The city of Chandler in conjunction with Valley Metro is conducting a study on the possibility of adding flexible transit into the corridor to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and improve access to the bulk of the city’s employers.
Intel, Wells Fargo, PayPal, Northrop Grumman, Bank of America and CVS Health are just a handful of employers headquartered in the Price Corridor—which encompasses businesses just north of Ray Road stretching south to Intel’s campus just south of Queen Creek Road.
The lack of transportation in the area has been a priority for the city and was pointed out in the city’s transportation master plan update conducted in 2019.
“Even before the master plan, we had our eyes on this corridor,” Transportation Planning Supervisor Jason Crampton said. “We get a lot of interest from the businesses—they want to have transit available for their employees. PayPal and Wells Fargo have expressed interest, so have some of the other large employers in the corridor. Having their interest and certainly having a need for more transit options in that area really made us want to look more at what we can do in the corridor.”
The city and Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority, more often known as Valley Metro, are presenting the possibility of flexible transit—in which a person would order a ride from a smartphone app, hail a passenger van that picks them up and drops them off at or near work. It would be similar to an Uber or Lyft, but the rides would occur within a zone or fixed route; rides would be shared in a van or minibus; and fares would be fixed and comparable with local bus fare, according to Valley Metro.
“With the existing service down there, there’s not great interest in it,” Crampton said. “There is great interest in having better service. That kind of had us looking into different options. Making extensions to bus routes doesn’t make as much sense as new technology has come out and options such as micro transit or flexible transit appears that deviates from bus routes in both demand and convenience.”
The partnership with Valley Metro for flexible transit is in the study phase, with a proposal expected to be brought to Chandler City Council later this year, Crampton said. If City Council chooses to execute flexible transit in the Price Corridor, it would be the first flexible transit of its kind in the Valley.
Traversing Price Road
The study encompasses roughly 18 square miles, according to Valley Metro officials, including much of central Chandler and destinations such as Chandler Fashion Center and downtown Chandler as well as major employers such as Intel and PayPal.
More than 13,500 are employed at Intel and PayPal alone, according to data from the Chandler Economic Development Department.
Valley Metro spokesperson Madeline Phipps said the study in partnership with the city began in the summer of 2020 with the goal of moving people more efficiently on Price Road and throughout the Price Corridor.
“There are other cities in the U.S. that have flexible transit like we are looking at,” Phipps said. “One of the examples is a Dallas-area study. We are certainly aware of these types of transit options, but something like this hasn’t been done in this area before.”
According to data from Valley Metro, 64% of people in the area are employed in the 18-square-mile study area but live outside the area, or 55,115 people. Meanwhile 5,338—or 6%—are both living and working in the area.
“The city’s transportation master plan had kind of identified this location as the first of these flexible transit service areas,” Crampton said. “But there are recommendations throughout the city that could function very similarly in different parts of the city. Looking long term, this type of thing could be coming to different areas as we bring transit options to different areas. We could replace existing bus services to offset the cost. We are always trying to be considerate of the tax dollars.”
Details still need to be worked out through the study and the direction of City Council, but Crampton said the speculation is the city would contract with Valley Metro to conduct flexible transit much like the two partner to provide bus services. Crampton said he hopes the transit option could be funded partially by a grant and regional funds available to the city. Officials were not able to estimate a cost for the potential project at this time.
If the project comes to fruition, he said the city would look into scaling back Bus Route 96 that serves south Chandler, and the cost savings from that move would go toward funding the new operation.
“It would be an entirely new concept for the city and for Valley Metro,” Crampton said.
Meeting employer demand
Crampton said the city has been in talks with the employers of Price Corridor regarding the potential for flexible transit for some time. Several think the addition of transit options would be beneficial to their businesses, Crampton said.
“We hope it would improve access to jobs,” Crampton said. “It wouldn’t be limited to operating on arterial streets and could go into a neighborhood street corner so people could have only a short walk when they are going to work. Then if they are going to work at Wells Fargo or PayPal or Intel, the bus or van could drop them off at the entrance to their building rather than at a bus stop or something that could be far from the building.”
PayPal and Wells Fargo did not return requests for comment prior to the printing of this publication.
Bill Kalaf, a resident and appointed member of the city’s transportation commission, said connecting potential employees with high-wage, high-skill employers would benefit both residents and businesses.
“We need more transit options in Price Corridor,” Kalaf said. “The city wants to try innovative solutions instead of the old style of just adding bus routes, but the city is really looking at identifying two problems: lack of transit and connecting employees and employers by something other than cars. It’s my personal belief that—based on traffic studies and demographics in Chandler—that we need to think about better transportation options other than cars driving all over the place. This would address that.”
Kalaf said he believes flexible transit makes the most sense for Chandler.
“Chandler is always pretty innovative, and this is an innovative solution that, if successful, could be implemented elsewhere in the city,” Kalaf said.