Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Scottsdale's Shuttle

I read an article about the free shuttle running in downtown Scottsdale, and I have to say I'm a little bit torn. When public transportation works well, it can be something really special - the cities, the commuters, the environment - everyone wins. But when public transportation doesn't work well, it can feel like a blight on the city - have you ever been on a dilapidated city bus with a few other people, none of whom looked capable of holding down a steady job?

Public transportation tends to work best when there are geographic areas with lots of people, lots of movement, and short distances (think Manhattan, New York). Tempe has a shuttle called FLASH (Free Local Area SHuttle), which runs around ASU and downtown Tempe. This is how public transportation should work - it's easy, runs often, and stops close to wherever you might need to go.

Scottsdale started a shuttle service for the downtown Scottsdale area, and while the concept is similar, I'm not sure about the results. The service runs along a medium-sized route, with another shuttle coming every 20 minutes. They were running about 75 passengers per day earlier in the spring, but ridership has increased to about 240 passengers per day. That sounds pretty good, until you hear Scottsdale is subsidizing the service at a cost of about $800,000 per year. Some quick, back of the napkin math tells me this works out to about $9.00 per person per ride.

I'm not sure whether to praise Scottsdale for raising the bar on transportation, or to criticize them for wasting so much money... I'm going to keep my eyes on it, and reserve judgement for a later date!

Read the article here.