Tag Archives: transportation

87699472

MJ Insurance reports record revenue

MJ Insurance, one of the nation’s largest privately-held insurance agencies, has reported double digit year-over-year growth with an 11 percent increase across all business lines. The agency also reported record all-time high revenues of $25 million.

MJ’s fiscal year runs from September to September and for fiscal 2013, MJ saw solid growth in both employee benefits and in property and casualty revenues. Even as the economy has struggled, MJ has recorded strong revenue gains over the past five years.

Michael H. Bill, CEO of MJ Insurance, attributes the growth and record revenue to continued investment through the economic downturn in both employees and value-added services for clients.

“Our approach is to align our efforts with clients that emphasize value and this has proven beneficial as the economy has improved,” said Bill. “Challenges brought forth with health care reform have also allowed us to help guide businesses through this historic change.”

MJ Insurance, with offices in Indiana and Arizona, is a property-casualty and employee benefits agency that, since 1964, has grown from a two-person start-up to an agency with more than 125 employees. In 2014, MJ will celebrate its 50th ‘golden’ anniversary.

MJ Insurance specializes in a diverse selection of unique service lines including construction, energy, transportation, real estate, manufacturing, sororities and mining. MJ also offers complete employee benefits programs including major medical, group disability, group life and onsite employer clinics. MJ Insurance currently has clients in 16 countries and in every U.S. state.

86531405

3 alternatives for Phoenix-to-Tucson rail line

Arizona transportation officials studying the feasibility of a passenger rail line between Phoenix and Tucson have narrowed the list of alternatives to three.

State Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday that all three alternatives would run along Interstate 10 south of Eloy.

One alternative would share the right of way with Union Pacific Railroad north of Eloy.

ADOT has been working with federal officials, local governments and planning organizations in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties to determine which routes to further study.

Nearly 7,000 Arizonans completed surveys with ideas of which routes would best serve the communities along the proposed rail line.

ADOT hopes to have one preferred alternative for further study by the end of this year.

However, there currently isn’t a construction schedule or funding for the project.

Valley Metro - Bike Equals One Less Car

Stanton eyes more spending on bike projects

Phoenix would spend $1.5 million of its state transportation funding on making the city more bicycle friendly if Mayor Greg Stanton gets his way.

Stanton is proposing that the money be used to add more bike lanes, launch a bike-share program and prepare a citywide bicycle plan.

The Arizona Republic reports that Stanton’s proposals are included in a proposed budget that is scheduled for an initial City Council vote on Tuesday.

Phoenix has not previously used money from the state Highway User Revenue Fund for bicycle projects.

Test

Tiffany & Bosco Adds Zoning and Land Use Group

The law firm of Tiffany & Bosco P.A. announced that zoning attorney William E. Lally, and AICP certified land use planners Kurt A. Jones and Benjamin J. Patton have joined the firm.  Tiffany & Bosco’s Land Use and Zoning practice is dedicated to working closely with builders, developers, brokers, banks and design consultants; focused in the areas of land use, zoning and permitting throughout Maricopa County and the State of Arizona.  They are experienced in all aspects of land use entitlements which includes general and comprehensive plan amendments, rezoning, conditional use permits, site planning, subdivision planning, civil improvement plans, landscaping design, transportation, , drainage, utilities and any municipal, county or state permitting.

Michael E. Tiffany, Managing Partner and Shareholder of Tiffany & Bosco stated, “With the addition of the Zoning Practice to our distinguished core of real estate, banking and commercial legal professionals, the firm is well positioned to serve the growing needs of the real estate clients. The trio brings over 50 years of zoning experience to the firm, and we are most pleased they have decided to join our firm as we grow and expand our real estate services.”

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Tiffany & Bosco Adds Zoning and Land Use Group

The law firm of Tiffany & Bosco P.A. announced that zoning attorney William E. Lally, and AICP certified land use planners Kurt A. Jones and Benjamin J. Patton have joined the firm.  Tiffany & Bosco’s Land Use and Zoning practice is dedicated to working closely with builders, developers, brokers, banks and design consultants; focused in the areas of land use, zoning and permitting throughout Maricopa County and the State of Arizona.  They are experienced in all aspects of land use entitlements which includes general and comprehensive plan amendments, rezoning, conditional use permits, site planning, subdivision planning, civil improvement plans, landscaping design, transportation, , drainage, utilities and any municipal, county or state permitting.

Michael E. Tiffany, Managing Partner and Shareholder of Tiffany & Bosco stated, “With the addition of the Zoning Practice to our distinguished core of real estate, banking and commercial legal professionals, the firm is well positioned to serve the growing needs of the real estate clients. The trio brings over 50 years of zoning experience to the firm, and we are most pleased they have decided to join our firm as we grow and expand our real estate services.”

Traffic Congestion, Ways to Reduce in Phoenix, AZ

Public Identifies Transit Priorities for Southwest Valley

The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), in partnership with West Valley cities and through extensive input from residents, has completed a transit system study that identifies a local transit plan for the Southwest Valley.

