Employee vanpools and an eventual commuter bus route are possible ideas for a transit service between Williams, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, according to a transit study that is nearing completion.
A working group of about 10 people reviewed the draft transit report Dec. 10. Suggestions about the draft are due Dec. 20, and a final report could be complete the first week of January.
The transit study came about last year when the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) awarded a grant to the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (NAIPTA) and the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECoNA). The grant supports economic development through improved public transit services for a Williams-Flagstaff-Grand Canyon transit corridor.
At the meeting, A.T. Stoddard of LSC Transportation Consultants outlined the implementation plan portion of the transit study to the working group. He started with short term service options that could be started in the next five or six years.
The first option was organizing vanpools between Williams and Flagstaff, which could start in the first year of service.
"That seems like with the employee demand between Williams and Flagstaff in particular a place to get started," Stoddard said, adding that park and ride lot locations in Williams, Parks and Bellemont could support the vanpools.
The participants in the vanpools could pay a fare to cover the operating costs or organizers could try to obtain federal funding to subsidize the service.
"A vanpool not only is a cost effective place to start service with demand that might not be there for a full bus service, but it can grow into a more traditional transit service if you start filling vans and maybe it makes sense to do a more traditional commuter service," said Charles Rutkowski, assistant director of CTAA.
A Williams to Grand Canyon area vanpool could also be an option depending on the demand, which is often seasonal.
Another portion of the implementation plan was continuing the Williams to Flagstaff medical trips that the Williams Senior Center provides, but expanding them to more than one day per week.
In the fourth year of service, establishing a commuter bus route between Williams and Flagstaff could be an option.
"In future years, using these other services to build that demand, let people know, see what's available, and when people become aware of that opportunity as that demand builds, you may be able to put in that commuter route," Stoddard said.
At this point, the commuter route could use the park and ride lots for pickup locations. Stoddard said the commuter route could also serve people needing medical trips to Flagstaff.
Future services that could develop more than six years in the future included a Williams to Grand Canyon commuter bus route that would also serve Valle and a Williams circulator that would transport people within the city and the surrounding area.
Depending on demand, the implementation plan called for purchasing one van each year for the first four years of service for the vanpools. In addition, the plan called for buying two buses in the fourth year to establish the commuter service, with one bus acting as a backup.
In the first year of service, a One-Call Center and mobility manager position would be set up to take care of transportation scheduling.
Also in the first year, a Williams-Grand Canyon Transit Coalition would need to be established, which Stoddard stressed as a key requirement to getting the transit service up and running.
"What we see is that coalition is a local community group...that will build that support in the local community to have local funding that then also allows you to go after the various grants that are available," Stoddard said.
The working group identified funding as a major priority in starting the transit service.
Stoddard welcomes comments about the draft report before preparing the final report. The draft is available online at http://www.lsccs.com/projects/northernAZ/index.htm. Suggestions for the final report are due by Dec. 20 to Tangerine Almeida at firstname.lastname@example.org.