the time for a
Sedona shuttle finally arrived?
architects Mike Bower and Max Licher have a vision for Sedona’s
future, in which the community is served by a clean, quiet,
efficient transit system. Licher is convinced this system
would reduce pollution, congestion and frustration.
Bower said anyone who travels with open eyes and an
open heart will see that many successful visitor-destination
communities like Sedona are pedestrian-friendly. Walkways,
plazas, parks and arbors, paved trails and pedestrian links
are just some of the design possibilities for a community
Bower envisions pedestrian connections at the intersection
of Highway 89A and major cross streets, such as walkways leading
under the road, landscaping, and meandering links between
businesses that allow a resident or visitor to conduct errands
or sightseeing on foot.
As Sedona looks to the future - especially in light
of the current update of the Sedona Community Plan and compliance
with the state’s Growing Smarter legislation passed in November
- it may be ready to embrace transit as a desirable element
of the community.
Bower and others, especially a citizen activist group
called the Action Coalition for Transportation Solutions (ACTS),
have been working diligently behind the scenes to bring the
idea of public transportation to the forefront as a viable
option for reducing traffic, pollution and general aggravation
in Sedona. After more than 10 years, it’s an idea whose time
may have come. City officials, county planners and state transportation
departments are now looking at the feasibility of transit
in Sedona, and putting up funds to study the possibilities.
At the same time, the community is in the middle of
updating the Sedona Community Plan, in which traffic circulation
is one component of future planning.
Bower’s latest theory - one supported by community planners
and traffic academics - is that circulation is the key component
in any development plan. It is the skeleton, or infrastructure,
upon which all future elements depend.
“Circulation decisions have a way of weaving together
all aspects of the community,” he said. “Our city has done
well, but we can’t be expected to generate what other cities
have by spontaneous combustion,” he said.
Whereas developing frontage roads and thoroughfares
invites strip-style development, creating shuttle stops encourages
business clusters and allows a more pedestrian-friendly development
Bower is critical of Sedona’s seeming reluctance to
“Our town continues to shy away from the viability of
a transit system,” Bower said. “It’s not intelligent to continue
to think that way. It borders on negligence to the health,
safety and welfare of our economy.” He said city officials
continue to pretend there’s a debate, whereas he said there
is no debate whatsoever: transit is necessary and long-overdue.
Bikes are nice but
not the answer
Bower is an avid bicyclist, but when it comes to alternative
transportation in Sedona, he said bicycles are not the answer.
in my opinion, is the only meaningful alternative to focus
on,” Bower said.
“Me riding my bike to work doesn’t address the tourist
issue, or the elderly issue,” he said. “It’s a mere “ping”
in trying to make a dent in the increasing traffic congestion.”
Groups of bicyclists have met in a “critical mass” to
create awareness of bicyclists on the road and to lobby for
bicycle lanes. However, even the cyclists are aware that bicycles
are not the only answer to the traffic problems.
Bower said he is thankful that circumstances allow him
to ride his bicycle - he has his health, despite an accident
years ago that left him debilitated for eight months. Bower
lives and works within a reasonable riding distance, and Sedona’s
weather is conducive to bicycling all year round. But Bower
said a shuttle system is the key to keeping Sedona livable
and maintaining the quality of life residents desire.
Transit makes Sedona a
Because Sedona is a visitor-based economy, with no coal
mines or dot-com companies, Bower said it is vital for Sedona
to continue to work to be a desirable place to visit. If other
red rock communities, such as Springdale, Utah, provide a
higher-quality visitor experience, he said it could overshadow
the Sedona market.
“They have the same red rocks, only taller. Springdale
is a place that could usurp our market,” Bower said.
Visitor destinations such as Cancun, Mexico, Zurich,
Switzerland and even the Grand Canyon National Park are heading
toward a shuttle-based future. Zurich banned automobiles from
its center and created pedestrian walkways, outdoor restaurants,
and a sense of tranquillity because tires are not hitting
Copenhagen, Boston and Denver have all closed off streets
to cars, discouraging the use of autos in what have become
thriving pedestrian areas. Redirecting traffic and revitalizing
warehouse areas so that people can walk or move via shuttle
creates a healthy atmosphere in a man-made environment, Bower
Buses are for other people?