MAG has worked in partnership over the past year with the cities of Phoenix, Avondale, Goodyear, Tolleson, Litchfield Park, the town of Buckeye, Maricopa County, and Valley Metro in developing the plan, which is based on the transportation needs and priorities identified by more than 2,000 Southwest Valley residents. Residents prioritized a local transit system that is accessible, affordable, convenient, and connects to regional transit services.

The short-, mid- and long-term strategies in the plan for local transit services will guide communities in implementing new services as additional revenues become available.

A drop-in open house will be held this week to enable residents to see the plan maps and talk to the project team:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
6:00-8:00 p.m.
Centerra Mirage Elementary School
15151 W. Centerra Dr. South
Goodyear, AZ

The executive summary of the plan will be posted to the project website March 13th at http://www.azmag.gov/Projects/Project.asp?CMSID=4173. The full plan will be posted shortly thereafter. For more information, please contact Jorge Luna, MAG transit planner, atjluna@azmag.gov or by calling (602) 254-6300.

federal transportation bill

Arizona Forward hopes to guide Arizona’s transportation systems

As Valley Forward transitions to Arizona Forward to encompass a statewide focus, it’s only fitting that the association with a 43-year history of success tackling environmental issues — including land use, water management, air quality and energy — turns its attention to an issue that impacts every resident and every business in Arizona.
Transportation.

“Valley Forward has always valued transportation as one of the organization’s key areas of interest,” says John Godec, president of Godec, Randall & Associates Inc., which helps governments and businesses solve public and stakeholder challenges. “The Phoenix and Tucson metros have seen radical transportation changes and improvements in the past decade, so we’re asking, ‘What’s next? Are we good to go now?’”

Just as it did last year with parks and open spaces, Valley Forward hopes to answer those questions as it unveils its stance on transportation, covering topics such as transportation planning, how it impacts the quality of life in the Sun Corridor and how transportation affects Arizona’s economy.

One issue that Valley Forward wanted to address in its Transportation Primer is one on the minds of every Arizona: traffic congestion and how to better connect cities with each other. According to a policy report written by Byron Schlomach for The Goldwater Institute, the average Phoenix commuter spends an average of 38 hours a year in traffic, while a commuter in Tucson spends roughly 42 hours in traffic.

In an attempt to remedy traffic congestion in Phoenix, voters adopted Proposition 400 in November of 2004, which allowed for the renovating and extending of current freeways and the addition of more public transportation, such as the Valley Metro Light Rail, all of which connect small communities with larger cities. In Tucson, Pima County voters approved the $2.1 billion Regional Transportation Plan, which saw the construction of a modern streetcar project throughout the city, giving more people a chance to get around, while getting cars off the highways.

However, the question that has been asked by Valley Forward is, is it enough, especially since Arizona only seems to be growing in size?

“At least half the transportation systems that the state will need in 2050 have yet to be built,” says Sally Stewart, deputy communications director at the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and Valley Forward member. “Despite the recent economic downturn, Arizona’s growth is not over. It is not a question of whether the Sun Corridor — one of the emerging megapolitan regions in the country — will be a reality; it is simply a matter of when.”

According to a study published in March 2010 by ADOT, it is expected that Arizona’s population will more than double, from 6.4 million to about 16 million people in the next 30 years. Maricopa County’s population is expected to increase by 90 percent, from 4 million people to about 7.6 million. The study suggests that because of this population explosion, travel times for various destinations in the Sun Corridor could increase by about 100 percent by 2050. This could mean that a trip between Phoenix and Tucson, which currently is about a 95-minute drive, could take up to 5.5 hours in 2050 (assuming that the Interstate-10 freeway is widened to about 10 lanes).

Valley Forward experts say that Arizona must plan ahead to improve this possible transportation dilemma, especially if the state wants to see more business activity and economic improvement.

“Transportation is key for economic development,” says said Eric Anderson, transportation director at the Maricopa Association of Governments. “The ability of a company’s workforce to commute on a predictable basis is critical. The movement of freight in and out of the region is also important. Companies looking to locate in the region always look at the adequacy of the transportation system in providing mobility and travel options.”

According to the American Public Transportation Association, every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates 36,000 jobs. Despite the fact that policies, such as Proposition 400, have created and funded transportation projects, Valley Forward says that there is still not enough money allocated for Arizona’s travel needs.

“Arizona’s future economic development will be tied closely to the state’s willingness to commit funding and resources to improving and expanding its statewide transportation system,” says Craig Hughes, CEO and founder of Total Transit, the parent company of Discount Cab in Phoenix and Tucson. “Without a firm commitment to building and maintaining an efficient, integrated transportation network, the future could be one of congested freeways, inadequate rural highways, gridlocked city streets and under-funded and under-utilized mass transit.”

Valley Forward hopes that its stance and data findings will help create a dialogue not only among Phoenix and Tucson residents, but also policymakers.

“Arizona’s business community is a vital participant in guiding policymakers regarding the infrastructure challenges facing the state,” Stewart says. “If Arizonans want to enjoy a better quality of life based on a vibrant economy, then the business community must work closely with policymakers to make the difficult, but necessary decisions regarding transportation infrastructure.”

Adds Diane Brossart, president and CEO of Valley Forward, “We want to bring together the public and private sectors. Valley Forward’s goal is to try and drive the conversation to the middle and take the politics out. We want to drive up solutions so that Arizona, as a whole, can advance and can sustain itself.”

