Getting around Lake Havasu City isn’t easy without a car. It’s an obvious math problem. There are 55,000 people spread over 46 square miles, with most of the commercial destinations and public places consolidated on the city’s west side and up McCulloch Boulevard. Those kinds of numbers don’t add up to an accessible town.
The answer, of course, is some kind of mass transit. But paying for it is where things get sticky.
Geographically speaking, Lake Havasu City is roughly the same size as San Francisco. Yet it’s nowhere near as easy to get from one place to another without a personal vehicle. Our hot summer temperatures make walking and bike riding long distances for much of the year all but impossible.
It wasn’t always this way.
When Havasu’s population rose to 50,000 people in 2010, it lost access to the federal funding available for public transportation. If it wanted to continue its fixed-route bus system, Lake Havasu City would have had to pony up a lot of money to sustain it. City leaders at the time decided that it wasn’t worth keeping the little-used bus system, opting instead to replace it with a shuttle service that caters to the elderly, people with disabilities and military veterans.
Those folks certainly need the assistance Havasu Mobility provides. But they’re not the only people who need the benefits of mass transit.
A town built on tourism needs to have multiple ways for people to get around. As little used as it might have been, Havasu probably does need a fixed-route bus system, one that provides regular service between the hotels, the Island, our state parks and various shopping districts.
Again, nobody’s figured out how Havasu might pay for such a program. And perhaps there are better ideas floating out there.
As we talk about mass transit, it’s important to also think outside the bus. Can Havasu support a light rail system, for instance? More importantly, are there community partners beyond the city that might benefit — and contribute to — a robust transit service?
Other communities have bus services that thrive on partnerships between cities and school districts, for instance.
Perhaps there’s some promise in engaging Lake Havasu Unified School District, or Arizona State University, in future conversations about public bus systems.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization — the group that tries to address the community’s traffic and transit needs — hopes to address those concerns.
The group has been working on its regional transit feasibility and implementation plan since January, and it’s now looking for public input on mass transit options. The more voices they hear, the better. You can attend the group’s next meeting on Aug. 28.
— Today’s News-Herald