Exploring All Transportation Options
By Dan Schweiker
Transportation has always been near and dear to my heart. I first experienced the valley's roads in 1978 when I arrived in Arizona in my un-air conditioned 1976 Honda Civic. A lot has changed since then, but one thing remains the same – we need an interconnected transportation system that moves people, goods, and services.
There is no doubt that our valley has grown. The number of freeways, streets, and transit options have increased and improved over time as well. I remember when the I-10 tunnel was completed with much fanfare and when the Loop 101 finally came to Scottsdale.
It was my honor to serve on the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Transportation Committee in 2003 and 2004 as we worked on the Regional Transportation Plan and the extension of the 1985 half cent sales tax that built our transportation system. One of the things we realized early on is that we must take a multi-modal approach to transportation planning.
We realized that we must take into account the cost, available land, traffic patterns, growth, and interconnectivity into our planning. We learned that different areas had different needs and an interconnected plan could not be a "one size fits all" approach. We also adopted fundraising firewalls and audit measures to ensure fiscal responsibility. The result was the passage of Proposition 400 in 2004 which is still improving transportation across the region.
In Scottsdale, the Transportation Commission has released a draft of their Transportation Master Plan. It is a comprehensive proposal that will help strengthen our city's transportation policies and improve connectivity for our future. The Scottsdale City Council is meeting on April 12 in a study session to review the plan.
One issue that is often debated (within this plan and any other plan for that matter) is the consideration of various transit options and corridors. I have heard that there are some who would like to eliminate certain transportation choices from consideration. I believe that limiting our options right at the start is shortsighted planning.
That is not to say that I necessarily believe that light rail is our future either. I think there are 21st century transit technologies that we should consider as well. We must also weigh impacts on small business and neighborhoods. More than anything, I think we should at least allow all options to be considered.
As the plan shows, this isn't a commitment, but rather, "intended to facilitate community consideration of physical and fiscal feasibility and to initiate public agency evaluation of economic development, environmental, and socio-economic impacts prior to possible future implementation."
Where I would like to see additional focus within the Transportation Master Plan and transportation planning in general is on accountability measures to ensure that we fund only what works. If anything fails to perform, the plan should include provisions to redirect resources. I would also like to see additional attention paid to audit policies to make sure that costs and expenditures are balanced.
As I have said, a well connected transportation system is critical to our quality of life. Time stuck in traffic is time away from our families and money lost for businesses. We must have all options on the table to ensure Scottsdale's ability to move people and commerce throughout our community.