Scottsdale advocate talks Light Rail

At Rail Life, we are always looking for fun and interesting information to share. The following article was written by my good friend, D. Patrick Lewis, a guy who lives, breathes and blogs about life in Scottsdale Arizona. Bringing light rail to Scottsdale has been a hot topic for a while now and Patrick was the first guy I thought of when looking for opinions on the subject. Thanks Patrick, for sharing your opinion on this very interesting subject!

Scottsdale Needs to Have a Conversation about Light Rail

Recently, the City of Scottsdale decided to not renew its membership in the Valley Metro Rail, Inc, a decision I don’t like but can understand. I don’t like the decision because eventually Scottsdale is going to need Light Rail, so why not be part of the conversation. I understand the decision though, in these economic times cities are doing everything they can to save money.

Why do I think Scottsdale is going to need Light Rail in the future?

Reason number one, Skysong. Scottsdale has invested millions in this collaboration with ASU and various other companies to, among other things, improve South Scottsdale and bring some economic vitality back to the area. So, why not supply large scale transportation to Skysong? It would create a route from ASU to downtown Scottsdale, greatly benefiting the community and help relieve the parking congestion problem Scottsdale has. Light Rail would also bring some greatly needed economic stimulus to the area.

Second, the McDowell Motor Mile is dying and Scottsdale is losing that revenue and an eye sore is being created. There has been some talk of turning the old car dealerships into mixed use residential. A plan that I think will work but there are many other alternatives to be explored before choosing a path. Regardless of the path that is chosen for the Motor Mile there will still be a need to transport people without affecting the already low availability of parking in the area.

Lastly, the Diamondbacks and Rockies will be holding their spring training games at the 101 and Indian Bend in Scottsdale starting in 2011 and the Giants already have a very impressive training facility near downtown Scottsdale. Wouldn’t it be great to provide an easy way for people to travel from downtown Scottsdale to those training locations without having to worry about parking?

I know there is a lot of fear amongst Scottsdale residents about Light Rail going down Scottsdale Road and negatively affecting all those small businesses as it did down Central Avenue in Phoenix. However, to that I say there is a solution. With Scottsdale having ambitions of building up the commercial real estate between Pima and the 101, the remodeling of the Pavilions and the expansion of Casino Arizona’s Resort and Golf Course and the aforementioned Spring Training facility. It would make sense to me that the Light Rail tracks could run parallel to the 101 and since Scottsdale is much longer than it is wide, have express route buses running east and west with Trolley service to fill in the gaps.

There are many benefits I haven’t discussed here and there are many obstacles on the way to this scenario but Scottsdale needs to continue to have and participate in a discussion about Light Rail. Believe it or not, there will come a day when Scottsdale will need the Light Rail more than the Light Rail needs Scottsdale.

Comments

  1. says

    Add to the reasons above:

    – Old Town Scottsdale is praised as one of the Phoenix Metro Area’s most walkable districts, but that’s only half true. It’s easy to walk around within Old Town Scottsdale, but hard to get there without a car. The 72 bus provides pretty good service along Scottsdale Rd., but from Central Phoenix, the options are more complicated and involve transfers and infrequent service. Light rail to Old Town would help anchor the district as a center of nightlife, dining, and retail. Right now, restaurants in Old Town Scottsdale are closing while new ones are opening in Downtown Phoenix. Maybe light rail has to something to do with that, maybe not, but without light rail in the future, Scottsdale may find itself significantly disadvantaged.

    – The Scottsdale Airpark is a major employment center. Just witness the traffic jams on the 101 to see how many people are heading to and from North Scottsdale offices. Light rail helps to anchor that district as a continuing employment center.

    Despite all of our reasons, though, I’m not quite as optimistic. My fear is that even if Scottsdale eventually decides in favor of light rail, it will come after most funding sources have evaporated. Scottsdale would then have to fund the project itself.

    In addition, decisions are being made right now regarding a possible transit corridor to southern Tempe. It looks like Tempe may opt for modern streetcar along Mill instead of light rail along Rural Rd. If Scottsdale were on board right now, the decision might be different, but with Scottsdale dragging its feet on transit, an opportunity to build a light rail line from Chandler to the Airpark may be missed.

