Buses could be running on two routes by 2006, if the Payson Town Council accepts the recommendations contained in the newly completed public transit study.
LaRon Garrett, town public works engineer, said the study's findings indicate that annual ridership would average 30,000.
"We've done the study," he said. "We've identified that there is a need there, and we need to do something. Exactly what we're going to do is what is yet to be decided."
The study, conducted by Phoenix-based consultant firm Lima & Associates, recommends that the town adopt a "deviated fixed route" system -- a hybrid that combines features of fixed route and dial-a-ride systems. Sometimes referred to as a "checkpoint" system, buses stop at scheduled "time points" or checkpoints as fixed route systems do, but the route taken can vary from trip to trip.
The study, which the council will consider at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, called the checkpoint system "the best of both worlds."
"Passengers waiting to catch the bus at the last minute can wait at the time point. At the same time, the driver can receive a pick-up request from a dispatcher and ‘deviate' from the route accordingly," the study said.
Garrett said the checkpoint system makes the most sense for Payson.
"Dial-a-ride is a good program if you've got the funding to support it," he said. "You really can't charge enough on a dial-a-ride run to cover your costs (in a smaller community like Payson)."
As proposed in the study, the Payson system would use three buses operating on two routes. The buses would be similar to the buses operated by Mazatzal Casino.
Under the proposal, the blue route is a 9.16-mile loop that would take 51 minutes to complete.
The red route is a 7.88-mile figure-eight loop that takes 47 minutes to complete.
If the council votes to move forward with the plan, the Arizona Department of Transportation will assist in creating an implementation plan and final cost estimates. The estimates will be used to apply for a grant from Arizona Department of Transportation that will fund the majority of the system.
The actual cost to riders has not yet been determined, but Garrett believes it will be between $1 and $1.50. Riders who request a special pick-up will pay more.
"There is a lot of federal and state money that can be obtained that can only be used for transit," he said. "We're looking at the fare box making up something between 17 and 20 percent of the actual cost. That's where the federal and state agencies say it ought to be."
If Payson qualifies for funding, it will renew automatically.
"You apply each year, but once you're into the system it's pretty automatic," Garrett said. "They accept one new agency into the system each year, and we're the agency they've slated for next year. In fact, (ADOT) funded 80 percent of this study."
Other items on the council agenda Thursday evening include:
- Authorization to apply for a $35,000 grant to be used as capital for the public transit system, with the town committing almost $9,000 in matching funds.
- Authorization to file the necessary court documents to remove the deed restrictions on the 36-acre Payson Event Center property so the plan to build a conference center, hotel, restaurant and amphitheater can proceed. When the land for the event center was originally purchased, a deed restriction required that any convention center built on the site must be capable of seating 2,000 people.
Under the plan submitted by Hospitality Support Group (HSG), a Valley company that developed and operates the Prescott Resort, the proposed convention center will only seat 500. The company that originally sold the land to the town, Suburban Developers, Inc., no longer exists.
Items listed on the consent agenda are considered routine and will be enacted by one motion. No separate discussion of these items shall be held unless a councilor requests that it be pulled from the consent agenda.
Highlights of the consent agenda for the Thursday evening meeting include:
- Approval of the final plat and "certain documents" related to Boulder Creek subdivision, a 20-lot development at Cedar Lane and Sutton Road.
- Approval of the final plat for Wildflower Ridge subdivision, a 50-lot multi-family phase development in the northwest corner of Chaparral Pines off Tyler Parkway.