Blog Archives

Future light rail extensions to Glendale in study phase

[Source: EV Living] — Glendale is home to two professional sports franchises, an Air Force base, and more than a few casinos, but not the Metro Light Rail.  Valley Metro introduced the light rail in December, 2008, with a 20-mile route extending from Mesa through Tempe, and into Phoenix.

The light rail is the first of its kind in the Valley.  Although effective in transporting Arizona State University students between campuses, fans to downtown Phoenix sports complexes, and commuters going to work, the rest of the Valley has yet to feel its impact.  But Valley Metro has future extension plans in the works.

According to http://www.valleymetro.org, they plan to extend further into north Phoenix, further east into Mesa, and west to Glendale between 2012 and 2030.  The Valley Metro board is already beginning to enter into a study phase of five different routes to the Glendale area, Metro Light Rail Public Information Officer Hillary Foose said.

Some of the proposed routes include one to historic downtown Glendale, one west along Interstate 10 and north on Loop 101, and one going along Glendale Avenue, Foose said.  Initial plans were to have the extension go directly to downtown, however after some uproar they decided to look into other options.  “Plans are still very preliminary at this point,” she said.   [Note: To read the full article, visit Future light rail extensions to Glendale in study phase.]

Phoenix’s Central Avenue is central in light rail contractor’s lawsuit

Central-Ave-Midtown-Phoenix-2490

Central & McDowell light rail stop (Photo credit: Frontdoor.com)

[Source: East Valley Tribune/Associated Press] — A contracting firm that built part of the light-rail line for the Phoenix metropolitan area has sued the region’s mass transit agency over breach of contract and is seeking at least $19 million in damages. Missouri-based Herzog Contracting Corp. alleges in a 10-count complaint filed in Maricopa County Superior Court that Valley Metro failed to properly disclose where the utilities were before work crews started digging.

Herzog built three miles of the light rail along Phoenix’s Central Avenue and the street work was a source of frustration for many merchants, who complained that it seemed to drag on endlessly.  Herzog alleges it found “hundreds of unidentified, misidentified or mislocated” underground utilities and within a year of starting work on the $55 million contract, the firm warned the work would take an extra year.  Metro issued a statement saying “the case is complex and will take some time to resolve.” [Note” To read the full article, click here.]

Survey reveals “characteristics” about Phoenix light rail riders

[Source: Dana Caporaso, ABC15] — Who’s a typical light rail rider?  More than 3,000 people were surveyed in April to determine some of the most common characteristics, according to Valley Metro spokesperson, Hillary Foose.  Foose said the data will be used to help Metro in its future planning efforts.  The results of the survey are as follows:

  • 35% of Metro riders surveyed are new to public transit.
  • 40% use light rail to travel between home and a destination other than work, such as attending special events, enjoying a night out with friends or running errands.
  • 30% of respondents use Metro to commute between home and work exclusively.
  • Approximately 20% of respondents use Metro for trips where neither end of the trip is home (i.e. going to/from lunch during the workday, meeting friends after work or going to school from the workplace).
  • 45% of respondents walk, bike or skate to a Metro station to connect with light rail; the other half either drive to a Metro station, usually using a park-and-ride facility (29%) or connect from a bus (26%).
  • 68% of respondents have at least one car available for the trip they were making on light rail.

Click here to rread more about the Metro survey.  A more comprehensive on-board survey is expected to be held the fall of 201o.

Out until 2 a.m.? Toast new Phoenix light rail hours

[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.]

And the busiest light-rail stations in metro Phoenix are?

[Source: Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic] — Metro’s end-of-line stations are light rail’s busiest, the transit agency reported Wednesday in its first detailed glimpse at where most boardings are occurring.   The Montebello station in central Phoenix and Mesa’s lone station at Sycamore and Main Street have been the busiest stations on the 20-mile line since light rail debuted in late December.  The trends indicate that shoppers have been flocking to the Montebello station while commuters and Arizona State University students and employees rely on the Sycamore station, Metro officials said.  The Mesa station’s park-and-ride lot has been twice as full as the Phoenix station’s.

Elsewhere, Phoenix’s Central Station was next busiest, while the station nearest the downtown Phoenix sports venues and those around ASU are near the top of the list.  There were some surprises in the data for the system’s 28 stations.