139701875

Housing and transportation costs outpace incomes

The combined costs of housing and transportation in the nation’s largest 25 metro areas have swelled by 44 percent since 2000 while incomes have failed to keep pace, according to a new report from the Center for Housing Policy—the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference—and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. The report, Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation, details the challenges that American households face as the combined costs of housing and transportation consume an ever-larger share of household incomes.

The report includes a special focus on moderate-income households, defined as those earning between 50 and 100 percent of the median household income in their area. In the 25 largest metro areas, the report finds that moderate-income households spend an average of 59 percent of their income on housing and transportation. The report finds cost burdens to be highest in the Miami area, where moderate-income households spend 72 percent of their income on housing and transportation.  The next highest burdens are in the Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., area (69 percent), the Tampa area (66 percent), and the Los Angeles area (65 percent)

“If we really want to understand whether housing is affordable, we need to consider housing and transportation costs together,” explains Center for Housing Policy Executive Director Jeffrey Lubell. “Along with utilities, which we include within housing costs, these are the true ‘costs of place,’ and our report shows they have grown much faster than incomes since 2000.”

The report finds that housing and transportations costs have increased 44 percent over this period while household incomes have risen only 25 percent. As a result, Americans are now substantially less able to afford their costs of place, undermining their ability to meet other critical household expenses, such as food, clothing, health insurance and child care.

Cost burdens have increased despite reductions in home sale prices caused by the major housing downturn that began in 2006. “Increased demand for rental housing combined with insufficient new production has raised rents,” continued Lubell, “while households with blemished credit and existing homeowners with underwater mortgages have been unable to take advantage of lower home prices. Add in the higher transportation costs associated with higher gas prices, stagnant or slowly growing wages and the loss of income associated with layoffs and it’s easy to see how Americans have lost ground.”

“Both housing and transportation costs need to be made more affordable,” notes Center for Neighborhood Technology President and Co-Founder Scott Bernstein. “Letting the public know that the full cost of a location includes both housing and transportation is a first step; targeting resources that lower the cost of transportation, such as improved public transportation, to areas where it will help America’s working families, is also essential.”

The report notes that there are many policies that local and state governments can adopt to help reduce housing costs in places where transportation costs are low or where public investments will make transportation more affordable in the future. Policy options include taking measures to preserve existing affordable housing, reforming restrictive regulations to lower the cost of creating new housing in such areas, and instituting requirements or incentives to include affordable housing as part of new development.

“Given the substantial increases that we expect in coming years in the demand for housing within walking distance of public transit,” explains Bernstein, “it will be essential to act proactively to ensure that affordable housing is preserved and included within new development in these areas.”

Key findings:

· Housing and transportation costs have gone up faster than incomes for American households. Since 2000, combined housing and transportation costs have risen 44 percent in the 25 largest U.S. metros, while household incomes have risen only 25 percent. That means that for every dollar household incomes have gone up, housing and transportation costs have risen about $1.75, cutting into wealth, savings and even budgets for essentials.

· Moderate-income households spend a disproportionate share of income for housing and transportation.  For households earning 50 to 100 percent of the median income of their metropolitan area, nearly three-fifths (59 percent) of income goes to housing and transportation costs. For these households, the growing “costs of place” are particularly burdensome, leaving little for necessary expenses such as food, education and health care.

· Places where the combined housing and transportation cost burden is greatest are not always the places with the highest absolute costs.  In some metro areas, such as Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco, high costs are matched by relatively high incomes, helping moderate-income households better afford their housing and transportation costs.  But other regions, such as Riverside-San Bernardino (CA), Los Angeles and San Diego, have high housing and transportation costs despite moderate to low median incomes, with average combined cost burdens for moderate-income households ranging from 63 to 69 percent of household income.

· Moderate-income households in the Miami metro area have the highest combined cost burdens, spending an average of 72 percent of income on housing and transportation.  A second Florida metro area— Tampa— also has very high cost burdens, with moderate-income households spending an average of 66 percent of income on housing and transportation.  To a large extent, the high cost burdens in both of these metro areas are driven by low incomes.

· Housing costs alone do not paint a complete picture of the total “cost of place.” The inclusion of transportation costs shifts the relative affordability of many metro areas.  For example, housing costs in the Houston region are comparatively affordable for moderate-income households, ranking eighth out of the 25 regions examined, but adding in transportation costs drops Houston into 17th place in overall affordability.  In contrast, metro areas such as San Francisco, Boston, and New York are some of the least affordable regions for moderate-income households when housing alone is considered, but are among the most affordable when housing and transportation costs are considered together.

· For moderate-income households, homeowners carry heavier cost burdens than renters.  For the typical moderate-income renter in the 25 metro areas studied, housing and transportation costs consume an average of 55 percent of income.  Moderate-income homeowners carrying a mortgage, however, face average costs of nearly 72 percent of income.

· Despite lower burdens than homeowners, moderate-income renters are still barely making ends meet in many metro areas. In the LA metro area, where average housing + transportation costs consume 61 percent of income for moderate-income renters, a typical renter household would not have enough left over at the end of the month to pay the minimum costs of food, health care, and other basic necessities.  This would suggest these households are either cutting corners on essentials, or accruing debt.

