Monthly Archives: July 2008

Phoenix leaps into Light Rail

KJZZ)[Source: Zach Patton, Governing Magazine] — Hey!  What do you know?  It’s cold!”  Rick Simonetta isn’t talking about the temperature in downtown Phoenix, which today is 92 degrees in the shade.  What’s cold is the water he’s sipping from a fountain on the platform of an outdoor train station.  Right now, the platform is eerily devoid of passengers, its modern, sage-colored ironwork glinting in the Southwestern sun.  But come December, when Phoenix opens its first light-rail line, this station will anchor a huge regional transit system that will stretch north to Glendale and east to Mesa and Tempe.  It’s a $1.4 billion, 20-mile catapult into transit — no other light-rail system in the country has been so large right from its inception.

As Simonetta, the system’s CEO, inspects the gleaming new stations, he’s focused on the details.  Phoenix, he notes excitedly, will boast — make that boasts already — the first light-rail stations anywhere with chilled water fountains.  Simonetta figures that will be a necessity if he’s going to persuade drivers to get out of their air-conditioned cars and stand in the heat waiting for trains.  To that end, other touches at the stations include sweeping sail-shaped sun shades, tilted in a way that keeps at least 40 percent of the platform shaded at all times, and sand-colored concrete that deflects heat rather than absorbs it.  Simonetta can easily envision this station teeming with commuters headed to work, college students on their way to class and other residents coming downtown to shop, catch a concert or watch basketball’s Suns or baseball’s Diamondbacks play.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

New DASH bus routes launched in downtown Phoenix

[Source: KPHO Television] — New DASH bus routes launched Monday morning in downtown Phoenix.  Marie Chapple with Phoenix Public Transit says the DASH downtown loop will now take them to the dining places and sports venues, including ASU.  “People used to going from the state Capitol to downtown Phoenix or into the city buildings will still be able to do that, they just won’t have to go as far as they used to,” Chapple said.  Basically, it’s from the state Capitol to the city and county buildings and into Central Station.”

Chapple said the downtown DASH loop used to run mostly at night and nobody was riding it.  The routes are now targeted to the daytime dwellers of downtown Phoenix.  “It’s a north-south loop and we think it’s going to work a lot better for who’s here during the day,” she said.

Mayor Phil Gordon said he will seek more money to keep the buses running past 8 p.m., and he may start thinking “outside the box.”  “[We should] look at bringing in some private vendors, particularly to tie together the Garfield, Roosevelt, the historic neighborhoods where there are a lot of restaurants, bars, and boutiques to the core downtown,” Gordon said. 

By early 2009, another 800 ASU students will be moving into downtown dorms.  The DASH buses are also sporting a new look.  Gone is the copper color.  The new buses are decked out in blue and green.

Internet mapping services work to lay out Phoenix walking routes

As noted in an Associated Press article reprinted in Sunday’s Arizona Republic, Internet mapping services are working to lay out the best biking and walking routes. 

For example, if you visit Google Maps, click on “Get Directions,” and type in a Start Address and End Address, up pops two alternatives: By Car and Walking.  Click on Walking and the “most direct” route (distance and time) will be shown.  It’s also noted that “Walking directions are in beta.  Use caution when walking in unfamiliar areas.” 

Okay, that’s a start.  Now if Google Mappers could only show where shade trees, awnings, and overhead misters are located in hot, hot, hot cities like Phoenix, that may adjust your route!

Goodyear gets express bus to downtown Phoenix

[Source: Elias C. Arnold, Arizona Republic] — Southwest Valley commuters on Monday will have a new way to downtown Phoenix when Valley Metro begins express bus service from Goodyear.  Buses will depart from a Goodyear park-and-ride facility three times each morning starting about 5:45 a.m.  Return buses leave Phoenix starting at 4:15 p.m.  Trips are scheduled to take about an hour.  “The biggest advantage is going to be probably saving money” and making better use of time, such as reading on the way to work, said Susan Tierney, a Valley Metro spokeswoman.

Commuters can ride for free through next Friday.  After that, trips are $1.75 each way or $68 for a monthly pass, which many downtown employers subsidize, Tierney said.  The buses pick up from Goodyear’s first park-and-ride lot, on Cornerstone Boulevard west of Dysart Road.   [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix city departments meet to facilitate historic rehab projects

Employees from the City of Phoenix’s Neighborhood Services Department and Historic Preservation Office met to discuss how to further work together on building rehabilitation projects.  Project status and potential changes to the city’s Low Income Historic Housing Rehabilitation Grant Program were outlined.  Staff from the two departments agreed to meet quarterly.

The program was created to encourage the repair and rehabilitation of historic residential properties for persons and families with low-incomes.  The program funds critical building maintenance; structural stabilization work; repair and rehabilitation of historic exterior features such as roofs, walls, windows, and doors.

