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12/11/2012 1:34:00 PM
Williams to Winslow public transportation system in the works
Marissa Freireich

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Traveling to and from Flagstaff and Winslow could get a little easier in the future.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) recently awarded a grant to the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (NAIPTA) and the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECoNA). The grant will support economic development through improved public transit services for a Williams-Flagstaff-Winslow transit corridor.

CTAA chose northern Arizona as one of four areas in the country to participate in the project. The type of transportation and the timeline for when it might be available are still uncertain.

CTAA and NAIPTA hosted a Mobility Visioning Workshop Dec. 4 to find out about Williams residents' travel needs. About 12 people participated in the workshop.

"This is the very first step in a process that will continue over the next few months," said Charles Rutkowski, assistant director of CTAA and leader of the workshop.

Types of transportation for the project could include park and rides, a taxi voucher program, vanpools and a bus system.

"We'll probably look at, if this is feasible, some interim approaches to get this system up and running," said Erika Mazza, planning manager with NAIPTA.

Rutkowski raised several topics during the workshop including unmet transportation needs, where and when to travel, how often, travel purpose, barriers, problems and solutions. For each topic, participants wrote down responses on sticky notes and then hung them around the room under each category.

For the category of trip purpose, participants named employment, shopping, healthcare and recreation as reasons to travel.

Next, Rutkowski asked the group what could prevent people from using public transportation. The group named awareness, weather, accessibility for people with mobility limitations and ability to get to a departure hub.

"What we saw here is that there are internal circulation needs within Williams and then there are longer distance needs to Flagstaff and Prescott," Rutkowski said.

Cost was another major barrier to creating a transportation system.

"Transportation in general is not profitable. It's more there for the public good," Mazza said.

Rutkowski estimated fares account for three to six percent of total operating costs for transportation in small communities. However, the Federal Transit Administration and the state would hopefully help pay for the project.

When discussion shifted to the solutions category, the group suggested support from local businesses and institutions, the development of an outside funding committee and educating the community.

CTAA and NAIPTA hosted similar workshops last week in Flagstaff and Winslow. Next, the groups will hire a consultant who will conduct a feasibility study and propose recommendations in the summer of 2013. During that time, the groups will be meeting with a public advisory committee that is representative of all potential user groups.

"I like to have people involved in the process," Rutkowski said. "When you do it means that people develop a sense of ownership of what you're doing."

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