· Cost burdens for moderate-income households vary substantially within metro areas.  Even in metro areas where average cost burdens are relatively affordable, there are many neighborhoods that are out of reach for moderate-income households.  In the Philadelphia region, for example, moderate-income households are faced with average housing and transportation costs exceeding 90 percent of income in some neighborhoods.

BIG Green Expo & Conference 2011

Speaker: Lori Singleton ~ BIG Green Expo & Conference 2011

Lori Singleton, Salt River Project (SRP)

Lori Singleton, SRP

Lori Singleton is the manager of sustainability initiatives and technologies at Salt River Project. She is a 29-year employee of SRP and 40-year resident of Arizona. She is responsible for design and implementation of SRP’s environmental outreach programs with special focus on renewable energy.

Lori’s responsibilities at SRP include development and implementation of renewable energy projects to meet SRP’s sustainable resource goals. Singleton oversees research and development projects to support company-wide initiatives for SRP including gasoline lawn mower recycling, tree planting, clean school bus initiative, travel reduction and other internal environmental programs.

She works on development and implementation of the “green” energy pricing program, solar incentive program for residential and commercial customers and renewable energy education programs for implementation in middle school and high school curricula.

In addition, she does promotion and public relations for all new renewable energy projects and purchases (solar, wind, geothermal, landfill gas, low head hydro, fuel cells) while serving as the environmental issues media spokesperson for SRP and being a constant representative of SRP on numerous environmental committees, boards and commissions.

She was appointed by Governor Janet Napolitano to serve on the Solar Energy Advisory Council and also has several other current affiliations including: Valley Forward Association, Board of Directors; Audubon Society, chair, Board of Directors; Maricopa County Regional Travel Reduction Task Force, chair; Association for Commuter Transportation, Valley of the Sun, President & National Board Director; Southwest Center for Education; and the Natural Environment (ASU), Board of Directors.

Current Affiliations

Solar Energy Advisory Council, appointment by Governor Janet Napolitano
Valley Forward Association, Board of Directors
Audubon Society, Chair, Board of Directors
Maricopa County Regional Travel Reduction Task Force, Chair
Association for Commuter Transportation, Valley of the Sun, President &
National Board Director
Southwest Center for Education and the Natural Environment (ASU), Board of
Directors

Affiliations (Past)

Valley Forward Association, Chair, Board of Directors
Maricopa County Regional Travel Reduction Task Force
City of Phoenix, Environmental Quality Commission
Valley Metro, Clean Air Advisory Committee
Tempe Chamber of Commerce, Environmental Committee
Valley of the Sun United Way Loaned Executive


Topic: How people & organizations can get involved in the green movement from an energy perspective.

Conference Speaker
Friday, April 15, 2011
1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
Room 157

BIG Green Conference 2011


 

BIG Green Expo
Friday & Saturday
April 15th & 16th 2011
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

 



 

Electric Vehicle were a big hit in 2010 in Arizona

Arizona’s “Green” Future Was Founded In 2010

2010 will probably be remembered more for the challenges it brought than the successes it yielded in our Valley and state. But out of the darkness came some light, and the illumination casts hope for a bright future.

Countless volunteers gave generously of their time, talent and treasury to support green initiatives in our region despite a challenging economy. Their efforts are evident in a range of projects that contribute to the sustainability of our unique desert environment. And their commitment will make our communities stronger, more vibrant places.

Working together, they’re a testament to the power of collaboration representing companies both large and small, government entities, educators, non-profits and concerned citizens. Their individual successes are our collective treasures:

We’re one of five states selected to deploy “smart” charging stations as part of an electric vehicle program by ECOtality and the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of charging stations in Phoenix and Tucson will create more green jobs, less pollution and a reduction on foreign oil dependency.

Daily ridership on our 20-mile light rail system exceeded expectations by an average of 58 percent, and a new Adopt-A-Station program promotes use of public transportation. In addition, the city of Phoenix in partnership with ASU, APS and other sponsors received $25 million in stimulus funds to build the Green Rail Corridor Demonstration Project to showcase ways to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions.

The Center for Teacher Success was officially launched to improve the academic achievement of Arizona students by elevating the professional performance of their teachers and education leaders. Several non-profits partnered to provide environmental education resources to teachers through workshops, forums and special events.

In the wake of municipal budget cuts, Adopt-A-Park programs have drawn thousands of volunteers to trash pickups, tree plantings and general spruce ups of city recreation areas.  The city of Chandler opened the Paseo Vista Recreation Area, a 64-acre park built atop the closed city landfill; and the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center opened on the banks of the river in Phoenix to connect people with nature.

The town of Gilbert celebrated its 90th anniversary and was named the 17th safest city in America, one of the best places to live in the U.S. and among the best places in the nation to learn.

Several LEED certified projects came online throughout our region, and 12 Valley mayors signed a proclamation by Valley Forward and the U.S. Green Building Council, Arizona Chapter in support of green schools.

