Blog Archives

Phoenix is losing residents, signs say

[Source: Michael Clancy and Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — For the first time in modern history, Phoenix’s population could be shrinking.  It’s an idea that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, when Phoenix was surging up the list of the nation’s most populous cities.  Now, a variety of indicators suggest that fewer people are living here than a year ago.

No one knows for sure exactly how many people have moved in or out.  But with the 2010 census about to get under way, some indicators suggest Phoenix’s population may be smaller than the projected 1,636,170 people.  City records show declining trends in several key areas.  Among them:

  • Foreclosure numbers have skyrocketed, meaning fewer city homes are occupied.
  • Water hookups are down, suggesting the same.
  • Some aspects of trash collection have ebbed because fewer people are buying things that produce waste.
  • Crime has declined across the city while police are getting fewer calls for services, a possible indicator of fewer people.
  • Sales-tax revenues are likely to drop for the second year in a row, with this year’s collections off almost 8% from last year.

[Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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Metro Phoenix light rail opening: What went right

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Metro officials were pleased with the way things went on the first day of passenger service.  With an estimated 90,000 people climbing aboard the trains, the day went off without major glitches.  Here are a few things that went particularly well.

Shuttle buses. The only thing worse than waiting 2 1/2 hours for a train would be waiting 2 1/2 hours for the return trip.  Metro’s shuttle buses, both the local and express versions, took the hassle out of the trip back home.

Safety campaign. No doubt there will be accidents.  But after four months of regular testing and a full day of passenger service, no one has been injured and just one accident has been reported.  Drivers, pedestrians, and train operators should all take a bow.

Rider enthusiasm. In other cities, they listen to iPods or feign sleep to avoid talking to fellow passengers.  On Day 1 , Metro riders chatted enthusiastically for their entire trips, striking up conversations with strangers.

Boosting businesses. If you walked around downtown Phoenix on Saturday, you saw something unusual: people.  Thanks to light rail, bars and restaurants that are nearly empty on many weekends were buzzing with people.

Good behavior. Inviting 90,000 people to a party that takes place over 20 miles can be a logistical nightmare.  The good news for event planners was that Valley residents largely behaved themselves, waiting to board trains without pushing or shoving when trains rolled into the stations.  No arrests were reported by Saturday evening, leaving the dozens of police along the line to chat amiably with riders.

Central Phoenix merchants sigh with relief as light rail nearly ready to roll

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — The light-rail system that opens Dec. 27 has remade Central Avenue, creating opportunities for businesses even as construction woes have swept away some old businesses.  Nearly four years after construction began, merchants are welcoming customers back to Phoenix’s main thoroughfare.  A billion-dollar face lift left it with new landscaping, a series of public-art projects and a host of new businesses hoping to capitalize on the rail system’s estimated 26,000 boardings a day.

Even as businesses celebrate the end of construction, they worry about a recession that has led to shuttered storefronts across the country.  And for those who survived the detours and construction cones, resentment lingers.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

No tolerance for vandals of metro Phoenix light rail

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Riders of Metro light rail will get five days to ride the system for free.  But when it comes to vandalizing the trains, there are no freebies.  “There will be zero tolerance,” said Tom Simplot, chairman of the Metro board.  “The last thing we want is a graffiti-ridden, garbage-strewn light-rail system.”

The Metro board voted this week to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for violations of its prohibited-conduct ordinance, which is effective in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa.  The ordinance prohibits vandalism, smoking, playing loud music, and other inconsiderate behavior.  Officials warn that first-time violators will be punished beginning on opening day, Dec. 27, receiving fines of $50 to $500.  Some acts of vandalism could be prosecuted criminally.  Anyone who sees someone vandalizing a train should inform a Metro security officer or use one of the call boxes on the train, officials said.  “Call us,” said Rick Simonetta, Metro CEO.  (602) 253-5000.

Light rail stations feature art to connect with 20 miles of communities

Additionally, highly detailed, carved granite benches will provide shaded seating on the platform.

Light rail art and seating, downtown Phoenix (Photo: Dave Seibert, Arizona Republic)

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — The opening of the 20-mile Metro light-rail system on Dec. 27 will coincide with one of the Valley’s biggest art openings in recent years: $6.3 million in sculptures, tiles, and other elements that adorn every station on the line.  Some of the art is monumental, like the giant stone ring sculpture installed at Central Avenue and Camelback Road.  Other pieces are more subtle, like the terrazzo floor at First Avenue and Jefferson Street that features an image of Sandra Day O’Connor, the former U.S. Supreme Court justice from Arizona.  Taken together, though, they bring poetry to the prosaic world of mass transit. “The art helps to tell a story,” said Eric Iwersen, a Tempe planner who sat on the board that oversaw the art program.  “It helps to set us apart from any other system in the world.”

