City gets $2M to start ‘Flex Transit’ in S.' Chandler - SanTan Sun News % SanTan Sun News

City gets $2M to start ‘Flex Transit’ in S.’ Chandler

November 21st, 2021 SanTan Sun News
City gets $2M to start ‘Flex Transit’ in S.’ Chandler
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City gets $2M to start ‘Flex Transit’ in S.’ Chandler

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

The city of Chandler has been awarded a $2 million grant for a pilot micro-transit program called Flex Transit.

“The concept originally started as looking at just the Price Employment Corridor,” said Jason Crampton, the city’s transportation planning supervisor. “For a number of years those employers have been asking for better transit service. Right now, all we have is one bus route that operates during a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon.”

He said planners have been looking at the corridor for a long time, but ultimately decided the new service needed to be available to more than just those businesses along Price Road.

The pilot program will operate in an 18-square mile area from Price Road to Arizona Avenue and between Chandler Boulevard and Chandler Heights Road, with some exceptions. Vans will travel outside that area to specific destinations, such as Chandler High School, the Center for the Arts or the mall.

About 31,000 residents in that area will be able to use the service when it starts in the second half of 2022..

“It’s not a rigid boundary, and with the technology we have the opportunity to make modifications to it as time goes by,” Crampton said.

The Flex Transit program should work similar to how Uber or Lyft operate, said

Sasha Pachito, the city’s transportation planning coordinator.

Residents can either schedule a ride in the future or say they want to be picked up now on an app the city plans to develop. The city plans to purchase six vans for the program, but will only have five operate during peak hours.

A Flex Transit van will come to the resident’s location or someplace close by to pick them up and then take them to where they want to go. If their destination is outside the pilot area and not one of the designated spots, passengers will be dropped off at a transit station.

So, it won’t be going to the airport.

Crampton said the fare will likely be a nominal fee, though that price has not yet been set and is still being looked at.

“You aren’t guaranteed a direct ride, you may have to go pick up another passenger along the way,” Crampton said. “Maybe there is already another passenger on the vehicle and you have to drop them off first.”

For those who don’t have smartphones or are uncomfortable using apps, there will be a phone number they can call where someone will use the app on their behalf.

To qualify for the grant funding, the city has to offer the service free for students. Crampton said they believe there is a need because not all students arrive and leave school at the same time. Those who stay late for clubs, sports or tutoring will likely miss the bus home.

David Thiele, who supervises the fleet for Chandler Unified School District, said said the district offers a similar service to what the city is proposing, but that the district struggles to find drivers and would welcome this new service.

Crampton said they hope to take the lessons they learn during this two-year pilot program and be able to expand the service to the entire city if they can secure the funding.

He said Arizona voters will soon be asked to reauthorize Prop. 400, which is the county’s half-cent sales tax accessed for transportation projects. If that passes, then perhaps some of that money could be used to pay for the regional bus service. That in turn would allow the city to use its money to expand Flex Transit.

Crampton said they considered using Waymo, the private company that has been testing autonomous vehicles in Chandler for several years and that operates a somewhat similar taxi service.

However, he said their service area didn’t fit with this pilot program. Crampton said they would be open to using Waymo or another private company in the future if the program expands.

“We’re very excited about this service model,” Crampton said. “The concern is always the cost, so this grant helps us alleviate that and allow us to get started. I feel like we have a plan to continue to fund it with other non-city funds in the future as long as it’s successful and people are using it.”

City gets $2M to start ‘Flex Transit’ in S.’ Chandler

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