Council Faces Decision On Public Transit System

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It won't be the final commitment, but the Payson Town Council will make a decision to move forward on a public transit system at its regular meeting Feb. 10.

At a special meeting Wednesday morning, the council heard a presentation by Amy Ostrander of Denver-based Ostrander Consulting, Inc. She was hired by the Arizona Department of Transportation to verify the conclusions reached in the Payson Transit Feasibility Study, conducted last year by Rob Bohannan, transportation planner for Phoenix-based Lima & Associates.

"I saw my charge as being asked to give a second opinion and do some verification," Ostrander said. "Would another set of eyes see the same thing that Lima & Associates did?"

But Ostrander, who operated a transit system for eight years, said she also was hired to go beyond the theoretical to the operational. She said she focused her attention on a review of the ridership estimates, the route structure and the cost estimates.

Potential ridership is determined using demographic factors.

"You look at target rider groups," Ostrander said. "Seniors tend to ride (buses) more, people who are mobility-limited. There's a factor that applies to the general population, then there's higher factors if you are either elderly or have a disability."

Of a population of 13,620 -- based on the 2000 census --ayson has 3,983 residents older than 65 and 2,800 who are mobility-limited.

Using the most technical methodology available, Bohannan had estimated annual ridership at 40,752. Ostrander used two other methodologies.

"I found that the initial estimate of ridership was conservative and attainable," she said.

In the initial study, Bohannan recommended 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.

As proposed in the study, the Payson system would use three buses operating on two routes. The buses would be similar to the bus operated by Mazatzal Casino.

"What you have (proposed) now are two opposing routes, one going clockwise and one going counterclockwise and I saw that would work," Ostrander said.

Bohannan had estimated the town's cost at $107,000 a year. Ostrander raised that to $110,000, but advertising on the vehicles could reduce that amount.

In making a preliminary decision to move ahead on public transit, the council can factor in a pledge by Sam Chavez, transportation program manager for ADOT, who also was in attendance Wednesday morning.

"We won't let you fail," Chavez told the council. "We don't go there. That's why we do all this pre-work, because we're not going to put good money on something we don't feel comfortable with. Once you get going, you're not going to fail."

After the meeting, Ostrander told the Roundup that people who expect buses to create additional congestion or wear and tear on roads will be pleasantly surprised.

"The average is 1.2 passengers per automobile, so if you have eight people on a bus, you effectively take six cars off the road," she said.

Following the presentation, Councilor John Wilson and Mayor Barbara Brewer both announced their support of the initiative.

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