A Bright Beginning for Light Rail in Phoenix

Everyone knows that Phoenix has a huge sprawl problem. But now transit-oriented development is on the upswing in this Sun Belt metropolis. In
December, the Phoenix region opened one of the most ambitious transit projects
in recent U.S. history: a 20-mile light rail line with 28 stops
serving three cities (Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa). Future plans include an extension within three years, with several new corridors being studied. 

The Valley Metro
vehicles are handsome and comfortable, and thus far ridership has far exceeded initial projections — with as many as 40,000 riders per day, compared to the expected 25,000. Each station features amenities and art installations. In addition, with many folks using the light rail as an intermodal
step in their commutes, bicycles
are welcome aboard. 

16 thoughts on A Bright Beginning for Light Rail in Phoenix

  1. Great to see Phoenix is starting to plan for its future.

    It’s funny though. I read the comments on their local paper on opening day. Many people were against it and thought it wouldn’t work in Phoenix because “We’re not New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles.” Can you imagine?

  2. Denver is also a great success story.

    Now that Seattle and even Honolulu have voted to create/expand their systems, I look forward to more success stories.

  3. OMG! It looks like they removed car travel lanes to make space for that socialist monstrosity! How did they get away with that without “mitigating” the traffic delays? Car drivers could be inconvenienced!

  4. It’s going to suck when temperatures get up to 100 degrees. They should add those little misters like they do in theme park queues.

  5. They took quite a long time expanding streets like Central to accomodate the new travel lanes. I love it, going to a baseball game is easy and cheap in AZ. Arizona State offers great discounts to use it, not a fan of the park and ride parking lots as they should expect people to walk through the parking lot to reach the stations and there are no pedestrian sidewalks for them.

  6. Sounds like a pretty foolish project to me. Expansion? Have you seen Phoenix? There’s no there there.

    Phoenix should severely limit light rail and upzone heavily in the area it serves and strictly limit development outside of the existing city and in the fringe of the city. Let–or require–development to come to the rail line.

    Rail without appropriate land use planning provides no benefit. Likewise land development without appropriate transportation planning. The two are inextricably linked.

  7. Cindy wrote:

    Sounds like a pretty foolish project to me. Expansion? Have you seen Phoenix? There’s no there there.

    Well, Phoenix crossed the 40,000 mark despite:
    1. A general hostility to non-car driving
    2. Triple-digit temperatures regularly
    3. An economy solely built on momentum. Phoenix was growing because it was growing.
    4. Land use that would have line struggling to pull 4,000 boardings.
    5. A trial balloon floated by “America’s Sheriff” Joe Arpaio to transport county inmates among riders in revenue service.

    Rail without appropriate land use planning provides no benefit. Likewise land development without appropriate transportation planning. The two are inextricably linked.

    Phoenix seemed to follow a “put butts in the seats” approach and it seems to have paid off. It’s all the more remarkable considering that at the beginning of this decade, there was no Sunday bus service outside Tempe.

  8. Cindy,

    If you did a little research I think you’d find most of what you say is what the Phoenix-area is trying to do. And to limit the light rail? That’s just completely wrong. Even in the most sprawled out areas on Earth, there still should be options.

  9. Dallas Area Rapid Transit has had growing pains over the years, but it is a success story. We even have a heavy rail commuter line which runs between Dallas and Fort Worth (Trinity Rail Express) that connects with the light rail system. Dallas is currently dramatically expanding their light rail with two more lines

    If a city like Dallas – in the center of oil, gas, and big trucks can do it….every major U.S. city should be able to also!

  10. “Rail without appropriate land use planning provides no benefit. Likewise land development without appropriate transportation planning. The two are inextricably linked.”

    ————

    I think you missed the part in the video where the Phoenix official expects development dowtown to reinforce light rail usage.

    It sounds like Phoenix knows this and is taking appropriate action.

  11. at 0:31 the asst. city manager says the 20 mile Phoenix system was the longest MOS for light rail ever built in the US. New Jersey Transit’s RiverLINE, opened in 2004, was 34 miles long (and still is). Just FYI.

  12. New Jersey never gets any respect.

    I’ve ridden that light rail line and it’s a good one. It’s probably considered part of the NYC Metro area.

    New Jersey deserves praise for this line.

    I lived in Hell’s Kitchen for 7 years and I’d rather have commuted to Jersey City or Hobboken then go to the Upper East Side. (If the “T” Line is finished in my lifetime, that may change.

  13. It will not stop Phoenix’s decline though, or the fundamental problems affecting the metropolis (low education base, lack of civic infrastructure, economy built on momentum as the Wad said).

    http://roguecolumnist.typepad.com/rogue_columnist/2009/06/phoenix-101-lost-opportunities.html

    “Phoenix didn’t want to be LA, and it got its wish, except for the freeways (and gangs and smog and underclass). It’s San Bernardino County with a more limited economy and a much farther drive to the beach.”

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