After years of complaints that buses don’t go east of Power Road in Mesa, the city will test a new route starting in October to gauge whether residents really will use transit in the area.
This experiment is itself an experiment – no pilot bus route has ever been attempted in the Valley.
Mesa doesn’t yet have funding to support the new route year-round, so the test will establish whether it’s worth running buses on a seasonal basis until transit funding increases. The test will cost $365,000.
The only service east of Power is a tiny segment of a line on Williams Field Road. The city wanted to run buses east of Power for years, as one-third of Mesa is east of that road.
“We get a lot of requests for adding bus service in that area,” said Jodi Sorrell, the city’s interim transit services director.
The new route will serve Superstition Springs Mall and many points to the east. The service will run Oct. 22 through April 20.
Buses will go counterclockwise. The route will carry passengers south on Power from Broadway to Baseline Road, then turn east. On Baseline, buses will turn north at Signal Butte Road and then head west on Southern Avenue. At Hawes Road, buses will go north to Southern Avenue and return to Power.
The route provides access to the Banner Baywood Medical Center, several clinics, the Mesa Express Library, the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet and several shopping centers. Many neighborhoods have large numbers of seniors and low-income residents.
Mesa plans to promote service in the area this October. The city will survey passengers in January and April to ask if the buses go in the right direction and to get feedback on the location of bus stops.
Mesa doesn’t have any ridership projections. Sorrell said it usually takes two years for a new route to establish its ridership levels, but in this case Mesa will measure progress by looking for increases in monthly passenger counts.
Vice Mayor Scott Somers represents southeast Mesa and said the city’s limited funds might best be used to provide service in the winter, when the area’s population swells with snowbirds.
“Maybe a seasonal route would work,” Somers said. “We’ve never done anything like that before.”
The city will use 40-foot buses. But Somers said it might be possible in the future to operate short buses that could turn into the area’s retirement communities, where bus stops could be established at community centers.
Mayor Scott Smith said the route has the potential to shift some Dial-A-Ride passengers to traditional transit service, which is far less expensive for the city to provide.
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