The City of Casa Grande is preparing to unveil its first-ever public transit this fall — “demand-response” vans offering door-to-door service without following a fixed route.
Deborah Brunner, its recently hired transit manager, told the Pinal County Press the project had been in the works before gas prices surged following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but the timing could promote public interest in the new amenity.
“Certainly, the rising cost of fuel might entice some people to leave their car at home and use public transit,” she said. “We encourage the community to give transit a try. Our goal is to provide a safe, convenient and reliable service so that they choose transit first!”
In April, the City was researching its options for leasing up to two vans, either directly or through a service provider, and rides will be free of charge for the first six months. The staff-recommended fee after the initial period is $1.50 per one-way ride.
Users will be able to schedule rides by calling a dispatcher a day in advance, and same-day service may be possible if seats are available.
“This is a shared-ride service, with many origins and many destinations,” Brunner said.
She added the service area will be roughly the area bounded by Cottonwood Drive on the north, Henness Road on the east, Schultz Street to the west, and Peters Road and Doan Street to the south.
Vans also will travel north to the Community Recreation Center via Peart Road and east to the Promenade Mall on Florence Boulevard.
The service is being launched with $2.6 million of CARES Act funding allocated for public transportation in Casa Grande, which is expected to fully fund the program’s first two or three years.
Once this money has been spent, the City’s share of operating costs may be 20% or 30% of the total, depending on what other grants are available. The city also is planning to submit a request for proposals to develop a unified name, logo and marketing campaign.
Brunner said the key indicators officials will be looking at to measure the service’s success will include the ones typically considered for public transit, including ridership, on-time performance, fare revenue, service complaints, missed trips, ADA access and vehicle maintenance. It could be discontinued if the data doesn’t show it is succeeding.
Several stops in the City are included on Coolidge Area Regional Transit’s (CART) route linking Casa Grande with Coolidge, Florence and the Central Arizona College Signal Peak campus, while the City of Maricopa has offered van shuttle service connecting that community to Banner Casa Grande Regional Medical Center and the CART route.