend into neighboring Gilbert. Currently, Taunton said the town is not interested in pushing those two routes further into Gilbert.

Because Mesa staff expects the ridership along those two routes to grow, Taunton said one option worth considering is to turn the routes into loops.

“That would allow for increased circulation within the city of Mesa,” he said.

The second set of scenarios takes into account expectations for the next 10 to 20 years and anticipates the extension of the Light Rail to either Power Road or south from Gilbert Road down to Southern Avenue. Both options feature a bus connection to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport from Power Road that would occur within the next decade or two.

The last set of options includes an extension of the Light Rail within 10 years after the last scenario while compensating for a possible passenger rail project by the Arizona Department of Transportation. Taunton said ADOT has three options for the passenger rail, two of which would course through Mesa.

One of the two options under consideration would have the Light Rail, passenger rail and bus transit intersect at Superstition Springs, which is located near the U.S. 60.

“This would really reinforce Superstition Springs as the hub for transit service in the East Valley,” he said.

Sorrell said the next step in the process is to present the options in public meetings that should occur either later this month or in November, and she said ADOT plans to present the three passenger lines options to the public at meetings sometime between October and December.

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