Through a preservation-by-relocation effort, the Sandra Day O’Connor House, originally constructed in Paradise Valley as a family home for the former Supreme Court Justice, was undertaken and piece-by-piece, the entire house was deconstructed and transported to Tempe. It was meticulously reconstructed in Papago Park, with a keen focus on historic preservation and environmental sustainability.

Our region overall has become a brighter green in the past year. And it occurred in the worst recession most of us can remember in our lifetime.  As the year closes with winter’s short days and long evenings, we’re reminded that even in the darkness there is light.

The Canalscape Project Beautifying The Phoenix-Area Canals

The Canalscape Project Envisions Beautifying The Phoenix-Area’s Many Canals

Forget “The Valley of the Sun.” Imagine “The Venice of the Southwest.”

It’s an idea that’s hard to fathom now, especially when most Valley residents think of canals as “ugly, smelly and dangerous,” says Nan Ellin, a former Arizona State University professor who conceived Canalscape with her students.

Canalscape is a concept that encourages Phoenicians to embrace the canals that give life to the desert by developing “places of urban vitality” where major streets meet canals, Ellin says.

Despite the canals’ bad reputation, Valley Forward Association and Ellin see a bright, watery future for Phoenix. With more than 181 miles of canals, Phoenix has more of such waterways than Venice and Amsterdam combined. But unlike their European counterparts, canals in Phoenix are not a vital part of the city’s culture.

“The canals used to be the front porch and they became the back alleys,” with the urban sprawl of the 1960s and 1970s, Ellin says.

Valley Forward is committed to transforming the canals from eyesores to amenities, says Jay Hicks, chair-elect of Valley Forward.

“Canalscape represents the next evolution of Valley Forward being able to really bring their membership to a project,” Hicks says.

He adds that the diversity of Valley Forward’s members will help establish connections and relationships between cities, developers, the Salt River Project and other entities to push Canalscape forward.

Currently, the Canalscape project is in the research and discussion stages in Valley Forward’s land use and open space committee. By the end of this year, Valley Forward hopes to create a separate Canalscape committee to allow all of Valley Forward’s members to participate in the creation process, says George Pasquel III, chair of the land use and open space committee.

Canalscape fits perfectly with two of Valley Forward’s goals — promoting sustainability and giving Phoenicians a high quality of life, Hicks says.

Two important aspects of the Canalscape vision are to bring nature into the city by not hardscaping the selected areas, and to keep the ground level spaces public to attract visitors.

“When the ground floor is public, it’s saying welcome,” Ellin notes.

Each “canalscaped” location would have a unique look. The Canalscape developments could range from a naturally landscaped public recreation area to a public school to small urban hubs complete with restaurants, grocery stores and dry cleaners, Ellin says.

Canalscape’s urban centers would create a lifestyle in which walking, biking and mass transit replace cars as the main modes of transportation, thus making the Valley more sustainable and increasing the quality of life, Ellin says.

Currently, there are several locations being considered for Canalscape’s pilot project, but no decisions have been made.

“The best location for a pilot project is whatever location can get implemented the fastest, have the most positive public impact and be the greatest catalyst for future locations,” Pasquel says.

Gateway Community College, which houses the Canalscape Exhibit, is a possible location and GCC President Eugene Giovannini says he hopes the college is chosen.

“I can’t think of another area in the city that is more worthy of the initial pilot project (to) move (Canalscape) forward, because of its location as it relates to mass transit and an underserved, underdeveloped area in the city,” Giovannini says.

The METRO Light Rail’s 38th Street stop at Gateway Community College will connect to Sky Harbor International Airport’s tram when it is completed. As a result, the stop becomes the front door to the city for visitors, and the city should roll out an attractive welcome mat, Giovannini says.

Whichever location is chosen, Pasquel says he hopes to see Canalscape fully developed in the coming decade.

“I’d like (the canal system) to be an active part of the Valley that’s not so ignored, that people … actually think of it as a thoroughfare that connects areas,” he says.

Canalscape connects the Valley, while also maintaining each community’s uniqueness by involving a “combination of urban and nature, and a combination of live, work, play that you don’t see anywhere else in the Valley,” Ellin says.

“So it would really improve the quality of life … and overall it would really enhance the reputation of the Phoenix metropolitan region.”

16th Street and Indian School Road proposed by Jens Kolb

The intersection of 16th Street and Indian School Road as proposed by Jens Kolb.


16th st and indian school exisiting canal

The intersection of 16th Street and Indian School Road as it exists today.


Metrocenter Proposed by Nicholas Glover

Metro Center as proposed by Nicholas Glover.


metro center today

Metro Center as it exists today.

Arizona Sunset - Future of West Valley

Valley Leaders Join Forces To Envision The Future West Valley

Leadership West LogoOver 100 Valley leaders convened on November 31, 2010 to develop a future vision for the West Valley in an exercise led by Leadership West.  Leadership West is a volunteer-led, non-profit organization that convenes, educates and activates proven leaders in business, non-profits and government to leverage their time, talents and treasures to enhance the quality of life in the West Valley.

Moving AZOne LogoThe “West Valley Reality Check” was free for its participants, thanks to the collaborative effort and partnership between Leadership West and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The program’s goal was to bring together leaders in government, business, non-profits, environmentalists, educators, neighborhood activists, interfaith groups, tribal and elected officials to focus on a regional approach to shaping our built environment. The event was a continuation of Leadership West’s annual West Valley Summit which was held in March.

