According to Metro CEO Rick Simonetta, it sounds like they are pleased with the early success of our light rail system. Makes sense for them to be pleased as Rick recently pointed out some interesting details about the still new light rail system. The following video was shot at a recent Mesa City Council meeting where Mr. Simonetta spoke about our new system before turning the meeting over to Wulf Grote to make a recommendation to Mesa for extending light rail further East along Main Street. (Sorry, you will probably need to crank your speakers to hear) In the video it was mentioned, and it has been widely reported, that the early forecasts for Metro’s ridership was 26k per day. We now hear that January numbers came in at approximately 30k light rail riders per day, February numbers showed approx 35k riders per day and March numbers look to be exceeding the 35k level. March numbers should be available soon.
If the March numbers do in fact exceed previous numbers, one wonders how many months the pace can be kept before a leveling off or a decline. Large events in March such as the Arizona Aloha Festival which brought an estimated 150,000 to Tempe Beach Park and the Tempe Festival of the Arts which brought three days worth of large crowds to the Mill Avenue District should help with keeping or exceeding the pace of ridership growth. I often wonder if the “experts” looked at how many recreational users would take advantage of this system as it sometimes appears “commuters” and students are a large focus. These “wildcards” must be making a significant impact, in my opinion.
It was also mentioned in the video that the public has been very responsive to the system as a whole, with Mesa having the smallest amount of track and the busiest park-and-ride lot (at Sycamore and Main). Economic development has followed the development of the light rail line where there is a tremendous amount of “pent-up demand” for transit-oriented development. In fact, Mayor Smith mentioned development along the light rail line to the tune of approximately $7 Billion, which is obviously higher than the measly $6 Billion reported last summer.
The meeting was very interesting and it will be fun to watch the progress and expansion plans for our state’s transportation needs.