Phoenix Public Transportation

Phoenix Public Transportation

Forms of Public transportation

Public Transportation in the Greater Metro Phoenix Area exists in many forms

*Local, Express and RAPID commuter bus service
*Neighborhood circulators
*Vanpool service
*Online carpool matching system
*METRO light rail, scheduled to begin service in 2008

Transportation as a Common Pool Resource

Based in the environment of Metro Phoenix public transportation as an institution is configured to affect the interactions between the resource of transportation, transportation users, public infrastructure providers and public infrastructure. Public transportation will only continue to operate as robust institution as long as provided transportation stays congruent with the needs of transportation users. The creation of collective choice arrangements in the form of the vanpool services and the online carpool matching system will continue to keep Phoenix Public transportation as robust institution. Monitoring of use will keep transportation in much needed areas and sanctioning of transportation users will keep the institution running smoothly. Nested units in the form of concerned citizens will continue to guarantee that much needed idea such as neighborhood circulators continue will help connect neighborhood to main routes.

Boundaries of Phoenix Public Transportation

Under the Valley Metro brand, local governments joined to fund the Valley-wide transit system that the public sees on the streets today. Valley Metro Board member agencies include Avondale, Chandler, El Mirage, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Maricopa County, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Queen Creek, Regional Public Transportation Authority (Valley Metro RPTA), Scottsdale, Surprise and Tempe.

Social Dilemmas Present in Institution

Creation of Institution


In 1985 the Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) was created through a law passed by the Arizona State Legislature. This law enabled the citizens of Maricopa County to vote on a sales tax increase which would fund regional freeway improvements and create the RPTA. In October of that year, Maricopa County voters a one-half cent sales tax to fund freeway construction with a portion, or $5 million per year (inflated annually), as seed money for regional transit service expansion. The RPTA received this funding through 2005 and was charged with developing a regional transit plan, finding a dedicated funding source for transit, and developing and operating a regional transit system.

Recent Updates to Institution

In 2004, Maricopa County residents extended the half-cent county-wide sales tax originally authorized in 1985. The tax allocates over one-third of tax revenues, or $5.8 billion (before inflation) for transit, including light rail.

Continuing Social Dilemmas

One social dilemma present in Phoenix’s Public Transportation system is the start-up cost associated with outward expansion and the effect it plays on boundary rules. While Valley Metro states that its vision is to “enable people in Maricopa County to travel with ease using safe, accessible, efficient, dependable, and integrated public transportation services” [ [ Overview ] ] it currently only covers the major cities toward the center of the valley. Towns such as Buckeye, Cave Creek, and Laveen are some of the places within Maricopa County that are left out by Valley Metro’s current routes and require people living in these areas to commute miles to the nearest bus stops in surrounding cities. This leads to a lack of congruence between appropriation and provision rules. In order to obtain a better fit between the institution and the people it serves it is necessary to expand routes outward to make its services available to a larger percentage of the population it is supposed to serve.

One problem with expanding current routes outward to include more rural parts of Maricopa County is determining whether or not there is enough interest from residents in outlying areas to justify expansion. If too few people are willing to use the services it can be cost prohibitive, thus deterring outward expansion. A possible solution would be to gauge interest in public transportation in these areas and if plausible expand current routes. Also if there is interest in public transportation but not enough to justify expanding current routes it could be feasible to create areas on the edges of town for people in outlying areas to commute to and park their vehicles. While such services currently exist, they are typically found only in the inner part of the valley.

Collective Choice Arrangements

There are various examples of collective-choice arrangements within local public transportation.

Vanpool System

The Vanpool system is provided by Phoenix Metro’s Regional Public Transit Authority (Valley Metro). The aim of this system is to give commuters an alternative to individual driving or fixed-route buses. Any group of 5 to 15 commuters may use a Valley Metro van, paying a monthly fee which covers gas, insurance and maintenance. [“Vanpool.” Valley Metro 23 April 2008] Among this group, one commuter volunteers to be the driver who is subject to more qualifications:

• must be 25 years old

• have a valid driver’s license

• good credit rating

• no DUI/DWI, at-fault accidents or hit-and-run citations

Valley Metro facilitates this system by providing the van as well as parking, but from here it is up to the commuters within a group to decide on the operating rules. These include what time the van will pick up, where it will pick up, what drop-off locations it will have, how long the van will wait, and whether or not members can smoke or eat on board.

