If you've ever wanted to help improve the day-to-day lives of nearly every person who lives in or sets foot, wheel or hoof in Scottsdale, now's your chance. The Scottsdale Transportation Commission has two openings, and according to current Commissioner Barry Graham, transportation and the decisions surrounding it have some of the greatest impacts on a city and its people.
"It's so important how you move people, how you get people to their destinations safely and efficiently," said Commissioner Graham. "Transportation can improve quality of life, which in turn helps attract businesses and tourism that ultimately strengthen the economy."
Commissioner Graham also pointed out that transportation is the city's biggest asset in terms of capital investment. Because of this, he said, "oversight and public citizen review are really important. Residents deserve the best possible product they can afford with their tax dollars."
The Transportation Commission, which represents Scottsdale residents, ensures that public review and assessment are part of transportation planning, budgeting and decision-making.
Commissioners meet one evening a month where they hear presentations from the city's transportation department and comments from citizens about current transportation issues. The commission then makes recommendations to the City Council, which ultimately decides how the city proceeds. The commission also provides guidance to the Scottsdale Transportation Department on particular issues, such as traffic calming, and the department typically follows that guidance.
One of the biggest accomplishments of the current commission was drafting a new Transportation Master Plan, which provides transportation policy direction for the future of the entire city.
"We kept the plan relatively short and attempted to simplify a lot of complex and intricate matters in the hopes more residents could access, understand and use it to participate in the transportation planning process," said Commissioner Graham. The 2016 plan was less than 100 pages, while the previous plan, approved in 2008, was nearly 700 pages with appendices.
"The new plan also emphasized roundabouts, ended the practice of building single-family homes on major and minor arterial [busy] roads and prioritized multimodality--pedestrians, bikers, drivers and horseback riders," said Commissioner Graham.
No experience necessary
Perhaps these sound like topics you'd like to weigh in on, but you're hesitating because you don't have any background in transportation.
But Commissioner Graham, who is a certified public accountant, said specific transportation experience is not necessary. More helpful to him has been his varied experience as a user of transportation.
"I lived in a big dense northeastern city where I didn't have a car and used trains and buses for seven years," said Commissioner Graham. "I've also lived in suburban and rural areas where I drove most places. I've gotten a taste of all aspects of transportation."
More challenging than understanding any specific technical information, he said, is "balancing the needs of all areas of the community with budgetary realities and the fact that everybody's got a different preference."
Commissioner Jyme Sue McLaren, at the other end of the spectrum, has 30 years working in the public transportation industry. She said that a balance of those with and without experience in the transportation field is ideal.
"Those with a transportation background bring a technical assessment of the decisions put forth to the commission, but others bring the citizenry experience to the table as a driver or as somebody who lives in and understands how a specific community gets to and from work every day," said Commissioner McLaren.
"What's more important is that the commission has representation from different types of transportation users and diversity of opinion to make sound decisions that will affect the community at large," she said. "To one person transportation is getting in a car every day, but for a person in a wheelchair or a low-income family, transportation could be something very different."
Before meetings, commissioners are provided with a packet of background materials, such as traffic analyses, budget information, collision reports, traffic flow diagrams, maps, photos, and population and commuting data, among other helpful information relevant to issues under consideration. Commissioners can also supplement their knowledge with their own research, such as reading newspaper articles or attending council or neighborhood meetings to find out what others think.
Most important for commissioners is that they be willing to listen and consider all of the factors that may influence a decision and all of the people who will be impacted by it.
"Commissions are a marvelous opportunity to participate in democracy and influence our community," said Scottsdale Transportation Director Paul Basha. “The city Transportation Commission provides a direct link between the Scottsdale citizenry and the transportation professionals who serve the Scottsdale traveling public."
Basha, like Commissioners Graham and McLaren, emphasized that commissioners should be capable of understanding and appreciating different perspectives.
“On most every transportation issue, there are both opponents and proponents," said Basha. Commissioners must listen carefully and allow their intelligence and judgment to determine which action is best for Scottsdale and its citizenry on the whole, knowing there will be people who disagree with every decision the commission makes.”
Overall time commitment
Commissioners are expected to attend monthly meetings, which are preceded by a study session related to a specific transportation topic. Total meeting time is usually two to three hours.
Time needed to prepare for meetings varies, but usually falls between two to 10 hours and includes reading the background materials and doing any additional research you choose.
I’m interested…what do I do next?
If serving on the Transportation Commission sounds like a good fit for you, the next step is to fill out a brief general application to serve on a Scottsdale board or commission. (You will be able to specify you are applying for the city Transportation Commission on the application.)
Your application will then be forwarded to the City Council, which will nominate individuals from the pool of applicants at a public meeting. If you are nominated, you will be invited to be interviewed at a future public City Council meeting. Following the meeting and interviews, the City Council will vote on appointments.
Please note that you must be a Scottsdale resident to serve on a board or commission.
For the current openings, which will commence in June, turn in applications by Friday, May 26. Another position will be opening in November.
For more information about the application, nomination, interview or appointment process, please contact the Mayor's Office at 480-312-7977.
For more information about the Transportation Commission, including past agendas, minutes or videos, please visit the Transportation Commission webpage.