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METRO Light Rail: Rail Comes to Phoenix

Sixty years after Phoenix's old trolley system was shut down, the city rejoins the growing list of American metropolitan areas investing in rail based mass transit.

Published January 6, 2009 in Transit      32 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

Phoenix had been the largest U.S. city without a public rail transit system. As the fifth-most populous U.S. city, with about 1.6 million people, and more than 4 million in the Phoenix-Tempe-Mesa area. The new 20 mile light rail line cost taxpayers $1.4 billion. However, city leaders believe that investing in light rail is still cheaper than expanding highways and that rail can help reduce auto emissions in the metropolitan area. Metro officials expect 26,000 boardings a day in 2009.


Phoenix opens $1.4 billion light-rail system (12/27/08)
http://uk.reuters.com/article/usTopNews/idUKTRE4BQ1W420081227

METRO Light Rail trains operate daily roughly between the hours of 5 a.m. and midnight. For the most part, trains arrive at stations every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 15 minutes during weekends.
http://www.valleymetro.org/schedules_and_maps/how_to_ride/

Plans for the system were first envisioned in the 1980s, but voters rejected several ballot measures before finally approving a sales tax to help finance light rail. Federal funds paid roughly half the cost.

Image by Gerry at www.Picasaweb.google.com



Image by kansei-sensei at www.flickr.com




Images aboveby --- at www.flickr.com



Three images above by Rejuvsite at www.flickr.com




Two images above by simax105 at www.flickr.com. Remaining photograghs by Steve Vance at www.flickr.com

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport People Mover

Although the new light rail line does not directly serve airport terminals, a people mover connection is now under construction.

In early April, workers will start building a $1.1 billion, 4.8-mile automated train system that will whisk passengers around Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The first, $440 million leg of the project will take five years to build, city officials say. It will link to the 44th Street light-rail station, East Economy Parking and Terminal 4. The final stretch, which is projected to open in 2020, would extend the line to the airport's rental-car center and Terminal 2 and Terminal 3.

The train will help ease rising traffic congestion around Sky Harbor, which serves 42 million passengers a year, city officials say. Plus, future light-rail riders may be able to check luggage and get a boarding pass before they set foot in the airport, city leaders say. Many major airports around the world have similar systems, including U.S. airports such as Atlanta, Dallas and Denver. "The automated train project is a forward-thinking plan in all aspects," said Phoenix Deputy City Manager David Krietor,whose duties include aviation issues. "It addresses passenger needs, it alleviates roadway traffic and it links Sky Harbor to users of light rail."

Trainweb.org

By 2025, planners estimate that Phoenix's light rail will expand by 30 additional miles. Phoenix's new state-of-the-art light rail line is additional proof that many believe rail transit can be viable in sprawling spread out Jacksonville-like communities as well.

Article by Ennis Davis








32 Comments

jeh1980

January 06, 2009, 05:18:10 AM
Just another reason why Jacksonville will soon get the same thing! Kepp the faith! :D

reednavy

January 06, 2009, 05:32:29 AM
If we can manage to double our population by 2030 like Phoenix has in the previous 20 years, then maybe so.

thelakelander

January 06, 2009, 08:03:04 AM
The other end is Detroit.  They've lost over half of their population since 1950, yet still have decided to move forward with light and commuter rail plans.  Ditto, for conservative Cincinnati and their streetcar plan between downtown and Over-The-Rhine.  We have no excuses for moving slow.  These things really stimulate development and most places are finding creative ways to take advantage of their benefits.

Doctor_K

January 06, 2009, 09:40:56 AM
Am I the only one who's having text-wrap/disappearance issues with the article?  :(

Lucasjj

January 06, 2009, 09:49:09 AM
No, I am getting it too.

thelakelander

January 06, 2009, 09:53:44 AM
Strange.  But I just fixed it.

BridgeTroll

January 06, 2009, 10:04:07 AM
Looks to me like there was a large public relations campaign before construction, during and after construction, followed by aggressive promotion to convince skeptical riders to give it a try.  I remember a huge and constant public relations campaign in San Jose Ca. during the construction of the brand new light rail.  Most had to be convinced that it was even needed.  Most had to learn how to use it.  Most had to learn how to interact and coexist on the roadways with it.  For quite a few years ridership was well below expectations... It took a long time to convince people to get out of their cars...

Joe

January 06, 2009, 10:04:40 AM
Quote
Ditto, for conservative Cincinnati and their streetcar plan between downtown and Over-The-Rhine.

Unfortunately, the Cincinnati streetcar is still twisting in the wind. It's a complicated issue, but basically streetcar opponents inserted requirements that the city can only build the 4 mile $100 million streetcar if they can also finance an additional $80+ million extension. On the surface this might seem like a good thing since they've mandated a bigger system. However, it could kill the entire project, or at best delay it.

