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21st Century Transportation for Arizona
Arizona is experiencing a shift in how people travel. For almost a decade, Arizonans have been driving fewer miles per person, and we increasingly look to public transportation to get around.
Bikes, Trains and Less Driving
Research conducted by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund found that between 2006 and 2013, Arizona saw an 11.8 percent decline in annual vehicle miles traveled per capita; Arizonans drive fewer miles per person than we did in 1996; and despite increasing population, fewer Arizonans are living with cars. Driving miles per person are down especially sharply among Millennials – the generation that will increasingly dominate transportation trends and is already leading the trend toward greater ridership on public transit.
When it comes to public transportation, transit agencies across our state are experiencing record ridership. In the Phoenix metro area, the light rail opened in late 2008 and is already experiencing ridership numbers that weren’t projected to be reached until the year 2020. Between 2007 and 2013, boardings on Valley Metro jumped from 58 million to more than 74 million. In July 2014, the Tucson Streetcar opened and 10 months later its 1 millionth passenger was celebrated. The Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority has seen ridership grow from under 200,000 in 2001 to more than 1.8 million in 2013. And in Yuma, ridership on Yuma County Area Transit has doubled since 2005.
With transportation dollars becoming scarcer, Arizona needs to shift its transportation priorities toward the maintenance and repair of our existing infrastructure and the expansion of public transportation choices.
To that end, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund is urging state and local officials to conduct the following:
> Get better data. Transportation agencies should compile and make available to the public more comprehensive, comparable and timely data to allow for better informed analysis of the causes and magnitude of changes in driving trends. Officials at all levels should eliminate inconsistencies in the reporting of transportation data, increase the frequency of surveys that shed light on changes in transportation preferences and behaviors, and use emerging new sources of information made possible by new technologies in order to gain a better grasp of how driving trends are changing and why.
> Revisit transportation plans. Many existing transportation plans continue to reflect outdated assumptions that the number of miles driven will continue to rise steadily over time. Officials at all levels should revisit transportation plans to ensure that they reflect recent declines in driving and new understandings of the future demand for travel.
> Reallocate resources. With driving stagnating and demand for public transit, bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure increasing, officials should reallocate resources toward system repair and programs that expand the range of transportation options available to Arizonans.
> Remove barriers to non-driving transportation options. In many areas, planning and zoning laws and transportation funding rules limit public officials’ ability to expand access to transportation choices. Officials at all levels should remove these barriers and ensure access to funding for non-driving forms of transportation.
> Use innovative travel tools and services. New technologies and techniques provide transportation officials with new tools to address transportation challenges. Transportation agencies should encourage the use of carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing and provide real-time travel information for public transit via smartphone.
By rebuilding our transportation system to give more people the option to spend less time in a car, by expanding access to active means of travel such as walking and biking, and by adopting zero-emission electric cars and buses, we can make our transportation safer, healthier, cleaner and more efficient.
As state and national policymakers seek solutions to improve infrastructure, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group’s new report, Transform Transportation, provides a roadmap the organizations say will “steer Arizona towards transportation options to save consumers money and protect public health”.
From mask mandates to capacity limits, the largest public transit systems and ride share companies have new procedures
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new guidelines for businesses and employers in responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Many of the recommendations are sensible: regular temperature and health checks, enhanced cleaning, staggered schedules and employee distancing, and greater use of video and teleconferencing instead of in person meetings. But when it came to “employees who commute to work using public transportation or ride sharing,” the CDC’s recommendation made less sense. It said the following: “Offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others, such as offering reimbursement for parking or single-occupancy ride shares.”
A new report card from the Arizona PIRG Education Fund issued Arizona a failing grade for missing the opportunity to kick-start electric transportation and infrastructure through its use of funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement.
Tools & Resources
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