  • Metro CEO Rick Simonetta told his board he was disappointed in the station at 38th Street. Although the station lies across the street from GateWay Community College, the station was the slowest on the line, and Simonetta said he wants to talk with college officials to better promote the station.
  • The second slowest station, at Center Parkway, was added during construction at the request of Tempe.
  • The station at Camelback Road and Central Avenue slipped to 8,500 in March from 17,700 boardings in January, despite being one of the few transit centers and a transfer point for seven local bus lines.
  • On the other hand, Roosevelt Station saw a 250 percent increase between January and March and shot up to the fifth busiest from the 20th busiest station.  Metro spokeswoman Hillary Foose credited cultural events such as First Fridays and the downtown farmers market.
  • The airport station at 44th Street has consistently been among the busiest, and use of the free airport shuttle bus has been much heavier than expected.

“People can’t park their cars at the stations, so they are being inventive,” Foose said.  “It shows people are being inventive in how they think about getting around.”   [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Along Phoenix light rail, IHOP is a place and a thing you do

[Source: “Lack of rail restrooms stirs anger,” Jim Walsh, Arizona Republic]

You might want to think twice about that extra cup of coffee before jumping on the Metro light rail, especially in Mesa or central Phoenix.  While in many respects the new Metro line gets glowing reviews from riders, it gets a big thumbs down from people who experience the inevitable call of nature at the wrong time.  Metro decided not to build public restrooms at stations for fear of attracting vandalism and other crime.  In addition, the agency did not want the expense of building and maintaining the restrooms, said Hillary Foose, a Metro spokeswoman.

It’s not such a big deal in downtown Phoenix, where there are plenty of nearby restaurants, hotels, and government buildings to choose from in an emergency.  But some riders at either end of the 20-mile line are feeling inconvenienced at the lack of facilities at both Mesa’s Sycamore/Main station and central Phoenix’s Montebello/19th Avenue station.  Those passengers have been making a beeline to a JB’s restaurant at Christown Spectrum Mall in Phoenix and to an IHOP in Mesa, only to be met by signs indicating the restrooms are for customers only.  “We were madder than hell,” said Donna Love of Prescott, who recently checked out the light rail with her two sisters.  “When we got off, most of the businesses had signs on the door saying, ‘customers only.'” [Note: To read the full article (wherever you’re sitting), click here.]

Metro Phoenix light rail now ready to take on serious commuters

[Source: Nick R. Martin and Mike Branom, East Valley Tribune] — The opening weekend of light rail in the Valley was mostly given over to spectators — the politicians, journalists and locals who were just plain curious.  But today, the first working day for many since the Metro went public, the rail line is expected to be handed over to the serious riders, the ones who will board it to reach their crosstown jobs and destinations.

For people like John Tynan, a Tempe Web developer, it means he and his wife can finally ditch one of their cars.  In fact, the couple’s transportation options were recently crippled when one of their two cars made a catastrophic trip to a repair shop.  Instead of buying a new car, they tried to figure out how they could manage life in the Valley with just one vehicle.  The opening of light rail, Tynan said, provided a solid push toward alternative transportation.  “It got us thinking that we could really become a one-car family.”  For them, it was an easy choice.  One of the Metro stations is less than a mile from their house.  Another in downtown Phoenix is just two blocks away from where Tynan will be starting a new job in mid-January.  “It’s pretty much door to door,” he said.

Metro officials are trying to assure commuters that they can also make light rail a part of their lives, even if they live much farther away from the single, 20-mile line.  On Sunday, Metro spokeswoman Hillary Foose stood on the platform of one of the stations, answering rider questions and frequently pointing them to the online “Trip Planner.”  The feature lets riders type in their starting address and destination, and in return, it gives them detailed directions on how to use buses and/or their own feet to meet up with the rail line.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Downtown Phoenix businesses suggest light rail, parking changes

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic, July 6, 2008] — If Phoenix wants its downtown nightlife to thrive, buses need to stay on the street long after sundown, several business owners say.  Bill Smith, who owns Bar Smith and other local restaurants, is a member of an alliance of bar, restaurant, hotel, and nightclub owners working on a couple of ideas to improve nighttime transit downtown.  For one, the group wants to talk to Valley Metro about light-rail hours.  Based on the latest schedule for the future transit line, light rail will operate from 4:40 a.m. to 11 p.m.  Valley Metro spokeswoman Hillary Foose said officials have not yet met with the business group.

Smith said another idea is to offer discount parking at a garage where people could hop onto a free shuttle to get to nighttime events.  Smith said parking costs are going up, too.  The situation has been complicated by construction for CityScape, a project that took over a parking lot once used by many customers of the Washington Street bars and eateries.

Nighttime transit became an issue last month after the City Council changed the Downtown Area Shuttle, the DASH.  Starting July 28, the bus will have two routes.  The “government loop” is similar to the existing route, running between downtown Phoenix and the state Capitol.  The “downtown loop” would go between schools, hotels, the biomedical campus, and some neighborhood destinations.  City Manager Frank Fairbanks said officials will have to figure out how routes could be changed.