Also, the NAACP of all people are essentially trying to BAN THE CONSTRUCTION OF ANY RAIL, PERIOD by a public referrendum. It's really astonishing.

So anyway, not that anyone here cares much about Cincinnati, but it should serve as an instructive example that Jacksonville's metro could easily double in size (Cincy is around 2-3 million depending on whether you add Dayton) and we still might not have rail transit.

thelakelander

January 06, 2009, 10:16:47 AM
The NAACP must not want the streetcar in Over-The-Rhine?  Interesting.  I guess this must revolve around the issue of gentrification. 

I wonder if going basic "no-frills" without the bells & whistles, would help stretch Cincy's line out?  This Cincinnati situation should also serve as another example.  That example is to keep things simple even if it means avoiding some areas initially.  You're success rate to get something off the ground improves when you keep costs down and things simple.

thelakelander

January 06, 2009, 10:30:50 AM
Very interesting. I wonder how this is going to play out.

Quote
CINCINNATI: Local NAACP leaders have no desire to see streetcars in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati chapter president Christopher Smitherman says the city project shouldn't take priority over repairing streets and helping neighborhood business districts. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has begun a petition drive to change the city's charter to block the streetcar project.

City officials are still trying to raise enough funds for a $100 million first phase of the project.

The NAACP also joined other groups last year to defeat a proposed county jail tax, and earlier this year to successfully oppose a plan to use red-light cameras at Cincinnati intersections.

http://www.ohio.com/news/ohiocentric/36685939.html

Quote
The Cincinnati NAACP now has trolley/streetcar petitions available at the NAACP office for all City of Cincinnati Registered Voters to sign. The Cincinnati NAACP voted at its December General Membership meeting to move forward with a petition drive to block the "Choo Choo" train for downtown Cincinnati. Within the first 48 hours of rolling out our newest petition over 200 citizens have signed the trolley/streetcar petition and returned them to the Cincinnati NAACP office.

The Cincinnati NAACP will begin pre-checks at the Hamilton County Board of Elections within the first quarter of the new year. Anyone who would like to sign or circulate the trolley/streetcar petition please come to the Cincinnati NAACP Office at 4439 Reading Road, or call (513) 281-1900. The Cincinnati NAACP is confident that it will get the needed signatures to place this issue on the November ballot. "A $200 million trolley is not the priority for Cincinnati while City Council continues to cut basic services to citizens while expanding their own council budgets," Smitherman says.   The Cincinnati NAACP will initiate two other petition drives for 2009.

http://naacpcincinnati.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=169&Itemid=1

tufsu1

January 06, 2009, 11:11:36 AM
This statement tells the story...

"Plans for the system were first envisioned in the 1980s, but voters rejected several ballot measures before finally approving a sales tax to help finance light rail. Federal funds paid roughly half the cost."

So, while its frustrating to many that Jax. doesn't have rail transit yet, we need to understand that it takes time.

Premium transit was first studied here less than 10 years ago....and the outcome of that study was BRT....then MetroJacksonville helped get things moving and now JTA is seriously studying rail....since BRT is morphing into express bus (which costs far less), there may still be $ left to start rail!.

thelakelander

January 06, 2009, 11:22:30 AM
I think the most frustrating thing has been plans for a local regional system were first proposed in the early 1970s.  What's on the table now is just the latest attempt.  So we're going on 40 years, which means its already been a while. 

As for BRT, I agree.  The more it converts into express bus on existing corridors, the more money it frees up for rail.  However, we still have to push for rail to become the priority (which it isn't right now) and to preserve as much of the existing BJP money as possible.  If this can be done, it will speed up the process.

Joe

January 06, 2009, 11:25:24 AM
Regarding Cincinnati again ... it's sheer lunacy on the NAACP's part. It's basically anti-gentrification, but it's also a pretty clear power struggle too. Cincinnati has seen a massive diffusion of poverty in recent years, as Projects and Section 8 units in the city center have been demolished or rehabbed by the thousands. One project alone demolished about 2,000 public housing units, and replaced them with 1,500 market rate and workforce housing units.

It's been great for Cincy's urban core, but it's messing with the political hegemony enjoyed by "community" organizations which prey on destitute minorities. Now that the city's poorest are being spread all over town with apartment vouchers (which is the best result according to accepted planning theory) groups -apparently including the NAACP - are furious.

The real tragedy is that this $180 million plan would be funded mostly with federal and even private funds. So if they kill the streetcar, it's not like there will be money for these other needs. The money will simply dissapear!