By 2050, the Central Arizona region will have an additional 6 million people and 3 million new jobs, many of which will be in the West Valley. This exercise presented the opportunity for Valley stakeholders to influence how the region plans land-use, transportation and infrastructure while sustaining our economy and quality of life.

Leadership West Executive Director, Kathy Knecht kicked off the event by describing the organization as a catalyst for long-term planning in the West Valley.  The Reality Check model was designed by ULI, but this event was the first time where such an exercise was conducted with West Valley stakeholders.  What emerged from the exercise was an overarching theme of municipal and regional cooperation that looks beyond the current economic cycle in preparation for the next wave.

Deb Sydenham introduced the Reality Check model as a great opportunity to work collaboratively and cooperatively to help regions with visioning at least 20 years into the future. Don Keuth presented Valley growth trends and how this exercise will help establish the framework for future growth. Interestingly enough, only about 10 cities across the country have performed this activity but Phoenix is the only city that has done it twice. ULI Arizona’s efforts over the past 3 years have resulted in the “Connected Centers” strategy that promotes growth and prosperity.  These exercises represent a forward-thinking approach to identify a sustainable regional growth scenario and by doing so determine housing types, responsible land uses and a transportation framework.

MapJay Hicks presented the ground rules for the placemaking exercise in which participants use Legos© that represent various levels of housing and employment density and strands of yarn that represent major transportation corridors to identify the region’s growth patterns.  Participants used these tools in their groups to establish a 40-year vision with the understanding of the West Valley’s opportunities and challenges, including jobs, transportation, Luke AFB, higher education and the environment.

By keeping an open mind, being bold and creative and working together to find solutions, the participant groups completed their visioning exercise while maintaining AZOne Reality Check’s guiding principles of preserving open space, supporting current infrastructure by growing along existing corridors, connecting employment and housing with multi-modal transportation, creating new urban centers and infilling currently developed areas, and locating housing near jobs.

The collective group discussed barriers and challenges that might hinder the implementation of these future scenarios as well as policy changes that would be necessary to making the scenarios possible. However, the group clearly identified a need for the West Valley to stay relevant in conversations about regional issues by working collaboratively and speaking as one voice.  Leadership West did not intend this exercise to be the end, but rather the next step in moving this initiative forward by carrying the message back to each respective organization.  The Reality Check exercise provided a forum for West Valley representatives to use regional visioning and planning and discuss how we can promote economic development, plan comprehensive infrastructure, preserve natural resources, create a sense of place in the community, and engage the community and create political will to implement these visions.  Our common goal…leadership.

Misgana Kebede Company - Accent Transportation Services - AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

A Dream Becomes A Reality for Ethiopian-Born Small Business Owner Misgana Kebede

Misgana Kebede
Company: Accent Transportation Services
Title: Owner | Est.: 2008
Web: www.transaccent.com

In May 2008, during the roughest stretch of the recession, a husband-and-wife team made a bold decision to start their own transportation business. Misgana Kebede and his wife, Bilen, started Accent Transportation Services, which specializes in executive car service around the Phoenix area.

Kebede moved to the U.S. from Ethiopia and was drawn to the tourism industry early on. In fact, he worked at various hotels and theme parks after high school and during college. Kebede eventually earned degrees in finance and logistics, transportation and supply chain management.

Prior to the creation of Accent Transportation Services, Kebede was working for Honeywell Aerospace in the supply chain department. Although he was learning a lot about the business, Kebede realized he wanted something more than to work in a cubicle.

“I had the dream of becoming a business owner, and a desire to serve others from the heart,” Kebede says.

When Kebede first started his business, the transportation industry was being hit hard by the economic downturn.
Companies were cutting down on travel costs, and car and limo services weren’t in demand. Despite the challenges, Accent Transportation managed to stand out to clients. Accent Transportation gains most of its business from repeat customers, and has grown from one vehicle to a seven-vehicle fleet within two years.

“Building a repeat customer base tells us we’re doing something right,” Kebede says. “Seventy to 75 percent of our business is repeat customers.”

Accent Transportation retains its customers because it continually focuses on improving the level of service it provides. It offers easy, online registration and account management. Customers can choose from Lincoln sedans, SUVs, stretch limos and a mini-coach. Kebede also emphasizes the importance of being on time.

Another major part of customer retention is that Kebede’s employees have excellent customer service skills. When looking to hire new employees, Kebede looks for people who already have spent time working in the hospitality business.

“If you know how to serve people, anything else can be learned,” Kebede says.

Kebede knows that building a business from the ground up is especially hard right now, but he is committed to his work.

“The first and foremost thing is to have a passion for what you do,” Kebede says. “Plan your days, weeks and months. Think about what will grow your business, not just what will help you get by.”

Arizona Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

This exhibit showing the creative uses of recycled items is aimed at raising awareness of the sustainability movement in Poland. Photo: Kasia Marciszewska

Seeing Poland In A Green Light

Our associate editor and resident green blogger, Kasia Marciszewska, is currently traveling in Europe. While there, she stopped by her native country of Poland. Ever vigilant about the subject of sustainability, Kasia sought out Poland’s green side.

