City of Chandler plans ahead for future trends in transportation

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Chandler officials hope to leverage transportation technology in the next 20 years to create more mobility in the city, according to the city’s final draft of a transportation master plan update.

Officials hope to mesh new technologies—such as ridesharing applications and autonomous vehicles—into the city’s transportation infrastructure. According to the master plan, officials are planning “physical and virtual hubs” that would be implemented at locations where transportation services and supporting technologies could work together and make it easier for community members to access their destinations.

“Last time we updated the master plan was 10 years ago,” said Dan Cook, a city engineer. “The technology that exists today, a lot of that didn’t exist back then. Uber and Lyft weren’t even on the radar then. So in looking at our transit system, we had more opportunities to look at different ways to move people that would be cost-effective.”

The city updates its transportation master plan every 10 years, Cook said, though the plans are usually constructed to last closer to 20 years. The process to update the plan began in late 2018 and is expected to wrap up in early 2020 when City Council is expected to vote on it, Cook said. The city’s transportation commission unanimously approved a final draft at a meeting Nov. 6.

The plan outlines the city’s vision to expand existing transit services, improve bike paths and bike lanes, and maps out roadways that require expansion to serve an expected population growth. It serves as a guiding document for city officials and City Council to use in planning for Chandler’s future.

Incorporating technology into the transportation master plan is not something the city has done at this level before, Cook said.

“This is a pretty significant shift in how we have been doing things,” Cook said.

The draft of the plan includes cost projections, but the document is really used more as a vision for City Council and city manager to follow. When individual transportation projects move forward, designs, funding and other facets of the project will be approved by council.
Creating hubs in the community

The physical and virtual hub concept can have different types of services, amenities and information depending on the transportation, technology, infrastructure and data available, according to the master plan draft.

The city has identified four categories that should be considered at each physical and virtual hub: traveler information and support services, active transportation, transit and motorized services.

Michael Grandy, with consultant firm Kimley Horn, told the transportation commission at a Nov. 6 meeting that a sample hub could include multiple transit routes, seating, shade, real-time travel information on interactive kiosks, bike parking, car-share parking, rideshare curb space, wayfinding and lockers.

“No one knows for sure where things are going 20 years from now,” Grandy said, noting the master plan is intentionally vague so the city can incorporate the technologies that make sense for Chandler.

The plan highlights 12 potential physical or virtual hubs across the city. Access to employment corridors, recreation, shopping and dining were key in identifying where the hubs would be most useful to residents, Grandy said.

“It’s an opportunity to bring everything together and make it function better using technology,” Grandy said. “Elements of this kind of exist in some transit centers, but this is taking it up a level.”

The idea is that a person could ride his or her bike or drive and park at this hub, and from the hub he or she could call for a rideshare; hop on a bus line to take them to high-capacity transit, such as light rail; get on a microtransit system, such as a small bus on a semi-fixed route; and head to work, school, the mall or the park.

The hubs work in tandem with plans for the city’s transit system. According to the master plan, the city will look at local bus service refinements, new express bus routes, a pilot flexible transit service on Price Road and a study on flexible transit service areas in north Chandler. The city will also look at a first mile-last mile subsidy program in south Chandler.

By 2040, the plan suggests the city will have flexible transit services in north, west and east Chandler in addition to areas in Ocotillo, the Chandler Airpark area and south Chandler.

“Technology and its influence over the whole system, that’s where we are looking,” said Ryan Peters, intergovernmental affairs coordinator with the city. “We are transitioning into another growth phase, and that’s where a heavy transit element is going to be. This plan highlights that there’s not much more concrete we can pour, but that we need to be moving large groups of people to the employment corridors.”

Cook said included in the master plan was a suggestion to the city to conduct an intelligent transportation system strategic plan to figure out exactly how best to move people in Chandler.

“Things like applications need to be developed to intertwine the modes of transportation,” Cook said, noting Valley Metro has been working to develop such an application. “One of our overall goals is to make sure it meshes together.”

Between 2026 and 2040, the city hopes to develop and construct these physical and virtual mobility hubs.
Making additions, expansions to the existing transportation system

To make sure the plan had public input, Grandy said the city incorporated the thoughts of Chandler residents who were present at a series of meetings open to the public as well as feedback from an online survey. The city saw 1,075 responses, according to the master plan document.

Based on the data presented to the transportation commission, respondents most wanted to see the city invest in its transit system. Second most asked-for was investment in existing city roadways.

The survey asked what mode of travel respondents expected to be primarily using in 20 years. Thirty-three percent said they expect to use their personal car; 28% expected to use a driverless car; 5% expected using a bike or scooter; 11% expected using a shared vehicle; 18% expected to use transit; 4% expected to walk; and 1% expected to use a shared bike or scooter.

Grandy said the study incorporates also feedback from respondents on traffic safety concerns.

Between 2020 and 2025, the plan outlines paths to widen Chandler Heights Road, Ocotillo Road, Cooper Road and Lindsay Road to four lanes and widen Alma School Road and Gilbert Road to six lanes. All of those projects are “programmed” by the city, meaning the city has already worked them into the budget and is planning on completing them.

Between 2026 and 2030, the plan outlines work on Elliot Road, Warner Road, Kyrene Road, Alma School Road and McQueen Road to improve capacity. Grandy said without planning on improving capacity for segments of these roads, traffic would end up being “wall to wall.”

Stretches of Warner Road, Ray Road, Chandler Boulevard and Germann Road are in the plan to be addressed for capacity concerns between 2031 and 2040.

The master plan also highlights the city’s need to improve bike lanes and paths. New bikes lanes as streets are widened, paved shared-use paths across the city, and some separated or buffered bike lanes on roadways such as Frye Road and Hunt Highway are incorporated in the plan.

Dan Henderson, a transportation commission member, said it was evident those involved in crafting the master plan took the time to listen to residents’ concerns and wishes.

“This is a vision document,” Henderson said. “It’s serving as a framework to guide the city through the next two decades.”