Anyway, this isn't a Cincy forum so I'll stop now. However, it is relevant to Jax to the extent that we face very similar problems.

heights unknown

January 06, 2009, 11:28:58 AM
I love Jacksonville, and hope we do someday get something like this but I believe not soon.  I agree with the poster that said maybe in 2030 if we double our population.  Phoenix is a city of over 1,000,000 people urban/core; Our population is deceiving as the whole county is the same population, in general as the City.  Everyone keeps forgetting that Jax is really not a City of a million people or the population that we now say we have if you want to look at "pure urban."  Old city boundaries along with areas that would have been annexed since 1968 would probably field a population of 120,000 people (core/urban) if we are lucky.  Jax just cannot support or even justify, at this time and in my opinion, such a rail system.

thelakelander

January 06, 2009, 11:48:54 AM
Quote
Jax just cannot support or even justify, at this time and in my opinion, such a rail system.

Imagine what Salt Lake City or Charlotte would look like today if that's the official position their leaders took with mass transit?  If taken as bible, what do we make of smaller communities like Kenosha, WI, Tacoma, WA and Little Rock, AK that have benefited from implementing urban streetcar systems? 

Like Houston, Phoenix jumped on board late after years of bad planning and high growth.  This is a mistake we should not attempt to repeat.  In the end, it will only cost us more, the more we make excuses and delay embracing an integrated mass transit system.

ProjectMaximus

January 06, 2009, 12:21:14 PM
surprising, heights. I didn't expect you to have that opinion. I think that your view of Jax and of rail transit are both common misconceptions, but nevertheless, interesting to here you share your opinion.

Ocklawaha

January 06, 2009, 01:54:44 PM
Quote
I love Jacksonville, and hope we do someday get something like this but I believe not soon.  I agree with the poster that said maybe in 2030 if we double our population.  Phoenix is a city of over 1,000,000 people urban/core; Our population is deceiving as the whole county is the same population, in general as the City.  Everyone keeps forgetting that Jax is really not a City of a million people or the population that we now say we have if you want to look at "pure urban."  Old city boundaries along with areas that would have been annexed since 1968 would probably field a population of 120,000 people (core/urban) if we are lucky.  Jax just cannot support or even justify, at this time and in my opinion, such a rail system.

Your perhaps right about a Phoenix Style Light Rail System. This is a longer reach, more INTERURBAN train then a streetcar.

There is a huge difference in the costs between streetcar and LRT lines. Streetcars are as much as 50,000 pounds lighter. Much cheaper to buy, and less O&M cost then buses. San Francisco has streetcars (not the cable cars) running on the "F" Castro Line, one of which is 100 years old. Where is the savings in bus transit if the FTA says 500,000 miles or 12 years for bus retirement? Also bus doesn't create an economic engine. Even without riders, streetcar systems have returned as much as 1000% or more, in new investments.

While I'd agree that we might not be able to build LRT right now, we certainly can't afford NOT to rebuild our streetcar system.

CINCINNNATI and JACKSONVILLE are featured in todays JACKSONVILLE TRANSIT BLOG:
http://jacksonvilletransit.blogspot.com/


OCKLAWAHA

heights unknown

January 06, 2009, 08:21:09 PM
I do agree with you Lake on the "official position" iteration in your post.  I do not intend to offend; I was born in Jax and lived in Jax many years until I retired from the U. S. Navy; however, in my opinion there has got be other reasons, other than the lazy short sightedness of past and present mayoral administrations, as to why Jax is always unsuccessful with it's projects, and can never make anything work in a positive light towards it's prosperity and success. 

I was living in Jax when the Landing was built, when the skyway was built, when the Jaguars came to fruition, and when various other projects and developments were a flop.  It just seems to me that there are not enough people or population to support these things when they are built, or they are half built or not built to their fullest potential. The only success, real success mind you has been the the Jacksonville Jaguars, and that is a sports franchise and not a development, urban project, residential project, etc.  Even the Jaguars are unsuccessful to a certain point in that not enough people support the team or show up at the games.

I don't know what the answer is.  The Skyway had high hopes when built; but when it was built, though I was much younger and didn't know half as much as I now know, I said to myself, "this project is not complete and it's really going nowhere."  They should have mapped out a complete plan to include outer/suburban areas and the sports complex when the skyway was planned and before it was built.  I firmly believe if it had been completed to its fullest, ridership would have been much higher, and it would have been more successful.  Poor planning for the skyway in my opinion...very poor planning. 

If we are to have Light Rail or something similar in Jax, they had better plan carefully, smartly, and thoroughly before building it, and quit putting the cart before the horse.  It appears when our leaders and others plan a certain project, they don't think it through to its fullest extent and then they build it and wonder why it is unsuccessful. 

Don't get me wrong Metro Jax forum, I want to see the very best for Jacksonville.  Hotdammit I love this City; but we (Jax) need to be more focused, goal oriented, and high visioned when planning these projects and ensure that the projects will get the maximum use from Jax's citizens and the 1.4 million metro population and other surrounding areas.  We are wasting too much time and money with these projects if we don't build them to their fullest potential and extent.