Valley Metro suggests many areas where van commuters can create rules but it is ultimately up to individual groups to address the issues important to them and resolve these issues among themselves. If an arrangement is not working for any reason, members may leave their group to join another one. To do this, members are required to submit written notice 30 days before leaving or they will be charged with the following month’s fee. Valley Metro recognizes the autonomy of vanpools to create their own rules, interfering as little as possible. The aim of this policy is to encourage vanpool groups to create a culture that suits them.


Currently the city of Surprise, Arizona, is not part of the Phoenix Metropolitan Bus line, is not a destination for the new light-rail train system being planned and built, nor does it have a form of either of these means of public transportation within its city limits. However, the general public is able to use Dial-A-Ride, a service much like a Taxi service, in order to get from their homes within Surprise to either any other destination within Surprise or to the Phoenix Metro Bus stop located at 111th and Grand Avenue. Dial-A-Ride is usually only available for any citizen who is classified as disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. However, the city of Surprise has extended this service to include both citizens over the age of 65 and to the general public. [ "The official website of the city of surprise, Arizona" ]

Dial-A-Ride Rates:Within Surprise: $1.00 per person each way

Outside Surprise*: $1.25 per person each way

To 111th and Grand: $1.25 per person

* Includes Sun City, Sun City West, Youngtown, El Mirage, and medical offices located at 94th and Thunderbird.

ASU U-Pass

In 2005 Arizona State University launched a pilot program called the “ASU U-Pass” that is offered to all Arizona State students for free and provides unlimited access to both the “Tempe in Motion” bus system and the future light rail system that is scheduled to open on December 27, 2008. Students will be able to have free rides on both systems of transportation. The program overall so far has proven to be a success as last year there were nearly 1.5 million bus boardings using U-Pass. The U-Pass is also available to Faculty and Staff of Arizona State for a small fee. Faculty and Staff are charged $10 per pay period, which is very inexpensive compared to the $45 rate of the monthly Valley Metro’s pass. Overall savings for the Faculty and Staff of ASU is $426 annually from the regular rate. The price would have been raised but PTS, Parking and Transit Services, agreed to pay for over 50% of the programs expensive. In doing this the Faculty and Staff are paying a small price and the students are still enjoying the free passes. With the opening of the light rail, the U-Pass now also makes it easy to travel to any of the four Arizona State Campuses, including the Tempe Main, Downtown Phoenix, East Campus, and the Polytechnic Campus.

This system provides students with an easy and cost free form of transportation across Tempe and throughout Phoenix. It provides great access to the Common Pool Resource that is Transportation. [ [ ASU U-Pass | ASU Parking Site ] ] []


There are tremendous amounts of monitoring within the Phoenix Public Transportation system, pertaining to the safety of the riders and the cost of maintaining the system. This system is actively monitored from the federal, state, and local level. The metro system has to comply with the USDOT and State of Arizona motor vehicle policies. If the system fails to follow transportation policies from federal, state, and local, it could lead to fine and punishment to the system.

The following rules are enforced on Phoenix public transportation:
*Eating and smoking are not allowed on the bus. Drinking is allowed if the drink is in an approved, covered plastic container.
*Caustic or flammable materials are not allowed on board.
*Service animals trained to assist persons with disabilities are welcome. Other pets must be kept in a secured carrier.
*Fighting, throwing, pushing, playing loud radios or stereos, rough behavior, shouting, and vulgar language are not allowed.
*Littering is not allowed. A trash container is available at the front of each bus.
*Scratching the windows of the bus is forbidden. Passengers are encouraged to report any acts of vandalism to the bus driver.
*A responsible person must accompany children under the age of eight (seven and younger) wishing to travel on Valley Metro fixed route service. A responsible person is defined as one who can directly control and supervise the child.

Overall, the system is closely monitored by federal, state, and local government. All the safety, monetary issues, and improvement of the system are reported to all governments. Through effect monitoring the institution is able to cope with rapid increase in population and cost of the system.

