[Source: Glen Creno, Arizona Republic] — Metro light rail estimates it is on track to meet or beat its ridership projections for the year. The agency puts out its first official monthly totals in the middle of next month. But based on estimates, Metro believes its daily ridership from Monday of this week to today ranges from 20,000 to 30,000. The monthly totals will be based on automated counters in train doorways. Metro did a first-week estimate to give an early snapshot on ridership.
Metro had projected that the 20-mile system that connects Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa would average 26,000 daily boardings per work day in its first year. Metro opened on Dec. 27, and this week was its first full week of paid service. Metro expects a bump in ridership when Arizona State University students return to class later this month. Metro runs near ASU’s Tempe and downtown Phoenix campuses. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Glen Creno and John Faherty, Arizona Republic] — The trains left the station right on time. After more than a decade of planning, and $1.4 billion in spending, the Valley’s light rail system finally became a reality Saturday morning. One train left from a station in Mesa while another departed from downtown Phoenix at precisely 10 a.m.
Riders clapped and cheered as the crowded trains departed. Many sat transfixed looking out the windows. On the first east-bound train, people cheered again as the cars crossed over Tempe Town Lake. Lines started forming for the trains about one hour before the launch and didn’t let up through the morning or into the early afternoon. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Glen Creno, Arizona Republic] — The Valley’s about-to-open light-rail system has people taking sides. Some complain that the $1.4 billion Metro light rail is a waste of money. Others are practically counting the days until the Dec. 27 launch. Those who get riled say the money would be better spent on freeways. Others say it will deliver crime along with passengers. Enthusiastic backers say it’s a missing piece of a transportation system too dependent on driving. It will attack congestion as people ride rather than drive to work, school, or entertainment spots.
Put Robert Munoz of Mesa in the split-opinion category. He lives near the end of the line and has some worries that the system will transport criminals to his neighborhood. But he also likes the idea of walking to a train and riding to Chase Field. “If my son and I get a couple of tickets, we can hit the Diamondbacks game,” Munoz said. “We don’t have to worry about driving, traffic or parking.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Glen Creno, Arizona Republic] — The state Department of Transportation has won a $1 million federal grant to help pay for a study of passenger rail service between Tucson and Phoenix. The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Arizona will match the $1 million with funds from state, local, tribal, and private sources. The money is for the first year of an environmental impact statement.
Rail service connecting the two cities has been talked about for years. Most recently, it was proposed as part of a statewide transportation-funding initiative that failed to make this year’s ballot. Planners say the line would run through a developing “megapolitan” — an uber-urban mass of development that would merge the two cities.
[Source: Glen Creno, Arizona Republic] — The people who planned the Metro light-rail route that opens Dec. 27 wanted to attract a lot of passengers, connect urban hubs, and provide an economic lift to neighborhoods along the line. The result is a 20-mile route that runs between north-central Phoenix and the western edge of Mesa. The $1.4 billion system strings together schools, sports arenas, commercial areas, new condominium complexes, and neighborhoods. Any new light-rail route is controversial, and Metro was no exception. When the new line opens, there likely will be more questions and complaints about why the line runs here rather than there, why one neighborhood and not another.
Jack Tevlin is a retired city executive who was Phoenix’s deputy city manager for transportation when Metro was planned. He’s familiar with the complaints. “People say: ‘I live in Paradise Valley. This doesn’t help me,’ ” Tevlin said. “But this is just the beginning.” Planners see this first stretch as the trunk of a system that will branch out as extensions are added. The story of how the first stretch of light-rail track was planned is about financial, political and physical challenges, some compromises, some high hopes, and a little history.