$994M Chandler plan stresses transit The Chandler Arizonan

$994M Chandler plan stresses transit

$994M Chandler plan stresses transit
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By Kevin Reagan

Arizonan Staff Writer

 

Chandler’s latest transportation master plan encourages city planners to place more of an emphasis on modes of transport that go beyond private automobiles.

More than $192-million worth of improvements are recommended in Chandler’s updated plan to make the city more accommodating for residents relying on public transit to get around the city. 

Over the next 20 years, the master plan suggests revising bus routes, building transit centers, and exploring the possibility of large-scale ventures like constructing a light rail route. 

Chandler last revised its master plan back in 2010, when the city’s population had about 26,000 fewer residents. 

The total cost of all the road, transit, and technology recommendations in the plan is valued at $994 million. Available funding will determine whether any of these recommendations are ever executed.  

The continual growth and urbanization of the city has changed how Chandler envisions transit in the near future, said Jason Crampton, the city’s transportation planning supervisor. 

The rate of Chandler residents who are willing to utilize public transit has grown from 2 to 18 percent since the master plan was last updated. 

More residents imagine themselves utilizing multiple modes of transportation, Crampton said, so Chandler needs to plan for a city where residents don’t exclusively depend on private vehicles to move around.  

“We can’t continue to rely on having 98 percent of people driving in their own car to get around the city without expecting significant congestion,” Crampton said. 

As younger generations become less interested in car ownership – the rate of 16-year-olds with driver’s licenses has been dropping since the 1980s – cities like Chandler are preparing for a future that will need a multi-modal transportation system. 

“Students and younger working population are not inclined toward driving,” the master plan states, “and need demand-responsive mode alternatives like carpool, micro-transit, and ride-hailing services.” 

The master plan recommends deploying more “flexible” modes of transit, like Uber’s ride-sharing application, that can connect residents to drop-off sites around Chandler. 

One concept explored thoroughly in the plan involves “mobility hubs,” a futuristic transit center where different types of services converge together in one place. 

Pedestrians, cyclists, and commuters would ideally travel to these hubs and wait there for their next mode of transit. Planners envision these hubs with cafes or restaurants to keep travelers occupied as well as storage lockers and charging stations for electric cars.  

“Because of the diverse destinations and travel needs throughout Chandler, there is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for transportation throughout the city,” the updated master plan states. “Each physical and virtual hub could be designed specifically for the area of Chandler that it serves.”

The proliferation of new technology is changing how cities approach transportation planning, Crampton said, and it could potentially make transit more accessible to Chandler residents. 

“We’re trying to use technology to advance transit – make it more convenient and hopefully encourage more people to use it,” he said.  

A survey of about 900 Chandler residents found that 44 percent of respondents think the city should invest most of its resources in providing more public transit options.

The master plan’s findings and recommendations are not meant to set anything in stone, Crampton added, it’s intended to be a blueprint for making future policy decisions.  

Furthermore, if Maricopa County voters renew a half-cent sales tax set to expire in 2025, Chandler’s master plan could become a guide for how it would want to spend its cut of the revenue. 

For the last 15 years, the Proposition 400 sales tax has generated billions in revenue for transportation projects – a good chunk of which was spent on extending the light rail route to the East Valley. 

Though many residents who participated in updating the master plan expressed wishes for a light rail route through Chandler, the plan notably takes a vague position on the issue. 

It supports examining high-capacity transit routes along Chandler Boulevard and Arizona Avenue, but does not specifically recommend designing a light rail service similar to what’s available in Tempe and Mesa. 

Valley Metro is in the midst studying high-capacity transit options in Chandler and the agency’s findings are not expected for several months. The master plan recommends waiting for Valley Metro’s results, as any type of light rail service would require more studying and evaluation. 

“The continued advancement of the project and timeline will greatly depend on public input, political support, and available funding,” the master plan states. 

Other projects recommended in the plan include designing a transit center in downtown Chandler, building a park-and-ride lot in northern Chandler, creating a transit service along Queen Creek Road, and adding bike lanes along Ray, Alma School and Warner roads. 

The master plan also recommends expanding sections of Warner, Elliot, McQueen, and Ray roads from four lanes to six.

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