[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.]
[Source: Mike Branom, East Valley Tribune] — When discussing with others the advent of light rail in the Valley, more than once I heard in its favor, “Now I can go drink at Diamondbacks games.” (Seven bucks for a large draft beer? Go nuts.) But Mesa resident Ron Hahn points out a problem with the concept of Metro as designated driver: While bars close at 2 a.m., light rail will stop running two hours before. “It just doesn’t make sense,” Hahn said.
Thinking about it, Hahn has a point. All this time, we’ve heard from boosters about how light rail will get cars off the roads during the morning and evening commutes. But what about the cars heading home from the bars? Don’t we want them off the streets, too? “We spend all this money on DUI roadblocks and enforcement,” Hahn said. “And then when there’s a solution in front of us, they don’t want to do it.” Metro, after beginning service in December, plans to operate more than 19 hours a day, from 4:40 a.m. until midnight. Hahn, who voted for the project back in 2000, had hoped it would run 24/7.
Hahn isn’t alone in the hope of extended hours, at least on the weekends. A Phoenix organization called the Downtown Voices Coalition recently appealed to the City Council for extended hours. Among the reasons were the transportation needs of bar and restaurant workers, and how late-night activity is “the measure of a city’s vitality and growth.” I put a call into Metro on Friday afternoon but never heard back. When they respond, you’ll hear about it.