While several communities smaller than Payson offer public transportation, Payson does not -- despite the fact that Payson has more seniors, one of the groups most likely to utilize public transit.
In light of this and other circumstances indicating a potential need for public transit, a feasibility study is currently under way. As part of the Payson Transit Feasibility Study, the public is invited to learn more and provide input at an open house from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at the police department conference room in the Payson Town Hall complex at 303 North Beeline Highway.
"This open house is the first of several opportunities for residents to voice their opinions about the possibility of a transit system and what areas or needs the system might serve," Public Works Engineer LaRon Garrett said. Representatives from Lima and Associates, the consulting team conducting the study, will be available to answer questions.
The main concern at this point in the process is to understand the community's desires and potential opportunities for transit.
"Instead of doing a (presentation) that people have to sit through, this is going to be more of a show-up-and-look-at-stuff-and-leave kind of deal," Rob Bohannan, transportation planner for Lima and Associates said.
Displays and handouts will provide information developed by the consultants regarding Payson-area demographics and activity centers. Attendees will be asked to complete comment cards concerning the material presented.
The town has organized a citizen-based Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that has met twice to provide the consultant information about existing community conditions and issues related to transit. The TAC is charged with oversight of the study process and ensuring that public information and opportunities for involvement are encouraged.
Transit has been a topic within the community for many years. The town council took the first step in addressing it by hiring a consultant to study the potential for establishing a system.
"Actually two council members jointly came up with this idea over a year ago -- that being Vice Mayor (Judy) Buettner and Councilman (Robert) Henley," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said. "We met with some state officials and they told us what we had to do. One thing led to another and they awarded us a grant to do a study, so we're going through the study now."
Bohannan has been working since May 2004 to understand the issues as well as the needs for transit in Payson. Among the information he's compiled so far is a review of transit operations in rural Arizona that shows four communities smaller than Payson -- Bisbee, Coolidge, Cottonwood and Miami -- already operate public transit.
The overall outcome of the study is to produce a recommended transit plan with implementation strategies and a funding plan. The following objectives will be pursued to address this overall purpose:
- Identify unmet transit needs in the Payson community;
- Identify and evaluate alternative transit options;
- Determine the type of transit system best suited to meet the existing demand;
- Prepare an implementation and funding plan;
- Build support in the community through comprehensive public participation.
Among the transit options available:
- Fixed-route service -- buses that follow routes that never vary, like the full-size buses in Phoenix;
- Demand response -- often called "dial-a-ride." Buses are dispatched to the passenger's origin and deliver the passenger directly to a destination;
- Deviated fixed-route service -- a composite of the other two. Buses follow a route, but can deviate to pick up persons with advance notice.
The project is expected to be completed by November 2004. A second open house will be held in the fall to present the findings and recommendations of the study.
For more information, call Garrett at (928) 474-5242 ext. 2283 or Bohannan at (602) 331-0600.