All projects are required to meet city historic preservation guidelines, as well as the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.  City funds pay up to 70% of the costs of eligible exterior rehabilitation work, with the owner or other financial assistance programs covering the remaining costs.  The funding request can range from a minimum of $2,000 to a maximum of $25,000.

Raise city coffers! Buy Phoenix coffee-table books!

In the Arizona Republic article on Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon’s “trial balloon” idea to raise city revenue by installing slot machines at Sky Harbor, reporter Casey Newton noted that numerous residents wrote to the newspaper with their own fund-raising ideas.

For example, reader Lori Haskell suggested Phoenix develop and sell a coffee-table book highlighting unique buildings and architecture.  “The book would not only be a good tool to further entice people to visit, promoting tourism, but a money maker, too,” she wrote.

Well Lori, your wish has come true, thanks to the Maricopa Partnership for Arts and Culture and the city’s Historic Preservation Office.  From the former (not a city agency, however) comes “Phoenix: 21st Century City” and from the latter comes “Historic Homes of Phoenix.”  Start your Christmas shopping today!

Founder of Phoenix’s “Fight Back” initiative dies

[Source: Arizona Republic] — Leonard G. Knight, a longtime Phoenix employee known as the father of the city’s Fight Back initiative, died July 21 of an apparent heart attack.  He was 53.  Knight, an administrator in the Phoenix’s planning department, worked in various departments during 20 years with the city.  In the early 1990s, he helped launch the Fight Back program, which offers distressed neighborhoods a temporary increase in city services to help reduce crime and blight.

Knight was a former president of 100 Black Men of Phoenix, a group that works to enhance educational and economic opportunities for Blacks.  He was also active in Toastmasters.  Knight is survived by his wife, Gail, and three children.

Get the lead out Phoenix!

Phoenix residents are encouraged to take advantage of the city’s free, portable vacuum cleaners with special filters designed to remove lead particles in dust, paint, and other home surfaces.   Many homes built before 1978 are at risk of containing lead based paint, so residents are urged to conduct a thorough clean-up after any remodeling or construction.

The Neighborhood Services Department recently obtained three HEPA Vacs through its Lead Hazard Control Program.  There are no income requirements, and residents can borrow the devices for up to a week, depending on demand.  “The only cost to Phoenix residents to use these devices is the desire to eliminate lead hazards from their homes and ultimately provide a safe, healthy environment for their family and friends,” said Jerome Miller, Neighborhood Services director.

More than 1,000 homes have been remediated from lead hazards since the lead program was launched in 1996.  The program aims at preventing childhood lead poisoning.  To reserve a HEPA Vac, call 602-495-0700 or visit phoenix.gov/nsd.

Dishing up Phoenix’s music scene at SilverPlatter

SilverPlatter bills itself as Phoenix’s best source for Live Music.  At its website, you can read their blog to find out more about local shows and bands, submit show tips, and subscribe to receive the “weekly dish” on what’s going on in Phoenix’s music scene.

Architects pitch makeover for Arizona Capitol complex

[Source: Associated Press] — Parts of the Arizona Capitol complex and surrounding parts of Phoenix would get a makeover in the years leading up to the state’s centennial in 2012, with bigger changes envisioned in the eight years after that.  There’s no cost estimate yet but the architects working as volunteers told the Legislative Governmental Mall Commission that private and public funding probably would be needed, along with cooperation from the city, area landowners, and the state government itself.  “We hope this is a nonpartisan, totally universal thing that is right up there with apple pie and grandma,” Phoenix architect Will Bruder said Friday.

Projects proposed for completion before the February 2012 centennial include:

  • promoting part of Washington Street as “Centennial Boulevard”
  • erecting new shade ramadas and steps to upgrade the usability of the Old Capitol
  • livening up the Executive Tower’s exterior
  • adding new rail service between the Capitol and other parts of downtown
  • designating Washington Street as the city’s main parade route (as Central Avenue’s use for light rail eclipsed that role)

Longer-range ideas call for:

  • designing new and remodeling existing state buildings
  • creating extensive commercial and residential development between downtown Phoenix and the State Capitol

Tom Smith, a former legislator who serves as chairman of the mall commission, pressed the architects for commitments that they would stick with the project.  Previous proposals to rework the Capitol complex have largely not been implemented, Smith noted.

Key components of the various projects will include promoting renewable energy, increasing the livability of the Capitol area, and celebrating all parts of the state, not just Phoenix, said Bruder and landscape architect Michael Dollin.  The Capitol area needs to be changed from a “collection of buildings” to a unified area centered on Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, which could serve as a central gathering spot for outdoor events and gatherings, Dollin said.  “It’s really the state’s premier park in an urban setting,” Dollin said.  “We feel it should be the premier living room in the state.”