Visiting my home country of Poland is always a fun and exciting experience. It seems every time I come here something is different, as Poland continues to shift and grow with the changing times.

This visit proved to me once again how far the country has come, when I realized that Poland was taking “being green” to a new level.  The concept of eco-friendliness in some ways is new to the country, but upon closer inspection it seems that Poland was on the road to helping the environment long before it became popular.

One way the country is and has been reducing its environmental impact is through its transportation system. Many of Poland’s residents commute via public transportation, which includes trams, rail and bus. Though not always the fastest routes, public transportation is an integral way of life for the Polish people and definitely the greener way to travel.

One can easily travel throughout Poland on public transportation. The rail systems span the whole country, and you can travel with relative ease; from the northern city of Gdansk all the way down to Krakow in the south, it’s all just a train ride away.  Travel to neighboring countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic also can easily be done via trains, making visiting other countries ecologically sound.

Though transportation by car has steadily increased over the years, the sizeable difference is in the cars themselves, literally. Cars in Poland are taxed based on their engine size, so many people choose to drive cars with smaller engines (thus fewer emissions) in order to reduce their costs. That frugalness helps the environment at the same time (The price of gas in Poland is also extremely high, so using public transportation makes much more economic sense for most people).

Another “green” innovation in Poland is grocery bags, or rather the lack thereof. Many of Poland’s cities are making an effort to reduce plastic bag waste by simply asking customers if they need a bag. The catch? If you want a bag you’ll have to pay for it! A nominal fee is tacked on for plastic bags during your shopping, so a better, cheaper and greener alternative is to bring your own bags.

The cities of Gdansk, Inowroclaw, Tychy and Zabrze already have passed local laws to ban the free handing out of plastic bags, and many more cities are deciding on similar initiatives.

Poland is truly undergoing a cultural shift toward environmental friendliness. Awareness about the topic is spreading with more and more initiatives sprouting up all over the country.

I recently observed an exhibition at a shopping center in Wroclaw titled “Eco Fashion.” The goal of the exhibition was to demonstrate practices on how to recycle with a focus on fashion.  The campaign showed a multitude of creative ideas for recycling everyday items into clothes, furniture and more, along with games, prizes and interesting facts about recycling. For example, did you know that recycling one plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for six hours?

The entries varied in shape and size from a plastic cup coffee table to a dress made from garbage bags. But the overall message was heard loud and clear, eco-friendliness is here to stay in Poland — with many more “green” advances to come!

Walking to Work

Greenway Health Goes Green In July

Most people would think you were crazy if you walked to work in Arizona’s July heat.  But at Greenway Health, that shows a commitment to the company’s green efforts.

Some employees at Greenway Health are so committed to the July “Greenway Goes Green” month that they’re braving the scorching summer temperatures to bike and walk to work.

About five employees are using transportation other than a car, including bicycles and the bus, while other employees are carpooling to work.

These aren’t the only green choices Greenway Health employees are making. They are also bringing reusable water bottles to work, using desk lamps instead of overhead lighting, recycling and using “treeless” paper.  The company is offering incentives to employees who make eco-friendly lifestyle changes.

The company decided to go green to show “employees the benefits and ease of going green,” says Mike McKenzy, of Greenway Health, a direct marketing health and nutrition company.

McKenzy says the young staff, most of the employees are in their mid-20s to early 30s, wasn’t well versed in green solutions.  Company officials wanted to show the employees easy, cost-effective ways to help conserve and preserve.

But, they are “amazed by what little things, if adopted by large numbers of people, can do,” McKenzy says.

The feedback has been great and McKenzy hopes the employees won’t ditch their new habits once July is over.  He says the chances of the green efforts continuing year round are pretty good.  When the company initiates programs like this one, “it sticks,” he says.

Greenway Health’s employees set an example for everyone. Just a little change can make a difference.

Road Made Out of Glass

Driving on Glass — Solar Roads of the Future

When I browse around the internet searching for the latest green news to write about on my blog I’ve come across some pretty cool stuff. But this takes the cake (so far) for providing me with a jaw-dropping moment of admiration.

A co-worker sent me an article from Scientific American titled: Driving on Glass? Inventor Hopes to Lay Down Solar Roads.

This sure got my attention.  Scott Brusaw, of Sagle, Idaho-based Solar Roadways hopes to make this headline a reality. He is working on building a prototype of his so-called “Solar Road Panel” —basically a road that will generate power every time you drive on it. Sounds crazy? That’s what I thought at first but then I read a little further.

The solar road panel prototype is 1,024 modules, with each containing a solar cell, a light-emitting diode and, someday, an ultracapacitor for storage—placed between a layer of some yet-to-be developed glass as well as a layer of conducting material.

Glass is certainly not what comes to mind when one thinks of building material for roads, but this won’t be your average glass. It will be textured to allow for water run-off and tire-grip for vehicles. Heating elements — similar to those you find in your car’s rear windshield — will help melt snow or ice and the road will be self-cleaning. And of course, it will be super strong and able to handle the extreme stress of having mass amounts of weight on it.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. This type of glass doesn’t exist — not yet anyway.

