As the effort to revitalize the Scottsdale McDowell Road Corridor picks up steam the real key to the rebirth of what some in years past called the “Motor Mile” will be frequent — and consistent — mass-transit connections that serve the needs of those who work and live in the area.
Municipal and community leaders say a major goal of the redevelopment of the McDowell Road Corridor — roughly the portion of McDowell Road west from Loop 101 to 68th Street — is to bring more people to the area.
Transportation officials say for those people to come, stay and build roots in the community, more frequent and abundant mass-transit options have to become available as they descend on the corridor.
Two city council-approved south Scottsdale multi-family housing projects may spurf and sustain the rebirth of the McDowell Road Corridor, proponents say.
The first, a Mark Taylor Homes project, allowed by a rezoning amendment of 24.5 acres of land at the southeast corner of 74th Street and McDowell Road, facilitates a mixed-use development of a new, three-story, 536-unit multifamily residential community within the existing commercial district at 74th Street.
The second, a Scottsdale Mar, LLC project, has been approved and will include a 154-unit apartment complex at the northwest corner of 68th Street and McDowell Road where a Pitre Buick auto dealership once stood.
Both projects are under construction.
“The transportation and transit challenge throughout Scottsdale is to provide choices for travel,” said Scottsdale TransportationDirector Paul Basha in an April 3 e-mail.
“Most residents, employees, and tourists in Scottsdale have only one choice for travel — private motor vehicle. It is our responsibility to provide equally convenient travel choices of bus and bicycle. The challenge to using our bus system is the infrequency of service.”
With close to 1,000 new multifamly units coming online in the next few years, Mr. Basha points out those people are likely going to want and need a robust mass-transit system.
“A lifestyle change is occurring with people born in the 1980s and 1990s. People in their 20s and 30s understand the high cost of cars and are gravitating to homes where they can travel to work, entertainment and appointments by transit,” he said. “Scottsdale can provide this opportunity with good bus service.”
The challenge for when new residents come — and they will come, Scottdale officials contend — along the McDowell Road Corridor is accessibility and frequency of current bus routes, Mr. Basha explains.
“While SkySong is very successful, many possible companies will not locate there because the bus service and bicycle facilities do not meet their employee needs,” he said. “These companies locate in other cities throughout the southwest and west where convenient transit and bicycle facilities exist.”
Scottsdale wants to address that perceived deficiency.
“The Scottsdale Transportation Department has requested that the city of Phoenix bus routes on McDowell Road, Thomas Road, Indian School Road, Camelback Road, and Shea Boulevard double their frequency,” Mr. Basha said.
“On Thomas Road, the bus service would be six times each hour instead of three times each hour. On Shea Boulevard, the service would be two buses per hour instead of one. On the other three streets, the service would be four times each hour instead of two.”
Valley Metro officials say they are encouraged by the request for increased frequency along certain Scottsdale transit routes.
“Valley Metro is pleased that the city of Scottsdale is seeking ways to enhance its transit service in anticipation of future redevelopment and ridership demand in certain corridors,” said Susan Tierney, a spokeswoman for Valley Metro.
“As a regional transit agency, Valley Metro works with local communities to plan future transit service that provides passengers with regional connectivity while aligning with the agency’s transit service standards and performance measures.”
Mr. Basha says decisions for annual changes are made in April and take effect in October, which is governed ultimately by Valley Metro or the Regional Public Transportation Authority.
Importance of connectivity
Without connectivity, transportation options are limited — and riders know that, according to Maricopa Association of Governments transportation Director Eric Anderson.
“It is extremely important,” he said in an April 8 phone interview. “Without the connectivity you have very limited destinations you can go to and Scottsdale is not isolated.”
As a Scottsdale resident who works in downtown Phoenix, Mr. Anderson says regional connectivity in the Valley means freeway access — not mass-transit options.
“We have done a pretty good job of connecting our communities through our freeways,” he said.
Formed in 1967, MAG is a coalition of local government officials focused on providing long-range planning for transportation, air quality, water quality and human services, according to www.mag.maricopa.gov.
MAG is the designated metropolitan planning organization for transportation planning in the Maricopa County region.
In 2004, Maricopa County residents extended a half-cent sales tax, which was an extension of a tax enacted in 1985. The tax allocates over one-third of tax revenues, or $5.8 billion for transit.
The Great Recession has impacted available funds for transit and transportation projects, Mr. Anderson explains.
“We peaked in 2007 with $391 million. We hit a trough in 2009 with $291 million. And, this year will generally be about $360 million,” he said.
“What that means is the highway and transit programs have had to be extended. That reduces the amount of new services we are going to offer in the Valley.”
Despite current and future funding concerns, Mr. Anderson says the McDowell Road Corridor is poised for a resurgence.
“As much as downtown Phoenix has been trying to get to a critical mass in terms of permanent populations, the Scottsdale Road and McDowell Road Corridor is another area that we will see a great resurgence in activity.”
Scottsdale Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp says she believes transit options to play a major role in the resurgence of the McDowell Road Corridor.
“People are necessary to encourage investment,” she said in an April 9 phone interview. “Transportation is a very key part of that.”
For Councilwoman Klapp the major number along McDowell Road is 15.
“Bus service that is provided now down McDowell Road is coming on 30-minute intervals, so it would seem to make far better sense to have service along McDowell Road in 15-minute intervals,” she said of what transportation officials have told her about future needs along the corridor.
“The reliability of bus service will result in more people using the service — it will be beneficial for multi-family housing.”