For some, it might be hard to believe we are talking about the expansion of our Light Rail system before it even opens. Believe me, there is a LOT of work, planning and posturing that goes on prior to opening or expanding a system like this. Last night, I attended a public meeting with Metro discussing the Central Mesa expansion plans. Much of Metro's presentation and discussion was over future technologies of transit heading east past the current end (or beginning) of the line in Mesa. The main study area is currently focusing on downtown Mesa and trying to decide if Light Rail, Rapid Bus or Local Bus transit makes more sense. There is also a big decision to be made on the actual route. While Main Street appears to be the most direct, cost effective and time sensitive route, it might not be the only choice. There are those that feel heading from Sycamore (the current Mesa stop) East to downtown Mesa before turning North or South of Main street at (approximately) the Country Club/Morris street area before heading to either 1st Street to the North or 1st Avenue to the South is a better answer. These two options would then head East to Hibbert where it would turn again to get back to Main Street before continuing East bound. (Sorry if that sounds confusing.) The main reason for this detour-type of route is to not disturb the "charm" of downtown Mesa. (For this study, the route heads east again at Hibbert / Main street and ends at Horne)
The decision will be made on the route and a technology pretty soon with construction scheduled to start approximately 2012 and a completion of 2015 to (I believe) Horne Street in Mesa. There will also be a new Bus Rapid Transit system beginning this year bringing people from the Superstition Springs area to Main Street and connecting with the current light rail system.
While at the meeting, I was reminded of an email conversation I had recently with our friends at KC Light Rail where there is an ongoing process to bring light rail to their area. You see, these meetings bring out a lot of opinions. There are people for and against light rail projects. While business owners along Main Street fear for their livelihood, others say that the expansion of rail has the ability to bring huge economic benefits. After Metro's presentation, there was a question and answer session. I have enclosed a short video I took after someone asked about some of the ways Metro can help business owners. Because it was such a topic of conversation, I am also enclosing some links to ways for business owners to get help during construction. Obviously, with expansion comes more questions. We will try to keep up with as much as possible. 🙂