The Payson Town Council moved a step closer to a public transit system Thursday evening, authorizing the development of an implementation plan and cost estimates.
"It means at this point they are interested enough in the issue to want to go to the next step," Rob Bohannan, transportation planner, said. Bohannan works for Lima & Associates, the Phoenix-based consulting firm retained to conduct a public transit study for the town.
"They clearly understand, and they're absolutely right, that they're not committing anything right at the moment except the relatively minor expenditure of continuing the study," Bohannan said. "Several of them mentioned that even after they've qualified for funding approval from the federal government, they still have an opportunity to say we aren't going forward with it."
Councilor Judy Buettner, a member of the public transit committee that developed the study, emphasized the Arizona Department of Transportation's commitment to it.
"ADOT told us if we were united in our desire to have this and if they accepted it, it would go," Buettner said. "Tremendous assistance is available to us for everything from training to the studies, help with the funding, help with the implementation, and the operating costs. It isn't a done deal at this point, but I think we should go to the next level."
The amount the town would have to pay for a public transit system depends on several factors, according to Bohannan:
- Level of ridership.
- The Town of Payson is required to match funds granted by the federal government. Funding and matching requirements vary. There is a maximum 50 percent match requirement for operating funds, and a maximum 80 percent match requirement for capital.
- The amount of money allocated by the state each year from lottery proceeds to LTAF (Local Transportation Assistance Fund).
Bohannan said the ridership estimate of 30,000 in the study was based on information on rural ridership statistics developed by the Transportation Research Board's Transit Cooperative Research Project.
"It's a methodology that was developed and tested for estimating ridership in rural transit systems based upon demographics and route mileage," Bohannan said. "Thirty thousand is actually conservative."
He said people who oppose public transit are usually struggling with an idea that only a minority of the community's residents will use it.
"What people have trouble getting their arms around is this: Probably a majority of the adult population does drive," he said. "It's a no-brainer that you have to have roads and cars so people can drive.
"But a much smaller portion of the population is transit-dependent. People struggle with the idea that tax dollars will be spent on a small percentage of the people.
"A valid comparison with public sector stuff is a park or a fire department -- amenities that are there when you need them. You might go your whole life without having a house fire, but it's nice to have the fire department there in case you need it."
Bohannan also emphasized the need for the United States to reduce its dependency on foreign oil.
"Expanding our transportation system beyond everybody driving his or her own car is one of the ways to do that," he said.
The telephone survey to determine the feasibility of a YMCA branch in Payson has been completed and results are "positive" and "encouraging," according to Town Manager Fred Carpenter.
He participated in a teleconference Friday afternoon at which the preliminary results were disclosed by the Atlanta-based Winfield Group.
The findings will be presented at the regular council meeting on Dec. 9.