Heights Unknown ;)

Ocklawaha

January 07, 2009, 12:51:43 AM
Couldn't have said the last paragraph better Heights Unknown. From Hollywood to White Star Lines to Disney to National Airlines to Railroad hub to Convention mecca to half built monorails to unbuilt maritime museums... Valdosta does a better job then we do. We've let EVERY ONE of these opportunitys slip from our grasp.

Except for a few trolls, I think everyone on these boards share your passion for OUR city, mine could be labeled a downright love affair.


OCKLAWAHA

9a is my backyard

January 07, 2009, 04:58:48 AM
I think everyone on these boards share your passion for OUR city, mine could be labeled a downright love affair.

OCKLAWAHA

Ahhh the sultry mistress that is Jacksonville  :)

BridgeTroll

January 07, 2009, 06:56:59 AM
Quote
Ahhh the sultry mistress that is Jacksonville 

 :D :D

heights unknown

January 08, 2009, 11:15:14 AM
Yeah, she's (Jacksonville) good, REAL good!

aj_fresh

January 10, 2009, 01:38:16 PM
Lake,

Any plans to do a feature on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail in New Jersey?

thelakelander

January 10, 2009, 01:58:56 PM
The Hudson-Bergen is one of many we plan to feature in 2009 as a part of our push to get rail in Jacksonville.  I meant to try it out this past Summer but ran out of time.  Nevertheless, I did get a couple of images passing through DT Jersey City.

aj_fresh

January 10, 2009, 02:25:57 PM
I used it frequently when I lived and worked in that area. I think its a great example that features rail (NJ Transit) in Hoboken, subway (PATH Train; which could be our Skyway) and efficient uses of buses. I look forward to the feature and reliving some of my past.  :)

Lunican

December 02, 2009, 09:12:14 PM
Update on Phoenix Metro Rail:

Metro officials expect 26,000 boardings a day in 2009.

Shortly after opening, ridership was 33,000 passengers per day. Ridership is expected to grow to 45,000 by 2020.

Metro Rail is now working on a 37 mile extension that will be opened it phases over the next 15 years, with a 3.2 mile extension scheduled for completion in 2012.

The system will total 57 miles when complete.

Trains Magazine (Jan 2010) says, "Phoenix has joined Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, and Minneapolis in debunking the myth that metro areas with low population density (i.e. sprawling suburbs) and rail don't mix. With a population density of 250 people per square mile, Phoenix epitomizes the car culture."

thelakelander

December 02, 2009, 09:46:28 PM
Nice quote by Trains Magazine.  That's something I'm sure we'll be using here in the next couple of months.

Lunican

May 22, 2010, 11:46:38 AM
Quote
Phoenix area light rail breaks more ridership records in April

Metro’s impressive ridership gains continue apace, the light rail transit agency reported.

April brought new records for total passengers and average weekday passengers, while four times last month more than 50,000 people boarded Metro on a single day. That had happened five times in the entire 16 months of service before April. The Diamondbacks home opener on Monday April 5 now stands as Metro’s daily record-holder, with 55,679 officially measured boardings.

Full Article:
http://www.azcentral.com/members/Blog/lightrailblog/80262

thelakelander

May 22, 2010, 12:26:46 PM


Stop making this ridership rubbish up, Lunican.  This can't be right.  Our Jax naysayers claim this can't be done successfully in a sunbelt sprawler without first creating density and critical mass.

Like the Charlotte and Salt Lake City, I think Phoenix's experience with implementing rail is additional proof that most of Jacksonville's leaders have no idea of what they are saying when downplaying the need and positives of these systems.  Like the Landing situation, we're holding back our city on bad theory by continuing to fight and not accept reality.

fsujax

May 22, 2010, 12:57:25 PM
That is a great quote! i am going to cite it directly from now on!!

JeffreyS

May 22, 2010, 01:51:45 PM
Like the Charlotte and Salt Lake City, I think Phoenix's experience with implementing rail is additional proof that most of Jacksonville's leaders have no idea of what they are saying when downplaying the need and positives of these systems.  Like the Landing situation, we're holding back our city on bad theory by continuing to fight and not accept reality.
Ya think.
I hope the people running in the next elections find transit, infill and sustainability to be large factors to them being elected.

CS Foltz

May 22, 2010, 04:36:20 PM
lake.......truer words have not been posted for sure! Reality is not on anyones agenda.........more concerned with protecting their turf and jobs and substantiation for being! No vision, no plan and no funding! No far reaching of any kind other than "Need more concrete"! Dollar for dollar, rail of anykind beats the hell out of more and more vehicles and roads for more vehicles!
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