Brusaw is hoping to partner with researchers at Pennsylvania State University’s Materials Research Institute to develop it.

With $40,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Brusaw is currently building a prototype from chemically hardened glass panels and experimenting with various types of solar cells. The ultimate goal is to create a cross-country highway system that doubles as a national electricity generator and power grid.

The prototype is due to be tested in February of 2010. I’m curious to see how this turns out and what lies on the road ahead — literally.

Read more about solar roads here

Loop 202 - AZ Business Magazine Oct/Nov 2006

Plannings Pays Off For 202 South Mountain Freeway

The New 202

Plannings pays off for 202 South Mountain Freeway

By David Schwartz

Tom Tait Jr. just chuckles when quizzed about the future of his family’s land holdings in the West Valley, a large expanse of property that has been in the portfolio since the 1970s. Are there any great plans for development? Are there plans to flip the property and pocket the proceeds?

 

The New 202Not even close. Indeed, the past few years have raised the property’s worth, but that’s apparently where it ends. At least, he claims, that’s the thinking for now. “We are long-term owners of properties and really don’t bother much with any short-term benefits that there might be,” Tait says. “At the present time, we’re just farming the property. That’s what we’ve been doing and I don’t see that changing much. No matter what happens.” And apparently no matter what transportation planners have in store for the acreage.

The Tait family are among the owners of property in the vicinity of the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway, a long-charted, controversial thoroughfare that eventually will span 22 miles and link Interstate 10 in the southeast and West valleys.

But it’s the stretch of the freeway that cuts through the burgeoning southwest Valley that recently was brought into sharper focus by the Arizona Department of Transportation. In late June, officials ended any uncertainty and revealed that the freeway would connect at 55th Avenue in Laveen—an old favorite seen on the map for at least the last two decades.

The route was a popular choice of the three options presented for review. Better than 71st Avenue. Better than 99th Avenue, south of Loop 101. It was hailed as the right choice by officials in Phoenix and several area municipalities. It too was welcomed by several landowners in the area. But it was neither a surprise, nor unexpected.

Land experts say that the decision by the state was important because it serves to cement the value for the land in the area to be affected by the proposed freeway. There is now a line drawn in pen that can’t be easily erased and sent back to the drawing board.

But experts are quick to add that property in the area has been soaring in value anyway during the last two years, as the real estate market careened through its boom times and those familiar red tile rooftops became a more frequent sight with each passing day.

There likely will be no land rush, they predict, unlike what occurred when other segments of the Valley’s freeway system were put into place in years past. “They are putting it where I think most people thought it was going to be,” says Greg Vogel, chief executive of Land Advisors Organization, which has offices in Arizona, Texas and Colorado. “I don’t think there was a drop in values while they were considering other options. It’s already been priced into the market and it’s been a long time coming.”

Besides, Vogel says, there is not a huge amount of land to be had in the area that will be directly affected by proposed freeway as it sweeps its way through the area. He said land costs now in the fast-growing Laveen area already are between $175,000 to $350,000 an acre, a dramatic increase from more than a decade ago. “This isn’t a case where there are 25 pieces (of land) with 30 different buyers and all kinds of things going on,” he says. “It has been thought through and organized, so you’re not going to see anything like you may have with other freeways.”

Pat Feeney, senior vice president of CB Richard Ellis in Phoenix, says he has watched a surge in valuation of available industrial land that began in summer 2004 and pushed prices to about $4 per square feet. That’s more than a five-fold increase from the early 1990s. “The net result is that almost every piece of land in the submarket is owned by a developer who will be building on their property,” says Feeney, who has been tracking industrial properties for about 20 years. “No one out there is a seller right now.”

He says he sees no revaluing of land in wake of the transportation department putting its official stamp on the freeway alignment in the southwest Valley. Officials say that’s because the proposed freeway has been on the books since 1985, when Maricopa County voters approved a Regional Freeway System that was supposed to take care of the Valley’s transportation needs. But a funding shortfall meant that this segment fell down the priority list of projects. At one point, it was seen as a potential toll road.

AZ Business Magazine October November 2006Fast forward to 2004. Voters approved Proposition 400 that provides money to pay for a Regional Transportation Plan that includes the South Mountain Freeway. Transportation officials say plans call for the freeway to cost an estimated $1.7 billion, with construction expected to be completed and ready for motorists in 2015. “It’s the future for that part of the West Valley,” says Debra Stark, Phoenix planning director. “We think we have done a good job planning and making sure land has been set aside.”

She says one needs only to look at an aerial map as proof. In one picture, a clear path for the freeway already has been set aside along 59th Avenue and Broadway Road. Houses can be seen on both sides. “What has helped is that unlike other areas, we’re not seeing as much housing or commercial development,” Stark says. “And as we’ve done zoning there, we’ve asked developers to set aside land for the 55th Avenue alignment. So we’re more prepared for when the freeway is built.”

As for Tait, there are no great preparations just yet for his family’s property. Asked about his time frame for development now that the freeway route has been picked, he says, “What, so now instead of 30 years, it’s 20 years? That’s still a long way away.”

 

Arizona Business Magazine Oct/Nov 2006