The story that Metro’s art tries to tell is the story of the Valley. Across the line, pieces reflect the neighborhoods around them.  A river-like canopy at Priest Drive and Washington Street in Tempe echoes the nearby Rio Salado.  At Central and Indian School Road, glass panels set into the entryway feature historic photographs of the area.  “It’s really about bringing the character of that community into the station so that we are a reflection of the community,” said Rick Simonetta, CEO of Metro light rail.  More than two dozen artists from around the country contributed to the system’s aesthetic features, with about 40% of them Arizona natives.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Builders on Phoenix fringes may pay 400% more for roads, utilities, parks

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Business Gazette] — The cost of building a home in undeveloped parts of Phoenix may soon go up, and the cost could be passed along to home buyers.  Phoenix has convened a panel to advise the City Council on a staff proposal to increase impact fees, a series of charges the city makes to home builders for such items as roads, sewer hookups, parks, and libraries.  The staff proposal calls for some fees in northeast Phoenix to be raised by nearly 400%, a consequence of soaring construction costs and the fact that the fees have not been adjusted in several years.  The city uses the fees to pay for new roads and libraries and to hook up new developments to the city’s water and sewer systems.  Only projects in areas that have yet to be developed are charged the fees.

Desert View is the name planners have given to a swath of northeast Phoenix that includes most of the city northeast of Loop 101 and Interstate 17.  The impact fee for streets in Desert View could rise from $2,176 per dwelling unit, to $10,818.  The per-unit fee for parks would also rise, to $4,145, from $2,910.  In past years, developers have pressured the council to delay increases to the fees, saying they would discourage development of new homes.  Those delays have led to this year’s proposals.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Frank Fairbanks staying on as Phoenix city manager

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — City Manager Frank Fairbanks will spend a 19th year as Phoenix’s top non-elected official, saying he wants to help guide the city through unprecedented budget cuts next year.  Fairbanks, 62, signed a contract through December 2009.  He could leave earlier, either by his choice or the City Council’s, but neither outcome is seen as likely.  “He’s the heart and soul of the city,” said Mayor Phil Gordon, a strong Fairbanks supporter.  “It would be my desire that he stay at least as long as I remain.”

Fairbanks has worked for the city for 36 years and has been city manager since 1990.  He makes $236,995, and will make $242,446 beginning July 1.  The raise represents a 2.3% increase, the same as was given to the city employees represented by the Laborers’ International Union of North America.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix cuts early-morning, late-night bus runs

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Early-morning and late-night bus hours will be eliminated and Saturday service reduced in Phoenix as the city makes unprecedented budget cuts.  On Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to eliminate all trips before 5 a.m. and after 10 p.m. In addition, Saturday service will be reduced to match Sunday levels, a reduction of 24%.  The reductions go into effect Dec. 29, leaving thousands of people to find new ways of getting from place to place.

Transit advocates and bus riders protested the move, saying that eliminating bus service would disproportionately affect the poor and residents with disabilities.  Donna Powers, who uses a wheelchair, said reducing bus service would make it harder for transit-dependent people to work and shop, compounding the city’s economic woes.  “If people can’t ride, there’s going to be less buying,” Powers said.  “We tend to overlook the fact.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

$300 million recommended to spend on Phoenix parks, land

Rendering of Downtown Civic Space, Phoenix

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — City officials will spend nearly $300 million on land acquisition and park development in the next five years under a proposal recommended recently by the Parks and Recreation Board. The funds, which come from voters’ extension of the Parks and Preserve Initiative earlier this year, will be split almost evenly between acquiring preserve land and developing and improving parks.

Parks due to see funding from the initiative’s passage include:

  • Downtown Civic Space
  • Steele Indian School Park
  • Papago Park
  • Phoenix Zoo
  • Reach 11 Recreation Area
  • Rose Mofford Sports Complex
  • Unnamed park at 51st and Sweetwater avenues

The parks board recommends eliminating a $2 million appropriation for acquisition of Pioneer Living History Village in far north Phoenix. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Downtown Phoenix creates new logo, dumps Copper Square

[Source: Casey Newton and Sadie Jo Smokey, Arizona Republic] —  A lime green ‘X’ marks the spot in a new marketing campaign designed to brand downtown Phoenix as a global destination.  A new logo for downtown shows the words “downtown Phoenix” at an angle, with a bold ‘X’ at the end breaking through an orange circle.  The Downtown Phoenix Partnership said the four-color logo will likely be accompanied by an all-purpose marketing slogan, “X marks the spot,” to promote downtown destinations.  “I think it’s brilliant,” said Dale Jensen, a general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks.   “There are a million things you can do with that X.”

The partnership and its consultant spent more than a year putting together a new logo for downtown, which will eventually replace “Copper Square” as the brand for downtown.   “It was driven by a realization that we were seeing a lot more opportunities downtown,” said Dave Roderique, president and CEO of the partnership.  “Things are changing very rapidly.”

The new logo was unveiled Monday at a meeting of the partnership’s board.  Later this year, the partnership will launch a full-scale marketing campaign.  “At first I didn’t like it, but I focused on the ‘X’ which made me pay attention to it,” said MaryAnn Guerra, president of TGen Accelerators.  “X marks the spot for anything you want to do.”   [Note: To read the full article, click here.]