Lela Steffey on Mass Transit (1999) January 21st, 2009
ARPA Board Member Lela Steffey was a State Representative when this piece was published in the Regional Public Transportation Authority newsletter Destinations in Winter 1999.
(Caption) Representative Lela Steffey, a Republican, is from District 29 (Mesa). Committees that she has participated on include: Transportation; Government Operations; Human Services; and Judiciary. She moved to Arizona in 1973 from San Diego; retired since 1995; she and husband Warren have eight children and 23 grandchildren.
State Representative Lela Steffey (R-Mesa) believes that the only way to keep the Valley and state of Arizona moving forward is to find sources of funding that will support mass transit. Due to the efforts of Steffey and Arizona Transit Association (AzTA) Executive Director Jim Shipman, House Bill (HB) 2565 was passed earlier this year allowing $8 million in new transit funding statewide. The bill, which provides federal transportation act revenues for use to trigger state vehicle license tax (VLT) monies for transit, is the first of its kind to offer a dedicated funding source for transit in Arizona.
“This bill entered us (Arizona) into the mass transit world,” says Steffey, “although it still isn’t enough.” As an example, the State of Arizona has been spending about $3 per person on transportation, whereas California spends $43 and Washington spends $29 per person.
Until now, transit has relied heavily on city budgets and limited lottery revenues. Although, Steffey admits, local cities do need to participate in funding transit for their areas and take responsibility for their residents’ mobility. As an example, Tempe has embraced mobility and mass transit with its voter-approved half-cent sales tax to support transit in their city. Mesa was recently successful with a voter-approved referenedum that allocated a portion ofÂ a three-eighths cent sales tax to transit.
“If the cities don’t want mass transit, we can’t force it. But, they will eventually need it,” Steffey predicts. With the population of Maricopa County expected to swell to more than double its current size in the next 25 years, a funding plan to address future growth and alternative mode options is needed now. Another positive aspect of HB2565 is that it allows ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) to participate in mass transit, which has not happened before now.
“We are excited that Mary Peters, the director of ADOT [and later U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President Bush, 2006-2009] is supportive of multi-modal options,” says Steffey. “Although ADOT has not been supportive of alternate modes inthe past, Ms. Peters’ recognizes the need for other ways to move people than by adding more cars to our freeways.”
“We cannot build freeways wide enough, or build enough of them to accomodate for the future population in this area,” says Steffey. “We must find another way to move people.”
After serving four years as the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Steffey is quite familiar with how the efficient movement of goods and people are essential to a strong, vital economy and a better quality of life.
“In the 1940s most cities in the U.S. had some type of a rail system, and by 1949, the rail was either taken up or paved over,” Steffey said. [Phoenix's streetcar system was closed in 1948; Tucson's in 1930.] “Now most cities have it (rail) back again.”
In fact, nearly all of Phoenix’s peer cities, such as Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, St. Louis, Denver, Portland, and Dallas have a rail system in place or are planning one.
“We must have buses, but rail is needed because buses use lanes of traffic. A mix (of rail and bus) is needed.”
Steffey fully understands the value of travel by train. In fact, she just returned home from a cross-country rail excursion that took her, and her husband Warren, from Tucson to Charleston, S.C. “This isn’t my first trip across country taking the train, but it was the most extensive, and we loved it. You really get to enjoy all the scenery, instead of peering down at from an airplane.”
Traveling is something Steffey hopes to do more of now that she is retired from the legislature. After a total of 14 years as a representative for the Mesa district and 16 years prior to that holding a career in both banking and real estate, she is ready for a slower pace.
Steffey plans to stay involved with transportation in the Valley by being part of the Governor’s transportation task force. No doubt, when it comes to support for transit in this region and the State of Arizona, Steffey will be the first to “climb on board.”
On Closing METRO for a footrace January 20th, 2009
A Resolution of the ARPA Board of Directors, approved 2009-1-17.
On behalf of the Members of the Association the the Citizens of Arizona, ARPA opposes and finds it unacceptable to interrupt regularly scheduled rail service for marathons, parades, or similar events which transit should serve.
These events must be routed to permit regular rail operation.
(On 18 January, METRO rail service was truncated north of the McDowell station for a marathon until at least 10am — inconvenicing passengers and disabling anyone from using METRO to travel to the event.)
Position on Phoenix-Tucson Routing January 20th, 2009
(Regarding current discussions of Phoenix-Tucson regional rail)
Adopted by the Board of Directors, 2009-1-17.
- That the current UPRR alignment via Coolidge represents the most expeditious route to early implementation, and should be implemented and built first; and
- That the former Maricopa to Tempe alignment, to supplement future growth, should additionally be planned, but built after operations on the Coolidge alignment commence.
2009 AzTA Rail Symposium January 20th, 2009
|February 26, 2009||to||February 27, 2009|
Membership Lunch, Tucson January 20th, 2009
|May 9, 2009|
|11:00 am||to||1:00 pm|
Come hear an update on light rail, commuter rail, and intercity rail — and ride Tucson’s Old Pueblo Trolley! We will be meeting at the downtown Marriott; lunch will be provided. A nominal fee will cover your meal; or you may attend the meeting for free.
RSVP 480.947.5710 — NOTE: Date may change; check back to confirm.