01 March 2009

Metro, Anyone?

Saturday the spouse and I took our very first (and certainly, not last) excursion on the Metro Light Rail -- the new mass-transit option in Phoenix. That's us in the picture (taken by the train driver). Matt's the cute one on the left.

The first phase, opened in December 2008, is twenty miles and goes from the old Christown Mall in Phoenix, through Tempe, and to the edge of Mesa. It takes about 75 minutes to make the entire trip one way. Over the next dozen or so years, the rail will double in length and include routes to Scottsdale and Glendale and other cities in the metropolitan Phoenix area.

As with almost every city in the country now adopting a version of light rail, Phoenix once had its very own light rail system which dates back to 1887 and horse-drawn carriages. Those transformed into electric streetcars in 1893 and a revamped and revitalized system in 1925. (In fact, this later system ran just a block from where we currently live.) Too bad our light rail was torn apart in the 1940s and replaced with buses.

And now, here we are, just where we were 84 years ago, thanks to a system approved by voters in 2000.

Our excursion along the Metro was pretty fun. We were amazed to realize that the route ran right by about six of our favorite restaurants, and a lot of the attractions we visit on a regular basis.

Each of the rail stations has art made specifically for it -- part of a "percent for art" program in nearly all major Arizona cities that dedicates a small amount of every construction project budget to create art for that project. Of course, most of the art is pretty bland. I guess it is nice to have it, but it would be nicer if it was better.

We made it to the end of the route in Mesa and picked a neat little Chinese restaurant for lunch. On the way back we got off at one stop and walked to a thrift store we've visited in the past. After purchasing some books there, we walked to the next stop and got back on the metro for the ride back to our car.

A lot of cities have light rail, and I am so glad they (and we) have finally made the move into the future of transit. I have ridden light rail in San Francisco, San Diego and Washington D.C. and love it.

You can read more about the Metro Light Rail here and here.


David SB said...

Nice report. Unfortunately, however, there are no plans at the present time to extend light rail to Scottsdale. Scottsdale has until recently been unwilling to even talk about rail transit within its borders. When the mayor and council finally opted to pay into METRO light rail in order to participate in studies, they became the target of recall attempts. I suspect that as some Scottsdale residents ride the starter line in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, that attitudes will begin to change, but we're still a long way from Scottsdale deciding to participate in light rail.

Christopher said...

David: As I understand it, the voter approval of Proposition 400 in 2004 allows for research into possible future routes -- including into Scottsdale. That does not mean, of course, that Scottsdale will approve a metro route there. Thanks for the clarification.