|Public transit needs to target locals to be a successful service|
|Written by Trista Steers MacVittie|
|Friday, 09 July 2010 13:55|
The days of the RoadRunner as we know it could be numbered pending evaluation by a new task force and a vote by a new Sedona City Council that has expressed dissatisfaction with the transit’s performance.
The original purpose of the RoadRunner was to shuttle visitors between Uptown, Tlaquepaque and Hillside. Nearly four years after the service began, it’s plain to see not many people are riding.
There’s often somebody sitting in the bright colored trolley, but there is never what could be referred to even loosely as a “crowd” using the free service.
Lack of ridership has caused some residents and council members to question the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the service.
Supporters argue tourists pay for our city services with sales tax so providing them transportation to spend more money in more shops boosts the economy and in turn technically helps pay for the service. This would be true, if more tourists used the RoadRunner.
The actual truth is, it hasn’t caught on and it’s nearly impossible for it to because the learning curve is too short — visitors stay less than a week in Sedona. Instead of spending money on a service for tourists that tourists aren’t using, spend money on getting them here in the first place.
Once they are here, visitors will stay the night, eat and hopefully shop regardless of whether a handful of them take a ride on the RoadRunner.
However, even if the RoadRunner dies, it does not mean the effort to encourage use of public transportation in Sedona should go with it. The plan simply needs to change.
Public transportation can be a successful and valued service in the Verde Valley, and Cottonwood is proof. Its service, Cottonwood Area Transit or the CAT, has numerous routes throughout the city, Clarkdale and the unincorporated areas that many riders utilize.
What is Cottonwood’s secret, you ask — the service targets residents.
The addition of the Verde Lynx to the Verde Valley transit system shows more locals use the service than tourists.
Success won’t happen overnight, but with the proper marketing and operations structure, the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority and city could make it work.
The RoadRunner has had years to prove itself and show residents and council it’s worth the money Sedona spends on it, but that time is running out. A better use of public transportation funds would be to invest in helping locals get to work, visit shops and minimize their environmental footprint.