Daily Archives: September 19, 2009

In Phoenix, weekend users make light rail a success

20rail_600

Valley Metro train on Washington St. in Phoenix, where ridership exceeds expectations. (Photo credlt: Joshua Lott, New York Times)

[Source: Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times] — Among the many detractors — and they were multitudinous — who thought a light rail line in this sprawling city would be a riderless $1 billion failure was Starlee Rhoades, the spokeswoman for the Goldwater Institute, a vocal critic of the rail’s expense. “I’ve taken it,” Ms. Rhoades said, slightly sheepishly.  “It’s useful.”

She and her colleagues still think the rail is oversubsidized, but in terms of predictions of failure, she said, “We don’t dwell.”

The light rail here, which opened in December, has been a greater success than its proponents thought it would be, but not quite the way they envisioned.  Unlike the rest of the country’s public transportation systems, which are used principally by commuters, the 20 miles of light rail here stretching from central Phoenix to Mesa and Tempe is used largely by people going to restaurants, bars, ball games and cultural events downtown.  The rail was projected to attract 26,000 riders per day, but the number is closer to 33,000, boosted in large part by weekend riders.  Only 27 percent use the train for work, according to its operator, compared with 60 percent of other public transit users on average nationwide.

In some part thanks to the new system, downtown Phoenix appears to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise economically pummeled city, which like the rest of Arizona has suffered under the crushing slide of the state’s economy.  The state, for years almost totally dependent on growth, has one of the deepest budget deficits in the country.   [Note: To read the full article, visit In Phoenix, weekend users make light rail a success.]

Worsening USA unemployment

19jobless.big

Prop. 207 making it tougher for Phoenix to save this historic house

Jessie Trujillo's home was built in 1901 and placed on the Phoenix historic register in 2007. (Photo credit: Bill Coates)

[Source: Bill Coates, Arizona Capitol Times] — This William Grier House, built in 1901, could be among the last of its kind in Phoenix – a “unique example of colonial-revival style,” according the Phoenix Historic Preservation Office.  It could be the last of its kind in another way as well. It was placed on the city’s register of historic properties in November 2007.  No homes have been listed since.

It comes down to 2006’s Prop. 207, officials say.  “Right now, with Prop. 207, our whole approach has been to do nothing,” says Kevin Weight, a city historic preservation planner.

The voter-approved initiative bars state and local governments from classifying or rezoning property in a way that would decrease its value – without compensation.  An historic designation can be a roadblock to development plans..  Eighty-one-year-old Jessie Trujillo, though, wants to spare her own home from future development and preserve it for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She moved into the Grier House near the Capitol on West Adams Street in 1967, more than six decades after it was built.  “I guess I always loved old houses,” Trujillo said one morning while seated in her living room on an antique-looking couch that’s well-suited for a 108-year-old house.[Note: To read the full article, visit Prop. 207 making it tougher for Phoenix to save this histoic house.]