Transit to Trailheads

An easy fix to alleviate parking problems at Phoenix’s most beloved parks and preserves: create a Transit to Trailheads program.

There’s been much debate and political posturing over the discussion to make parking at Phoenix’s mountain preserves paid instead of free. While, certainly, this is to look at making up some much needed revenue in Phoenix (something economic development would do much better, but that’s a different essay), it’s also to look at alleviating parking problems at some of the more popular preserves, like Camelback Mountain and Echo Canyon.

transit to trailheads exampleI’m in favor of this plan at some of our most popular preserves, like Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain.

One of the criticisms of this plan is that residents of the City of Phoenix already pay for these preserves so we shouldn’t be charging to access them. The logic is flawed because while we pay for most city-maintained infrastructure like water or trash, we have to pay an additional monthly service fee for what we use. Parking at a popular preserve is just that: paying for what we use.

There is a way around this, something that hasn’t been mentioned in the discussion: How about giving Phoenix residents a free or discounted season parking pass for these preserves? It is, after all, Phoenix residents and property owners footing the bill to help maintain these spaces, not the residents of Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, or anywhere else.

But here’s my ideal solution, and one that I have suggested to the Phoenix City Council: Create a Transit to Trailheads program that connects our local bus and light rail system to the trailheads, which includes rethinking the METRO light rail South Central Avenue line to extend into South Mountain Park. Right now, the main trailheads and park welcoming facilities are removed quite a bit from the nearest bus stop. Some examples:

  • South Mountain Park – walk 2.1 miles from the Route 0 stop at Central Ave & Dobbins Road
  • Phoenix Mountains / Dreamy Draw – walk 1.3 miles from the Route 80 stop at Northern Ave & 16 Street
  • Piestewa Peak – walk 1.3 miles from the Route 70 stop at Lincoln Drive & Squaw Peak Drive
  • Echo Canyon / Camelback Mountain – walk 0.3 miles from the Route 44 stop at Tatum Blvd & Rovey Ave

It’s a shame that as other cities around the world are starting to think about connecting places without the need for cars, we can’t think that far ahead yet here in Phoenix.

Three words: Transit to Trailheads. Write your Councilperson to have them support this plan.


iOS 6 and transit maps?

…in which we wonder about Apple’s new mapping application.

On Monday, Apple is set to release the sixth major version of iOS, its mobile operating software. Normally, however, changes are a good thing and each new version of iOS has been better than the last.

One of the big stories that’s flying around in this weekend before iOS 6 is formally announced is that Apple is dropping from Google Maps in favor of using its own mapping solution. Apple and Google have been trading punches lately and Apple has purchased several mapping companies. Of course, these are all rumors and we won’t know for sure until Monday morning. But if the rumors are true, then I’m sure that Apple will call their new mapping application “amazing,” “revolutionary,” “magical,” and other synonyms.

But, will it really be that?

I’m sure that it will be aesthetically pleasing. And that the graphics will be great. But one of the best features of Google Maps — and the big reason why I use it — is that Google Maps offers transit directions. You see, I don’t have a car. The option for me to get reliable directions to get from Point A to Point B via transit, as in the screen capture on the right, is absolutely mission-critical.

The other problem, at least for Phoenix, is that Valley Metro is very protective of their transit schedules. It took several years after Google Transit’s launch before one could plan transit trips here in Phoenix. If there is a transit feature in Apple’s new maps, what data will be there? I highly doubt that Phoenix’s will be there at launch.

Thankfully, we can still access Google Maps via the browser. But a native app was so much better. Ah, there’s something to be said about restricting an ecosystem.