Valley Metro proposed to eliminate FLASH from its service lines.
Tempe FLASH is a free local area shuttle designed to provide affordable transportation for students. The shuttle stops throughout ASU's campus and provides access to parking lots and the Tempe Transportation Center.
Service Planning Manager for Valley Metro Joe Gregory said at a public meeting that the change is being proposed due to a sharp decline in ridership and residents' changing commuting patterns.
"The Tempe FLASH ridership has had a dramatic fall in ridership since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the decrease has been even more dramatic and sustained than the rest of the bus system," Gregory said. "It's hard to justify continuing to run service that is not efficiently and effectively serving the needs of most riders."
Gregory said that while bus ridership overall has been about half of what it was pre-pandemic, the Tempe FLASH service has been 88% lower in 2023. If the route were to be eliminated, it would not go into effect until after the school year, on June 30.
"In 2019, the FLASH service carried over 200,000 riders," Gregory said at the meeting. "In 2023, it carried fewer than 30,000."
Students expressed concerns about the potential elimination of the route online and at a public meeting on Wednesday.
In a LinkedIn post, Blake Su, a junior studying biology and political science, said that he uses the FLASH shuttle daily, and its elimination would hinder ASU students' ability to get around campus.
"I rely on this bus, as do many others, to get to classes, on and off campus housing, as well as work at the Biodesign Institute and ASU Stadium events during the week," Su said in the post. "It would be devastating to see this line go away."
Sultana Afrin Nipa, a graduate student studying justice studies, said in an online comment at the meeting that students need the shuttle because it supplements areas that the city's other transportation services, like Tempe Orbit and the Streetcar, do not cover.
"I hope you will not eliminate the service without implementing an alternative or better transportation system in the area, especially considering student accessibility," a representative said at the meeting, reading Nipa's comment.
The FLASH line runs from Spence Avenue and Rural Road to the Tempe Transportation Center and stops near ASU's stadiums, parking lots and classrooms. The service runs from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every 10 to 15 minutes on weekdays during the ASU school year.
Gregory said that Valley Metro and ASU will collaborate to provide students with other public transportation options.
"We do want to work as closely as we can with ASU, especially as we are trying to rethink ... some of the ways to get around," Gregory said. "There's what, 80,000 students here in Tempe? They all need to find somewhere to find ways to get around, and we want to be a part of that solution, too."
Residents can provide public comments in an online survey until Dec. 8, 2023. The Valley Metro Board of Directors will vote on the proposal in January 2024.
Edited by Alysa Horton, Walker Smith and Grace Copperthite.