June 9 City Council Meeting: Broadway Coalition Redux #10? (I’ve Lost Count)

Broadway Blvd.
Campbell and Broadway intersection on the latest Broadway widening project maps.

How wide should Broadway Blvd. be between the Snake Bridge and Country Club Rd? This seems like a never-ending question, but today– June 9– is a big day. Today, the Tucson City Council will vote on moving forward with the Broadway widening project.

You’ll remember that the Broadway Citizens Task Force meetings over the last few months have been filled with drama and intrigue. Originally, powers that be in the city/county wanted to widen Broadway to eight lanes, based upon flawed traffic projections from 20 years ago. Over and over again in meetings and on comment cards, the citizens of Tucson have said that expansion was not necessary because the city didn’t grow east, as projected– besides the fact that expansion to 8 lanes would destroy historic buildings and put small businesses out of business. That 8-lane idea was beaten back, but still the “pro-car” … er… “pro-growth” forces tried to manipulate the process.

Also, on tonight’s agenda is a discussion of the Sun Tran budget and potential route changes.

So– if you support sustainable, historically sensitive growth and transportation, come to today’s Mayor and Council Meeting and show your solidarity with the Broadway Coalition and the Tucson Bus Riders Union. Below are the details about the Broadway widening and about Sun Tran…

Broadway Widening

Dear Friends,

We need to pack City Hall one  last time to show that Tucsonans are watching and concerned about how the Mayor & Council will vote on the Broadway Project this Tuesday.

Date: Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Time: Come around 6:30
Place: Council Chambers at City Hall

The Broadway Coalition will have a table out in front: Come by and get a snack, water, and a sticker or T-shirt to wear to show solidarity!

I think many of you know I have been working for the last several years with the Broadway Coalition to make sure the Broadway widening project  will reflect a sense of pride and improvement for all Tucsonans.

At this Tuesday’s City Council Meeting, the Mayor and Council will vote on a motion to approve an alignment and move forward with the technical design process, including planning for property acquisitions. The Broadway Coalition has met with all the Council Members and the Mayor to discuss the alignment, understanding it is a conceptual line and the exact placement depends on engineering and other considerations. We have received support from all we have contacted.

We are asking that the motion have some additional considerations to support our continued request for preserving historic resources and local business vitality:

1.        We want the M&C motion to explicitly direct staff to give a high priority to:

·         Sense of place; a destination to enhance vibrancy of central Tucson

·         Local business viability and vitality

·         Historic preservation

·         Pedestrian and bicycle safety

·         Neighborhood stability

·         Further narrowing lanes and roadway where possible to attain these goals

·         Embracing design challenges and finding remedies, not demolition.

2.         Real Estate must refrain from contacting property owners until parking and land use issues are resolved. One idea is to meet with property owners in groups to facilitate shared parking.

3.         Authorize a transit study now and plan for dedicated transit lanes to attract Millennials.

4.         Give greater publicity to the Ombudsman, Patricia Gehlen, appointed to help businesses and residents navigate the bureaucracy.

5.         Encourage transparency and accountability, by requesting staff to report monthly to the Mayor and Council and involve the CTF in design development.

6.         Direct staff to prepare a temporary blanket parking variance for the project area so that the businesses will not be out of compliance.

7.         Direct staff to immediately begin development of an overlay district to deal with parking, land use and historic designation.

Details for Tuesday Evening Meeting

The City Council meeting starts at 5:30, but a hearing on the budget will be first. Best estimates are that the Broadway hearing will start around 7-7:30. Access Tucson is planning a big turnout for the budget to plead to keep their program going.

If you are interested in speaking please fill out a blue card as soon as you get there. We will be happy to provide ideas and reference points.

Further details:

In addition to the evening session, the council will be discussing the Broadway Project alignment at the study session starting at 2pm. There will be no opportunity for public input at the afternoon session, however, it is important for the council to know there is an interested and engaged public.

Please come to one session or both depending on your availability.

Thanks so much!



 Sun Tran Budget

What happened at Transportation Task Force (TTF) last night, June 8

Dear Councilmember,

I wanted to update you both because I did not see your staff at the meeting yesterday.

The task force unanimously passed a motion asking the Mayor and Council to preserve the bus service budget rather than using it as a place to make reductions. Meanwhile the task force wishes to evaluate the proposed service changes with an eye to reallocating service in to improve the utility of the network. (Four of the proposed changes met with no opposition, and one of the major service changes proposed for later in the year also received positive response. The latter would allow us to save 2 buses that could be used for an improvement on the route 11 that we currently cannot do without unacceptably reducing frequencies on other routes, due to lack of buses.)

Here I offer some reminders and statistics that might help you support that position.

Last fall we very reluctantly reduced frequency on the Campbell route 15 and the 22nd St route 7. Staff warns that “no way” is the budget going to go up any time soon. Deficiencies remain in night and weekend service (emphasized in Jarrett Walker’s report, pl 24) and overall, in the frequency that would make our well-designed grid more effective and relevant.

Despite these deficiencies and some weaknesses in our information services, marketing, and customer service, not to mention security concerns that could be addressed, we are making excellent use of our bus service dollars. Of 23 metro areas closest to ours in population size (with Tucson in the middle at no. 12), we have the 3rd lowest expense per passenger trip and the 3rd lowest expense per passenger mile (0.77 compared to the average 0.99 among that group; stats from NTD 2013). At the same time we are 5th in passenger miles and 6th in total trips out of those 23 metros. In the 9 years from 2005 to 2013, our vehicle revenue service miles went up by 16% while ridership measured by trips went up 26%.  

These numbers show the potential for a more transit-oriented region.

Our community and its various government entities are just beginning to acknowledge and respect transit’s role in the total transportation picture, as well as its key importance to economic development, public safety, and social equity, not to mention environmental sustainability.

Bus service is not a place to find efficiencies and cut the budget. The task force wants to work with Sun Tran so that the tools gained from the COA process can be used to make the network more efficient and effective. We are open to changes and even service cuts in some areas. But these changes must be made with an eye toward reallocating those limited resources toward building frequency so our grid pattern becomes a grid system, and toward gradually improving the early, late, and weekend service that bus riders and would-be riders are clamoring for.

Last fall you decided it was not the time to cut bus service or raise fares. What has changed since then? We have

— Invested in eastside route extensions and a new eastside park-n-ride facility

— Reiterated the commitment to providing discounted semester and annual passes for Pima College students and staff, but not yet implemented this portion of the adopted fare policy.

— Introduced some new pass products and are in the process of implementing others, with success that it’s still much too early to measure.

— Received the IAPC report that rightly pointed to some expense items that should be categorized as transit expenditures, such as the debt service on the streetcars, which increases the expenditures that are attributed to transit without spending more on or improving transit.

— Embarked on Transit Visioning Project with PAG and Jarrett Walker & Assoc., yielding (so far) a high level of public interest and a report confirming the overall efficiency of our bus transit network (p. 23) while pointing to the impact of its weakness in night and weekend service and demonstrating the ways that “Ridership is clearly responding powerfully to frequency” (p. 28).

Reductions in service funding send the opposite message from all of the above.

I appreciate the impulse on the part of Sun Tran staff to try to raise the productivity of routes by cutting them where usage is lower; however, if the COA process is used solely as a way to cut rather than reallocate resources, we stand to reduce the relevance of the system and lose ridership, and it’s a cycle that once started has no clear end point.

We all support getting more for our money. But let’s not pretend that the COA magically gives us more for less money.