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8:26 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Transit plan heads to public comment phase

Courtesy

Courtesy

PRESCOTT - As a community advocate who deals daily with transportation voids in the Prescott area, Fritzi Mevis maintains that the need for public transit is only getting more severe.

"This is the time we really need transit the most, because of the economic times," Mevis told the executive board of the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization this week.

Mevis works with People Who Care, a non-profit organization that helps homebound adults stay in their homes longer. She regularly deals with arranging essential transportation, such as getting people to doctors' appointments.

As volunteers have felt the crunch from fluctuating gasoline prices, Mevis said the organization frequently has had to restrict the number of rides it could offer to people in need.

"We are overwhelmed," Mevis told the CYMPO board.

Her comments were a part of the discussion the board conducted during its Wednesday night review of the draft Transit Implementation Plan. Mevis was among the more than 20 transit advocates who turned out for the review.

The system that the implementation plan proposes would involve "a family of services," according to Vicky McLane, the program manager.

Along with a fixed bus route that would circle parts of Prescott and Prescott Valley and provide a link between the two, the system also would offer door-to-door service for handicapped people through its "para-transit."

It also would provide flexible routes, which would be a hybrid, of sorts, of a fixed route and a demand-response system. McLane explained that buses on the flexible routes could divert one-quarter mile off of the basic route to pick up users who call ahead and request service.

Although they had some questions, CYMPO board members appeared supportive of the transit implementation plan, and agreed to make it available to the public for a 45-day comment period.

For instance, Yavapai County Supervisor Tom Thurman, who was filling in on the CYMPO board this week for Supervisor Carol Springer, pushed for implementing the expanded fixed route right away, rather than starting with the initial, more scaled-back, route that the plan suggested.

The main difference between the two would be the expanded route's addition of a section of Willow Creek Road. While the initial plan shows the Prescott route ending in the Yavapai Regional Medical Center/Village at the Boulders (four-points) area, the expanded route would extend out Willow Creek Road to Commerce Drive.

Thurman maintained that the Willow Creek section would be crucial to the system because it would allow for access to the County Health Department and Pioneer Park - both of which are just off Willow Creek Road on Commerce Drive.

The plan has been under way since spring, when the CYMPO board awarded a $96,180 contract to the TransitPlus consulting firm to do the implementation planning that was necessary after the completion of the 2007 Regional Transit Needs Study.

The 91-page draft suggests startup of a fixed-route transit system by about 2010. The budget shows that while federal grant money would cover the bulk of the $1.6 million initial annual cost of the system, the local governments would be responsible for about $450,000 to $550,000 per year at the outset. Officials have yet to determine a revenue source for the local share.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com