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  • Location: Phoenix, Arizona

Downtown Phoenix is experiencing unprecedented growth, with over 100 new developments currently in progress. Changes in land use, major sporting and entertainment events, new public and private infrastructure investments, and demographic shifts are attracting visitors and expediting growth in the downtown area. This increased activity presented new challenges for Phoenix’s traffic circulation and congestion.

The City of Phoenix engaged Burgess and Niple (B&N) to complete the Downtown Phoenix Transportation Plan Update in 2019. This update assessed the impact of various factors on vehicular circulation in the downtown area through 2025 and identified strategies to address the challenges. 

Complex Transportation System

The complex urban transportation system in downtown Phoenix accommodates all travelers, including auto circulation, light rail transit and bus service, and bicycle and pedestrian travel. Corridors have many constraints such as right-of-way, City policy requirements, parking, construction activity and more. B&N collaborated with the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) to update and assess travel demand. The results included a housing and population increase of nearly 70% and an employment increase of 13%.

B&N constructed meso and microscopic simulation models to analyze the system impacts and assess potential strategies. The models factored in all modes of travel, including light rail transit, mid-block pedestrian crossings and over 100 intersections with over 40 signalized intersections.

Scenario Planning Solutions

To adapt the downtown transportation system to the changing landscape, B&N employed scenario planning. Three scenarios were developed based on technical analysis and public input: 

  • Scenario 1: Identify intersection capacity and circulation improvements to complement programmed and planned improvements anticipated in the downtown transportation and development landscape by 2025;
  • Scenario 2: Identify intersection capacity and circulation improvements to plan for increased potential development (sensitivity analysis); and
  • Scenario 3: Identify potential opportunity corridors for enhanced multimodal travel for future study and analysis to modify traffic lane configurations, including more bicycle features and pedestrian-oriented treatments.

B&N provided Phoenix with solutions tailored for each scenario. Opportunity corridors were identified where additional active transportation features, such as bicycle lanes, could be constructed within the existing curbs. 

A Secondary Plan

In addition to the scenario analysis, the simulation models were used to gain insights on how the increase in development could impact the City’s “Sunburst Plan.” The Sunburst Plan is the City’s strategy for managing Downtown event traffic. When large events conclude, road access is limited, and routes are changed to the Downtown network to direct traffic toward the freeways and major arterials. The models B&N developed provided information on travel time, access and more, ultimately providing the opportunity to proactively determine if adjustments can be made for the benefit of all stakeholders.