11/5/2013 11:02:00 AM Williams, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon transit system moving forward with 'baby steps'
Thanks to a grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), public transport between Williams, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon may soon become reality. Ryan Williams/WGCN
For many living in the Williams and Grand Canyon area, traveling to Flagstaff for errands is an unavoidable part of life in a rural community.
But what if your car breaks down or your ride bails? More often than not, you're stuck in town until you can sort out another option.
Thanks to a grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), public transport between Williams, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon may soon become reality.
The CTAA awarded a grant to the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (NAIPTA) and the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECoNA) last year. The grant seeks to support economic development through improved public transit services for a Williams-Flagstaff-Grand Canyon transit corridor.
Members of the public and transportation consultants met in the Williams City Council chambers Oct. 29 to brainstorm ideas for getting from one place to another.
Charles Rutkowski, assistant director of CTAA, opened the workshop by asking participants about the unmet mobility needs in the corridor. Attendees said they would like to see public transportation within Williams, as well as between Williams, Flagstaff and Tusayan, for work, medical care, education, shopping, entertainment and access to the airport.
"We have a lot of students at the high school right now taking classes at the community college," said Gioia Goodrum, Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce CEO.
Rutkowski asked if it would make sense to start the transportation project with three trips to Flagstaff a day - morning, afternoon and evening. Set times are still up in the air.
Participants also brainstormed obstacles that could hinder public transportation within the corridor. Concerns included money to establish the transit service as well as the cost to the user, which Rutkowski said would be discussed at the next meeting once consultants solidify specific transportation needs.
Attendees also named weather as a potential barrier. Another concern was the unpredictability of doctor's appointments and other similar factors, causing the shuttle to leave people behind.
After weighing out the pros and cons, the transportation consultants will explore these options:
Creating a mobility manager position to organize vanpools that would include Ash Fork;
Setting up a regional ridesharing/carpooling program. Currently various employers coordinate ridesharing programs and the regional program could build on this to offer the commuter more options;
Identifying park-and-ride lot locations in Williams, Valle, Parks and Bellemont to support vanpools, carpools and transit services;
Starting up a Williams to Flagstaff commuter route with three roundtrips each weekday. If the system is well received, the transit program could expand by adding three roundtrips a day on weekends, and then as many as five round trips a day on weekdays;
Exploring options to start a seasonal commuter service between Williams, Tusayan and Grand Canyon Village, by partnering with local employer transport services like Xanterra and Maverick;
Looking forward, the group plans to start a long term Williams transportation program, teaming up with the Williams Senior Center and Bearizona's transit services.
Community members suggested the transit system develop in "baby steps," and build up to more commuter options gradually to test the community's need.
At the close of the meeting, Rutkowski said the information they came up with would be used to create an implementation plan, options on how the transit program could be financed and a timeline for a draft report.
The group scheduled its next meeting for Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. in the Williams Chamber of Commerce office.