by John Yantis
The Arizona Republic
Buckeye Mayor Jackie Meck talked some politics before the grand opening of the town's first park and ride.
Meck joined Town Council members, transit officials and other dignitaries last week in a ribbon-cutting for the $5 million facility. Only this ribbon, while being held by the mayor on one side of the road and others on the opposite side, was to be split by a moving Valley Metro bus.
"I asked the bus driver whether he's a Republican, Democrat or independent," Meck shouted to about 75 onlookers while standing in front of the bus. "He's independent. We're good."
The driver drove slow. The ribbon cut nicely, and the East Buckeye Park and Ride was christened.
Starting Jan. 23, there will be two weekday morning and two afternoon express trips from the new transit center to downtown Phoenix. The center is north of Interstate 10 on the southwestern corner of Jackrabbit Trail and Palm Lane.
Buckeye Express Route 563, formerly known as the Papago Freeway Express, will leave the park and ride at 5:35 a.m. and 6:40 a.m., making stops at the Goodyear Park and Ride, First Avenue and Van Buren Street and 17th Avenue and Jefferson Street. Buses will return commuters to the park and ride at 5:10 p.m. and 6:25 p.m.
Transit officials say the Buckeye route is intended as an extension to Route 562, which runs to the Goodyear Park and Ride. Officials expect that someday, Route 685, a popular rural route that runs to Ajo and Gila Bend, will stop at the Buckeye park and ride.
The center will service what they say is an undetermined number of residents who live near the park and ride, as well as those who live farther west. In time, they say, the buses will fill up.
Officials expect residents to also take advantage of vanpools that will be stationed at the facility.
The first phase of the project was funded by the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority. There are 250 parking spaces, some of which are covered, a security building and a small silo that doubles as a waiting area. Eventually, the 7-acre site will expand to as many as 500 parking spaces and arrival-and-departure slots for up to four buses.
The center contains a number of signature architectural features, as well as a kiss and ride: an area separated from buses and parking where commuters are dropped off to board public transportation.
The design of the project reflects elements of the area's agricultural heritage. Inside the silo will be displays of historical documents and photos.
A small dry canal runs through the center. Wild grasses in the canal are expected to grow and wave in the breeze to represent the flowing of water, said Lara Serbin, an architect and co-founder of Serbin Studio in Goodyear.
The distinct angles on shade and bus-waiting canopies are derived from a 1950s gas station that operated on Monroe Avenue in downtown Buckeye
Colored panels at the park and ride were an analogy to the Eastman Cotton Gin, which operated from 1928 to 2005. The gin building remains on the Heritage Park site today.
While they could not get inside the building, Serbin said her team members were inspired when they saw colored panels and siding while looking through its windows. Blue, orange and white tones were incorporated in the bus shelters.
Sustainability also will be incorporated into the design, from LED bulbs in the lighting system to canopies designed to install solar panels that will one day power lights.
Meck called the park and ride a good example of regional cooperation.
"It's another milestone in Buckeye's history and, at the same time, it offers a glimpse into the future," he said, adding the center is expected to ease traffic along I-10 while lessening air pollution.