[Source: Amanda Lee Myers, Associated Press] — When passengers began riding new light rail trains in the Phoenix area last December, many questions were on their minds. Can light rail succeed in a city where car is king? Will the trains survive searing desert heat in the summer? Is it worth the $1.4 billion it cost to build? A year later, the system is carrying 50 percent more people than expected, the trains survived the summer and kept riders cool, and many of the kinks of introducing a new mode of transportation to the nation’s fifth largest city have been worked out.
Now the big question is: Can light rail continue to maintain its ridership and service amid the recession while moving forward with plans to expand the system from 20 to 57 miles? “It’s going to be very hard. The challenges are going to be severe,” said Rod Diridon, executive director of the San Jose, Calif.-based Mineta Transportation Institute, a nonpartisan research group that conducts transportation policy studies.
Diridon said it’s “absolutely remarkable” that Phoenix has managed to see higher ridership than expected while maintaining service this past year. “All across the nation transit systems depend on sales and property tax dollars, and because sales tax revenues are down in some places as much as 50 percent, service has been cut back and ridership is down in most places,” Diridon said. “The opposite is true in Phoenix. They’ve retained ridership and maintained service. That’s a phenomenal success given the state of the economy.”
It’s not been an easy task for light-rail operator Metro. The agency had to pay about $500,000 more than the expected $1.5 million to keep the trains cool all year long, fund an educational program for passengers who were inadvertently not paying for their rides, and lay off about 20 people. [Note: To read the full article, visit Phoenix area’s light rail system marks 1st year.]
[Source: Project for Livable Communities] — Valley Forward is promoting “The Valley’s Pedestrian Freeway: A Priceless Necklace of Trails and Gems” on its website. Although there are numerous gaps in the route, Valley Forward envisions “a ring of trails, circling the Valley, connecting parks, riparian corridors, recreational facilities, and desert landscapes.” You can learn more about the trails system and how you can help to close the gaps, plus find trails that you can enjoy today.
In addition, an in-depth look is taken by Randy Virgen in the article, “The Challenge of Providing Parks and Recreation Services in a Fast Growing Metropolitan Area,” of the 2008 Arizona Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. “Parks, open space, and recreation opportunities are central to our quality of life and serve as important economic drivers for tourism and other economic sectors. But the fact is that our parks and recreation services are at a crossroads: They can no longer keep up with the demands by Greater Phoenix’s growing population.” Click here to read the complete article, which appeared in the February 2008 APRA Magazine.
The Project for Livable Communities (PLC) is a nonprofit organization headquartered in metropolitan Phoenix; membership includes professionals in urban design, public health, physical activity, education, and journalism. Founded in 2005, PLC fosters livable communities by addressing three major community components of the environments in which we live and work — Healthy Design, Safe Design, and Sustainable Design -– and focusing on the best practices of each.
For more information, contact M.H. Brennan:
The public is invited to attend a public meeting (either March 4 or 5) to review the potential routes and transit options that are being considered for the Metro I-10 West extension to the West Valley. For flyer with meeting dates, times, and places; agenda; and map of route study area, click on i-10_west_flyer_page_11.jpg.