Wow, what a whirl-wind weekend around here.
Friday morning, I was able to attend a “media preview” prior to the last public light rail ride before Saturday’s Grand Opening. At this preview, there were local politicians, celebrities and a bunch of media people all hanging out around the trains, talking about the system. This began at 6:00, followed by announcements from Metro CEO Rick Simonetta, Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. There was also an autograph session with Todd McFarlane where he signed our “Preview Pass” prior to boarding the trains for one last time prior to the Grand Opening Ceremonies.
Friday Evening, there was a reception at the Downtown Sheraton to celebrate light rail and to acknowledge many of the key people that made it all happen. In attendance was a “who’s who” of local and national politicians. Federal Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, Mayor Phil Gordon, Jan Brewer,(our next Governor) Councilman Ben Arredondo, etc etc,. It was cool to get an invite for these events from Metro! (THANKS Metro!)
Saturday morning: the “official” grand opening ceremony was held at the Metro Operations and Maintenance Facility early in the morning where all of the city Mayors, local and national politicians etc gathered to cut the “first” ribbon. After this, trains were sent to each city for individual ribbon cuttings. As a Tempe resident, I opted to ride on the first train ride with Mayor Hallman, Congressman Mitchell and a bunch of other people that were instrumental in making this historic day possible.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m – The time has come… The first trains left stations from Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix full of people experiencing this new way to travel in Arizona. It had been a very cold morning (for us here in AZ) but the weather turned out just fine. It really didn’t appear to get crazy busy for an hour, or so. After that, the crowds got larger and boarding the trains was standing room only. When I say “standing room”, I mean, you were crammed in like sardines. I made my way from Tempe, West to Phoenix and then back to meet a bunch of friends for lunch at Monti’s, just North of the light rail stop at Third Street and Mill Avenue.
2:00 – Tempe Chamber of Commerce – The Rail Life crew had the privilege of joining Leandro Barbosa in the Tempe Chamber of Commerce booth where we met a lot of really great people.
4:30 – Roger Clyne Rocked Tempe – There were MAY great entertainers participating in the Grand Opening celebrations, I decided to catch the Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers concert in the afternoon and am really glad I did.
Friday and Saturday were absolutely jam packed full of light rail events for me and it was great to learn more about this project, meet some great people and to have fun with so many good friends. Sunday, a few of us from Rail Life took the light rail to the Fare Trade Café in Phoenix and worked some more on the site and planned some of the really fun things we are working on.
I must hand it to Metro and to the cities of Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa. The weekend turned out great, the events were well managed and safe and there was a LOT of excitement surrounding light rail. It has been reported that over 150,000 people attended grand opening weekend!
During grand opening, we took a bunch of pictures and some pretty cool video footage from all of the cities and will be getting them out in the near future. While I was in Tempe a lot of the day, we also got some great shots in Phoenix and took some pictures and video in Mesa, as well. I hear that the “Grand Funk Railroad” concert was really good! We already have hundreds of photos on our Phoenix Light Rail group on Flickr where anyone can add their own photos. Thanks so much for all of you that are adding your pics! They really look great!
When talking about getting around town to meet with friends, my friend, Brian Shaler recently wrote “While it won’t cure the problem, the Phoenix Light Rail will help scratch some itches and help feed the nightlife in downtown Phoenix, Tempe, and other cities” It will be interesting to me to see how many people turn from using public transportation once in a while to using it more often. I must admit, I have never been a heavy user of public transportation. Obviously, that is rapidly changing as I guarantee you will find me on or along the light rail line very often.
Where do we go from here? Many questions still remain as to how well our community will embrace light rail. I believe we have a great opportunity in front of us. The opportunities come in many different ways, shapes and sizes. I have really enjoyed talking to different kinds of people from all walks of life and getting their perspective on the light rail line. I am really looking forward to adding more to a “community” section of the site where we will feature events and cool things to do.
If you live in Arizona, I hope you enjoyed the Grand Opening weekend. It’s now official… “Your Life Is On The line!”