City of Surprise

In order to guarantee that transportation resources of Surprise are going to the use of its residents they stipulate that identification may be requested in order to establish whether someone is eligible to use the Dial-A-Ride service.


To receive a U-Pass, you must be either a Student of Arizona State University, or you must be a member of the Faculty or Staff of the University. To receive a pass you must present your ASU ID card to any Permit Sales office.

Graduated Sanctioning

Sactioning is the other component of monitoring that plays a vital role in the public transportation institution. When a driver of a vehicle breaks the law in some way and is caught by law enforcement, they are presented with a sanction.

This sanction will serve the institution in three ways:(1) It will stop the infraction from continuing.(2) It will let the offender know that the operational rules are monitored closely and another person in the similar situation will be caught as well. (3) A punishment in form of a fine will be imposed [Ostrom, 1990] .

The saction imposed will depend on the seriousness and the context of the offense [(Ostrom, 1990)] . A driver may receive a sanction of a small fine if it is their first offense. If a driver has had many previous offenses, then if appears that maybe a graduated sanction of a much higher fine and even imprisonment is in order. These types of graduated sanctionings are used when the regular sanctioning has been used and the desired results for the offender were not reached.

In public transportation sactioning may be in the form of not being permitted to use the public transportation. If one passenger does not comply with the operational rules of safety while aboard a public transit system, then they may be asked to leave. Depending, again on the severity of the crime, one may be completely cut-off from using public transportation all together if they have continually put people's lives at risk when using public transit systems.

Conflict-Resolution Mechanisms

In accordance with federal standards (28 CFR Part 35 and FTA Circular 4702.1), all regional transit providers are trained in the correct processing, investigation and documentation of passenger complaints involving discrimination based on disability, race, color or national origin. The city of Phoenix Public Transit Department monitors the complaint process as well as completed reports. All complaints received by Customer Relations are documented and assigned to the appropriate transit staff for investigation. After the complaint is processed, a response is sent to the customer filing the complaint and appropriate corrective action is taken. []

Recognition of Rights to Organize

The necessity of the right to organize inside of an institution is extremely important.

Transit 2000 Plan

Population of the greater Phoenix area will grow by 50% (600,000) of the state’s current population; Generating a total 4.5 million people in Phoenix. To tackle the transportation of these new residents to the Phoenix valley a 26 member citizen’s transit committee with the support of the Mayor and City Council conducted meeting and a public transit plan was formulated. The right to organize was instigated by city council members that are also members of the community. They as well as Phoenix residents would be benefiting from this service. The Public Transit Plan was put into effect on the fourteenth of March 2000. This “transit 2000 plan” as it is now referred to, called for the expanse of the busing system as well as the light rail service. In addition to the organization of a committee, public input was also fundamental to the execution of this plan. For that reason, surveys were taken and ten public meetings were held throughout the city. The surveys were given to 48,000 households, by random in the residents water bills, in which 3,600 residents responded. Thus we see the construction of the light rail in action today.

Nested Enterprises

Customer Rights

Customers using public transit are given equal access, seating and treatment without regard to race, color, national origin or disability. These rights also apply to service frequency, vehicle age and quality and bus stop quality (FTA Circular 4702.1). []

Friends of Transit

Friends of the Transit seek to educate the Greater Phoenix community about the benefits of a well-designed and accessible mass transit system, which represents a major component of a balanced regional transportation plan. Community leaders identified the continuing need to educate the public about the benefits of the voter-approved plans of a comprehensive transit system, given, in particular, that some elements of the program will not be implemented for several years, following the vote. [ [ Serving The Greater Phoenix Area ] ]

School Bus Safety

The Arizona Department of Public Safety has implemented a Student Transportation Unit engaged to educate parents on a safety program fro children who travel by school bus. Children need to learn to be safe pedestrians as they walk to and from the bus as well as to be safe riders when they're on the bus. For the sake of the driver, it is the parents’ responsibility to make sure their student(s) follow(s) procedures for getting ready for school, waiting at the bus stop, getting on and off the bus, and riding the bus. [ [ Arizona Department of Public Safety-Student Transporation ] ]


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