PV Town Council reluctantly agrees to peak season trolley services

An agreement with Dunn Transportation for trolley services during peak season almost came to an abrupt halt.

Although the Paradise Valley Town Council eventually approved unanimously the agreement for the trolley service, using state-dedicated funds, the decision was met with dissent and vigorous discussion on Jan. 24 during the meeting held at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Initially, the approval was removed from the agenda for the transportation service to be offered February through April, and not exceeding the amount of the $25,000 funds, but was finally agreed upon after discussions about the benefits versus ride-share programs.

When council members were assured there was no out-of-pocket funds required, they hesitantly agreed to accept the service with the condition that their concerns were revisited afterwards to determine the usefulness of the service.

Council member Paul Dembow said there were a few things he wanted to point out about the ridership.

“The first year we implemented it, we implemented it based on we thought that the resorts wanted the riders going to-and-fro and they were participating; and not all the resorts were participating but many were,” Mr. Dembow said.

He recommended the town manger report back to the council what the other resorts are paying in respects to the $25,000 for the transportation service he questioned while mentioning the growing popularity of ride share services.

Considering declining ridership stats through 2017, Mr. Dembow noted other transportation services such as Uber and Lyft — less than $9 per person to go to such places as Scottsdale Fashion Square — that are affordable and flexible compared to using the trolley.

“I’m assuming that it’s not as perhaps as good as a value that we need. So, before we move forward, in looking forward in future years I would really like to see whether Uber and Lyft have changed the vernacular for our hotels and whether our hotels are still contributing dollars toward this program,” he said.

“And if so, what value they get out of it because if you go the furthest away you could take the ride for less money than an Uber and it did not add up in my head with this.”

While he and other members said they were “unsure what the urgency is,” or if the decision could be tabled until the following meeting, they agreed it “didn’t make economical sense” especially considering if the ride service goes up each year.

Deputy Town Manager Dawn Marie Buckland offered clarification, explaining that the request was from a specific funding source.

She said stops at Camelback had significantly higher ridership in the past; Camelback, two trailheads of Echo Canyon and Cholla and Scottsdale Fashion Center had the highest level of ridership.

“We do have an opportunity if council would like to look at accepting these funds from the state to use funds,” she said, adding Valley Metro needed a response by the end of January, making it a one-meeting action request.

Mr. Dembow favored proceeding since it was zero out of pocket for the town. Council member Julie Pace and others said they appreciated that the concerns were brought up and wanted to know more from the resorts’ perspectives.

“We do not have a bus service through our town,” she said, noting that it adds value to their guests, workers, return on investment. “It made us think of a few more things.”

Council member Ellen Andeen said she would like to see a study done within the next year to determine the “effects and efficiency of one resort participating.”

Despite state-dedicated funds, she added she hasn’t “seen the effectiveness of (the trolley).”

Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner encouraged the council to take measures to prepare for next year. He agreed there have been events and happenings where people used coupons for Uber and Lyft for transportation incentives.

He wanted to know if the state supported funds could be applied for similar interests rather than spending it on “something riding around on the streets that not everybody is using.

“Running a large bus adds to noise and pollution,” Mr. Bien-Willner said.

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