  2. says

    Light rail needs to go right up Scottsdale Road, all the way from Tempe to Route 101 on the north. Through downtown it can go along Drinkwater instead of directly through Old Town… thereby serving the Osborn hospital complex, city hall, the library and ballpark.

    That’s where the people are, and that’s where we want development in our city. Putting the trains on Route 101 will only benefit the Reservation — why would we spend city money to take people and business *out* of Scottsdale?

    We want Scottsdale Road to be as vibrant as Central Avenue, not Van Buren in the 1980s. Scottsdale Road is our centerpiece and that’s where the LRT line needs to be.

  3. michichan says

    Light rail in Scottsdale. It would be nice. But LRT paralelling the Loop 101 freeway is out of the question under the current structure of transit here in the Valley.

    We continue to forget how transit is done in this Valley. Valley Metro is NOT a transit agency. It is just an identity. The transit agencies are still City of Phoenix (ride with Tico), City of Tempe, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Mesa, Glendale, Peoria, etc.

    Most notably missing from this are the SRPMIC and the Gila River Indian Communities, who are not Valley Metro members.

    As long as we have a piece-meal system like we have, I would not feel that confident about placing a light rail alignment through an indian reservation as there will be no connecting bus transit.

    I have to agree with many that Scottsdale is not ready for light rail. I do not see it from the “NIMBY” aspect (I live along Scottsdale Rd., I am not against LRT).. but I see it from the capacity perspective.

    LRT along the Red Line was the right place because this is a corridor that has proven itself.

    Right now, the RPTA is funding the 72 at 15 minute headway during the week and 30 minute headway on the weekends and there does not seem to be major overload conditions. The 72 is one of the only routes in the valley that has “real city headway”. The problem with the 72 is that the route is too long and is subject to residual delays as a result.

    There was talk before all of the budget woes (as well as it the recent RTP) about running bus rapid transit (BRT) service on the Scottsdale/Rural alignment making limited stops, similar to the Valley Metro Link on Main. I think a BRT route on Rural/Scottsdale would make MUCH more sense than the BRT on Main St. or the one that's getting ready to launch on Country Club/Arizona in 2010.

    I think that a properly executed hi-capacity BRT service will properly link SkySong with the TTC. (But then again, with the 72, SkySong has a pretty good link to the TTC)

    Let's spend our money wisely. I am still interested to see how long this 20 minute headway on the late night will survive. Use it or lose it is right, but even with that, there is no guarantee it will stay.

    The bottom line, we need to completely redefine how transit is administrated in this county. The current structure of each city doing their own thing and expecting a large bulk of the funding to come from retail sales taxes is just not working. We must REGIONALIZE now!

  4. michichan says

    Scottsdale's decision to drop out of VMR was mainly one of budget. The Transportation budget in Scottsdale is massively tight and Scottsdale does not have any immediate plans for LRT.

    This does not mean that Scottsdale can't rejoin VMR at a later date.

    But honestly, I would rather see transportation budget going to keep a lifeline to residents of northeast Scottsdale (114-Via Linda) than see that service get dropped in favor of paying the VMR membership fee.

    Many transit agencies across the country are feeling a pinch but even California is not panicking as bad as Phoenix is. Perhaps this funding that is way too dependent on sales taxes is just not working.

    We need transit reform here in the Valley.

  5. michichan says

    Scottsdale's decision to drop out of VMR was mainly one of budget. The Transportation budget in Scottsdale is massively tight and Scottsdale does not have any immediate plans for LRT.

    This does not mean that Scottsdale can't rejoin VMR at a later date.

    But honestly, I would rather see transportation budget going to keep a lifeline to residents of northeast Scottsdale (114-Via Linda) than see that service get dropped in favor of paying the VMR membership fee.

    Many transit agencies across the country are feeling a pinch but even California is not panicking as bad as Phoenix is. Perhaps this funding that is way too dependent on sales taxes is just not working.

    We need transit reform here in the Valley.

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