The internal combustion engine has dominated the transportation landscape in the Valley for as long as anyone can remember — but things are slowly changing.
Pedestrians, cyclists and even scooter riders are being taken into account by transportation planners in cities around the Valley including Scottsdale, which issued its Transportation Action Plan for 2022 this April.
The Transportation Action Plan is the city’s transportation outline for the future. It updates the city’s old transportation plan, which was too rigid and not practical for the direction the city wanted to move towards.
As Scottsdale moves towards finishing out the last section of roads that need to be built, the plan will allow those streets to be built faster due to a quicker approval process, according to the city.
“We only have 5% out of our lane miles that need to be built so we are in a different position than other cities. We decided to focus on a 10-year action plan,” said Mark Melnychenko, the city’s transportation and streets director.
“The TAP 2022 prioritizes safe and accessible travel for all transportation users and supports active transportation for a healthier, more active lifestyle,” according to the project website.
The website added that one of the “notable changes with the TAP 2022 is a reclassification of many of Scottsdale's streets to reflect reduced traffic volumes… Ultimately, encouraging and providing better access to multimodal transportation is a "win-win" as it also reduces traffic congestion for drivers and improves air quality for all of us,”
There are five main elements to TAP: street, transit, bikeway, trail and pedestrian. According to the website, plans will cater to each category.
“Those five items are priorities to the city,” said Melnychenko. “It’s what makes Scottsdale unique and what’s important to the residents and businesses.”
What makes this new plan so different from the older iterations is that it focuses on what is already available in the city to be improved on Melnychenko continued.
“It really focuses on improvements to our existing infrastructure, and then transportation-related technology as part of our plan,” he said.
There have already been improvements that align with the plan's values. These include decreasing vehicle travel lanes to adding bike lanes, like on Thomas Road and multiple roundabouts to slow traffic off of Raintree Drive near the airport.
Lenko said that the ramp improvement project in Old Town was one of the most recent, large improvements and was designed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The project started in July and went through October. It was upgrading ADA ramps throughout historical Old Town,” said Cristina Lenko, spokesperson for the city, “We built 30 new ramps and 14 new crosswalks.”
These improvements align with the focus on ADA improvements across the city and are supporting accessibility for those who have physical disabilities or who need extra help getting around.
“We have ADA enhancements that are continuously being done as part of our transit program where we improve ADA access to bus stops and make sure there is a pathway everyone can get to the bus stops,” said Melnychenko.
The ADA accommodations are a top priority of Scottsdale with the large senior population Lenko added.
The city’s transportation commission held nine meetings, a virtual open house and an online questionnaire for the public, which received 500 public comments, and the TAP website received over two thousand views while in the planning process.
Another way the city works to meet the needs of these residents is through paratransit programs, a transportation service provided to those who need extra support, like individuals with disabilities or older people who can't drive anymore.
In Scottsdale, Joan Freeman is the senior transportation representative for the paratransit department. Freeman said most of the residents she works with need these accommodations daily.
“They need help with transportation. They cannot walk to a bus stop and may be in wheelchairs, walkers or just have issues with their mobility,” said Freeman, “We help them get around, not just for medical appointments but also socialization.”
Another initiative is the Cab Connection Voucher Program, which gives out taxi vouchers to about one thousand ADA-certified individuals. The vouchers cover taxi vouchers for these citizens that may need them.
The vouchers cover 80% of a cab fare under ten dollars. Freeman states close to 1,000 people that receive the voucher.
“No other city in our metropolitan area has this program and many of the East Valley Cities choose to only partner with Valley Metro,” said Freeman, “We do refer to people to use these products but they do need to be ADA-certified to use these services. Citizens in our Cab Connections do not need to be ADA-certified. The criteria are they need to be 65 years or older old.”
The city partners with Scottsdale Training & Rehabilitation Services to provide the Cab Connection Voucher Program with transportation to various locations around the city.
“Some of our seniors receive vouchers for their medical trips and they can also call STARS and give them a voucher,” said Freeman, “In return, the city reimburses STARS for that trip.”
Claudia Chavez, STARS’ director of operations, says the Cab Connection Program allows some Scottsdale residents to get to essential appointments, but also to create a community and safe environment for them.
“It is important to make the city accessible to all residents,” said Chavez, “When you are unable to get from point A to point B it really limits your quality of life.”
STARS focuses on safety and comfort for their seniors that are traveling around with their organization. Chavez states their drivers are trained for working with these seniors and create a sense of comfort.
“Being able to trust who is getting you there is the important thing,” said Chavez, “You want to be comfortable and safe. And I think we do that very well.”
With all the upgrades coming to the city of Scottsdale plans, Melnychenko shared how a key part of the plan is to work with the cities.
“We work with various parts of the Valley to work on roadway improvements to link signals, connect bike lanes, and pedestrian improvements,” said Melnychenko, “All of those things really tie our cities together.”
For updates on the implementation of TAP, visit www.scottsdaleaz.gov/transportation.
Editor's Note: Avion Wick is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Editor's Note: In a previous version of the story, Cristina Lenko was quoted incorrectly saying the TAP was in response to the number of fatalities that occurred last year and those paragraphs were removed.