[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic, March 3, 2009] — When light-rail construction scared off scores of shoppers, many struggling downtown merchants considered the $1.4 billion line more of a curse than a blessing. Light rail began running in December, and what a difference a few months has made. Last week, several downtown business owners lobbied a transit agency to make sure that their shops would sit near a future light-rail route. Metro appeared before an influential downtown business group to talk about plans for a light-rail span that would link West Phoenix, the state Capitol, and downtown in 2019.
Metro is weighing several possible routes on the west end of downtown Phoenix. One option would put tracks on Jackson Street. Another alternative would use Washington and Jefferson streets, Metro officials told the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.
- Dale Jensen and David Wallach, two of the businessmen behind the proposed Jackson Street Entertainment District pushed for the Jackson Street option. The city wants an entertainment district, and a Jackson Street light-rail route makes sense, Wallach said.
- Bill Smith, who owns four downtown restaurants, including Stoudemire’s Downtown, argued for the Washington-Jefferson option. All of his downtown restaurants sit near the Washington-Jefferson corridor. “I have to disagree with my brother, Dale Jensen,” Smith said.
The banter was playful, but the stakes are high. Metro recently announced that initial daily light-rail ridership was nearly 20 percent higher than expected. About 30,000 boardings — one-way trips — are made each day. If a business is located near the future light-rail line, those trains could bring thousands of potential customers. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]