[Source: Sean Holstege and Megan Finnerty, Arizona Republic] — Valley residents and business owners will get their wish for late-night, light-rail service today when Metro starts running weekend trains until the early-morning hours. For Friday- and Saturday-night revelers and other late travelers, the shift means that the last trains will pull out of the end-of-line stations about 3:15 a.m. rather than 12:15 a.m. Night owls can catch a train along the 20-mile route until about 3:30 a.m. The last trains run only about halfway down the line. The final weekend trains running the entire length leave at about 2 a.m.
Patrons, business owners and civic promoters see the longer hours as an opportunity for downtown Phoenix and Tempe’s Mill Avenue to prove they can achieve the kind of exciting nightlife other big cities have. Bar and restaurant patrons will have less of a reason to go home early and less of a need to appoint a designated driver, unless they’re using park-and-ride lots. Those needs hinder the area’s ability to generate business and street life, some patrons say. “I think they should have done this in the first place,” said Josh Agustin, 33, bar manager at Pasta Bar, one of downtown Phoenix’s newest restaurants. “The lack of light rail is the biggest complaint I hear. I think that a lot of people leave the downtown early because of light rail (hours). Now, people will come in later.”
Metro spokeswoman Hillary Foose said the service also will help late-night workers and downtown concertgoers by giving them another way to get home. “People are overwhelmingly excited about it,” Foose said. “(Still) it’s hard to say what reception this late-night service will receive.”
To help promote the change, Kimber Lanning, director of non-profit Local First Arizona, is working with downtown music destinations to offer discounts for concerts and other incentives for riding light rail. Various bar and restaurant owners are planning similar promotions. Local First Arizona promotes doing business with companies based in the state. Metro plans to run extended weekend hours indefinitely but has enough federal money to pay for only the first year of extra service, which costs an estimated $250,000. The Regional Public Transportation Authority hiked fares sharply on Wednesday because of rising costs and declining municipal sales-tax revenue, which helps finance the system. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]