Recycling Could Be Coming To Phoenix Apartment Buildings

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 - 4:14pm
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 - 7:51pm

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There will be no free bus rides offered to Phoenix schoolchildren. But there should be a new recycling rule for certain developers. Those were the decisions made yesterday by the city’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. KJZZ’s Christina Estes attended the meeting.

MARK BRODIE: Christina, let’s start with recycling. What’s new?

CHRISTINA ESTES: Starting Dec. 1, recycling will be required for new multifamily developments. We’re mostly talking about apartment complexes but also duplexes and town homes. This is a big deal for Phoenix. Nearly one in three residents lives in an apartment.

BRODIE: Didn’t the city try this a few years ago?

ESTES: About three years ago, the city’s public works department was set to change it rules - to require multifamily developments to offer recycling collection. But the pushback was pretty strong and the city backed off.

BRODIE: So, what’s different now?

ESTES: This time city staff worked with the Arizona Multihousing Association and with private companies that handle trash pickup. When it comes to private property the city does not handle trash or recycling pick up, but it is responsible for making sure collections are safe and sanitary so it has rules that developers must follow.

City staff held a lot of meeting with stakeholders and came up with two new lines to add to its rules. One line says recycling capacity is required for new multifamily developments. The other line says the developments can choose the location, capacity, size, scope and manner in which to provide recycling. In a nutshell, the city wants to make them do it but is giving them as much flexibility as possible.

BRODIE: Sounds like this time there may be more buy-in, so is everyone satisfied?

ESTES: Not totally. This has been bugging some people for years. There’s a woman named Stacy Champion who started an online petition five years ago. The city’s public works director told me Champion showed up at a meeting with a big plastic bag full of stuff she wanted to recycle but didn’t have a collection bin where she lives. Champions’ colleague, Lindsay Robinson addressed the subcommittee.

Robinsons says, “It’s definitely a move in the right direction although I do think it was a little bit overdue and probably should have proactively been implemented before the big multifamily boom.”

She mentions the boom. I have some numbers to share. Since Jan. 20-15, Phoenix has seen 81 new apartment developments. That’s 81 in less than two years.

Not all are built, but they’re all pretty deep in the process. Of those 81 projects, the city says nearly 80 percent plan to offer recycling. This is on their own, not as a result of the new rule because that doesn’t apply until Dec. 1.

BRODIE: Let’s shift gears and talk transit — specifically bus and light rail rides for Phoenix schoolchildren. This came up a few months ago when a resident presented a petition to the city council asking that free passes be available to kids traveling to and from school. What did you learn?

ESTES: The short answer is it’s not going to happen, but getting to that answer involved a great deal of research including costs and potential legal issues.

BRODIE: Let’s start with money. If Phoenix offered bus and light rail passes to schoolchildren what would it cost?

ESTES: It’s quite a range. They came up lower and higher cost scenarios depending on how many students might use the passes. The range is nearly $12 million to $24 million a year. Most of that covers what’s called lost revenue. That’s money the city would have received if the students paid for the bus and light rail rides instead of using passes. The lost revenue range is roughly 7 to 18 million.

BRODIE: So, if my math is correct the city estimates the direct costs would be about 5 to 6 million a year.

ESTES: Your math is correct.

BRODIE: So, what would the 5 to 6 million cover?

ESTES: A few things: one would be administrative costs for managing the program, but the bulk would cover increased vehicle and operating costs. Transit Director Maria Hyatt said out of 33 routes, they see overcrowding on 22.

Hyatt says, “And so if you added additional riders to and from school during those peak times when we are the busiest we believed we needed to add additional service for all of our passengers.”

BRODIE: Besides costs, you mentioned potential legal issues. What do you mean?

ESTES: Someone could potentially raise an issue about access and equity. Say two students go to the same school. One can easily catch a city bus while the other would have to walk a few blocks to reach the bus stop and maybe transfer one or two times. Is that fair?

There’s another issue around federal funding. Phoenix’s transit department gets tens of million every year and the federal government says public entities using federal money cannot engage in school bus operations or compete for service with private school bus operators.

BRODIE: So, no free passes for schoolchildren but they do have reduced fares, right?

ESTES: Yes, kids 6 to 18 currently pay half-price. And, that will continue. Staff also recommends more outreach to school districts and charter schools for the Platinum Pass program.

BRODIE: What’s that?

ESTES: It’s a program open to any school, business or group with at least 20 riders. The card is charged for each ride and a bill is sent each month. The Phoenix Union High School District uses the program and has eliminated school bus service at most of its schools. It’s important to note the schools in that district are pretty centrally located with easier access to bus stops than some other areas.

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