Those who favor transit or a shuttle in Sedona are reluctant
to use the word “bus.” That word may conjure up images of
large, noisy, diesel-burning monstrosities carrying society’s
unwashed masses. Transit for Sedona, as envisioned by members
of the Action Coalition for Transportation Solutions, is clean,
quiet, efficient, and desirable.
Bower acknowledges that cars are, and will remain, the
dominant means of transportation. However, residents do not
have a choice, and are almost forced to drive a car.
“We have zoning ordinances that require way too much
pavement that ensures we will have an auto-dependent community.
If we were really transit oriented, we wouldn’t need acres
of parking,” Bower said. “We’re forced into an automotive
It is the lack of a choice that is addressed in a 1998
report published by the Community Transportation Association
of America (CTAA). The report, titled “Ensuring a Livable
Future: Transportation and a Strategic Vision for the Greater
Sedona Community,” states: “The proposed Sedona transportation
plan envisions that both local residents and visitors have
choice in how they travel within the community - to shopping,
to work, to recreation, and to a variety of other destinations.”
Bower agrees with creating options. As much of Sedona’s
business is along Highway 89A, a main thoroughfare with businesses
along both sides, its linear layout of the main area of commerce
is ideal for a transit system.
Banks, post offices, grocery stores, the library, and
numerous local businesses are located on both sides of the
main corridor, which lends itself well to a shuttle system
that travels in each direction on a regular schedule. While
not eliminating the automobile entirely, a shuttle can reduce
short drives within the busiest section of the highway. Residents
and visitors alike would have a choice.
“I’m not the radical fringe. I’m not opposed to driving
a car, but in Sedona a shuttle system would serve us well,”
Government consortium to spend $100,000 on transit study
In April, the Sedona City Council agreed to contribute
$20,000 toward a transit feasibility study. The Arizona Department
of Transportation has given Sedona a $70,000 planning grant,
and both Yavapai and Coconino Counties have kicked in $5,000
each toward the study. The consortium of transit planners
includes the Forest Service and the ACTS group, as well as
the city, counties and state transportation department.
But it doesn’t take a tenth of a million dollars to
see that transit does work in some communities. Recently,
the two Sedona architects invited members of the Sedona City
Council to visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon in Utah
to see first-hand the state-of-the-art transportation system
that has been put in place there. Closer to home, the city
of Flagstaff is expanding its current transit system, and
the Grand Canyon has used battery-operated shuttles along
the South Rim for many years.
David Raphael, an independent transportation consultant
based in Portland, Oregon, is working with the city of Sedona
to find a transit planner and a transit provider to design
and implement a shuttle system. Raphael was instrumental in
researching and writing the CTAA study, and is familiar with
Sedona’s long-range planner Mike Raber said a request
for proposals should be published no later than August. Raber
said the public will be involved in the process.
“We want to look at things like ridership scenarios.
We expect 25 percent of the ridership to be visitors, but
is that realistic?” Raber asked. He said the study would help
answer those questions, and look into using a shuttle for
forest service destinations, highway parking concerns and
perhaps be tied in with the Red Rock Pass fee system.
ACTS member Catherine Moore said the city, county and
state commitment to a feasibility study reflects the changing
climate in terms of transit. Having worked for many years
to bring the idea of transit to the forefront of the community,
the ACTS group is encouraged by the plans.
Raber said the feasibility study would determine if
community sentiments have become more favorable toward transit.
The Sedona Growth Committee, a group of citizens and
city officials who studied Sedona’s growth for a year, recommend
pursuing transit in Sedona and throughout the region.
Sedona Community Plan encourages
shuttle transit system
Sedona is in the midst of updating the community plan,
a document intended to serve as a vision for the community.
Under the heading of “Traffic Circulation” residents have
noted a lack of alternative transportation modes such as transit,
bike lanes, pedestrian paths and sidewalks. There are 11 elements
of the plan, with five new elements to be added in the update
to bring it into compliance with the state’s Growing Smarter
Bower said the community plan currently does not have
an overall binding vision, but rather, has disjointed elements
created by different subcommittees. He said that all of the
elements - from land use or open space - are dependent on
the traffic circulation element, which serves as the “glue”
binding the plan together.
One of the goals
of the current Sedona Community Plan is clearly stated: “Establish
a shuttle transit system in the Sedona area and support a
regional commuter system to serve the needs of residents,
employees and visitors.”
It will be up to city planners and concerned citizens
to see that the goals are achieved. The updated plan will
be voted on by citizens in May 2002.