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Scottsdale transportation not up to par with other metropolitan cities

By Joseph Darius Jaafari
On February 27, 2012


   Coming from two major cities, Los Angeles and New York, I've not only learned the importance of public transportation but I've also come to love it. So when I moved to Phoenix, I expected to be equally impressed by the sixth-largest city's transit system. I was disappointed to learn that Scottsdale hasn't caught the train yet, and it doesn't seem like they want to either.

   Being a bit green to the "new" Scottsdale, I took an afternoon walk around the Waterfront and talked to a few pedestrians. Most of the people I had talked to were snowbirds from Michigan, Ontario and Idaho who keep a winter home or timeshare here. I caught a few locals who lived in Tempe and a few others who lived within the Old Town area (all students at ASU's Tempe campus).

   I took my curiosity to a new level by asking them how they felt about the city. The snowbirds were unanimous in their thought that Scottsdale was cute, quaint, white, traditional and safe. The locals said  that Scottsdale was "just like LA," yet unique in its Southwestern design.

   The discussion perked up my ears and dropped my jaw. Not only was I surprised that Scottsdale is a platform-destination for racism, it also showed me that people in Scottsdale have absolutely no clue what it's like to be in a large metropolitan city.

Scottsdale has boasted for many years now that it's a premiere destination-point for shopping, clubs, and a true urban living experience (as its website suggests). However, what about the part of urban living where transportation is reliable, efficient and accessible?

   I find myself continually being offended by Scottsdale-types comparing this city to other big cities around the nation. One of the biggest things about LA, New York, Miami, Portland, etc. is the fact that public transit is a direct sign of progress – not just socially but economically. In a report released from the Phoenix Department of Public Transportation, the light rail has not only boosted local commerce along the rail, but also allowed more people to move according to where they like to work, play and live.

   However, despite the advantages of more public transit, the city has not promoted more route circulations. In fact, Valley Metro, the government-based company that provides Phoenix's transit, is proposing an increase in daily passes to $2 per ride. That's more expensive than New York's all-day pass and 50 cents higher than a one-way pass in Los Angeles. Note that both these cities have 24-hour routes and multiple means of transport, and can operate on a much smaller fare from users.

   Looking on a map, there are three major traffic veins that run through Scottsdale: Scottsdale Road, Indian School Road and Camelback Road. If, let's say, somebody from Tempe wants to go to one of Scottsdale's notorious nightclubs, they do have a chance of getting there before 10 p.m. on the Scottsdale Road bus, but there's no way to get back after 10:30 p.m. Instead, they'd have to opt in for a $20 cab ride minimum, or risk a DUI if they decide to have a single drink while out.  

If you are coming from Phoenix, don't expect to get anywhere close after 7:30 p.m.  The easiest way to get there would be to take the light rail to Scottsdale Road and take the bus, but then you're in the same predicament to get back to Phoenix (and good luck if you missed the last light rail at midnight).

   Outside of the nightlife, SCC students are finding themselves out-of-luck too. No transit system runs to the college on Saturdays and during the weekdays there is no service to the college after 6 p.m. or the college after 7 p..m.

   Continuously, we see examples of Scottsdale pushing away from progressive legislation and public services that can, in promote a better urban living as Phoenix has. That, out of everything, doesn't surprise me one bit.

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