Phoenix’s METRO Light Rail Takes Flight
Everyone knows that Phoenix has a huge sprawl problem. But now transit-oriented development is on the upswing in this Sun Belt metropolis. In December, the Phoenix region opened one of the most ambitious transit projects in recent U.S. history: a 20-mile light rail line with 28 stops serving three cities (Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa). Future plans include an extension within three years, with several new corridors being studied.
The Valley Metro vehicles are handsome and comfortable, and thus far ridership has far exceeded initial projections -- with as many as 40,000 riders per day, compared to the expected 25,000. Each station features amenities and art installations. In addition, with many folks using the light rail as an intermodal step in their commutes, bicycles are welcome aboard.
Maria Hyatt: [0:14] Welcome to Phoenix. You're seeing our light rail coming right now. It's new. We opened it in December of last year, and we are very excited by what it's doing for our community. [0:32] This project is a 20 mile light rail segment, the biggest initial starter line ever built in the United States. We have 28 different stations, and we go through the cities of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, which is a huge benefit to our community and getting people where they live, work, go to school, and play.
[0:54] Ridership numbers have just been astounding. We anticipated that by the end of the first year, we would have 26,000 people riding per day. We are carrying 35,000 to 40,000 people riding, on average, per day. We are over a million people riding a month.
Wylie Bearup: [1:09] By 2030, the population of downtown Phoenix is projected to increase by almost 40,000. Which, if you're familiar with Arizona, that's the size of the city of Prescott. So we're going to have another city, basically, added to the population of downtown Phoenix. [1:24] So, how do we serve those 40,000 additional people, because we're not going to be able to increase the capacity of our streets. An obvious answer is that we're going to have to look more and more to public transit to be able to meet those needs.
Maria Hyatt: [1:36] Light rail doesn't take you everywhere. It's a fixed system, and so we know that people walk to get there. They ride their bike. They take the bus. They drive their car to light rail to connect and get where they need to go. [1:47] We were one of the first communities that provided the bike racks on the front of the bus, and so we already knew that we had the pent up demand. So, we put the bike racks inside the trains so every train can hold four bikes, and a lot of times you'll see more than four bikes, and you'll see somebody having to hold a bike.
Maria Baier: [2:22] The population of the United States is now increasingly urban, which makes the relationship between land use policies and transportation policies that much more important. Because we are accommodating so much more growth in the cities, we need to be able to have the funding to provide alternative forms of transportation. [2:42] We have a budding light rail system that we need to continue throughout the city, and that's going to cost a lot of money, but it's going to be very important in the long term. We've seen seven billion dollars of both public and private investments along the light rail line, because they want to be where light rail is. And so, it tends to be a huge factor in the vitality of the downtown.
[3:03] I'm sure that you probably will take a picture of some of the construction going along here. Those decisions were made based on having a light rail line here.