The subject of light rail extensions in East Valley cities of Mesa and Tempe have come up in several conversations that I have had with people recently. Mesa and Tempe both appear to be very interested in expanding their light rail system. I have long been of the opinion that Main Street is a great fit for light rail as Mesa has struggled to revive their downtown for as long as I can remember. (I believe the shops along Main Street fit well with a "TOD" planning system.) As a Tempe resident, you can probably guess how I feel about that extension.
While the Northwest extension is scheduled to begin this summer, many questions remain concerning the fate of other cities interest or ability to bring light rail to their citizens. A great example of these questions can be found in an article written by our friend, Kerry Fehr-Snyder, from the Republic. This morning, Kerry wrote “Gilbert light rail link may be weakening” which raises several good points. Of course, funding of the systems is always a major hurdle while demand is debated like crazy. Of the extension plans mentioned in the past, one idea has been to use Gilbert Road as a major hub. Will Gilbert residents embrace light rail? Would it simply be a costly novelty or an effective way to move people? According to some of the comments on one of Gilbert’s most popular blogs, it appears that Jay Thompson’s readers might be very interested.
If interested in adding your .02 about extensions, you can take a survey concerning the Tempe South study which appears to be moving forward rather quickly. So far, many people mention to me that they like Rural Road as a South extension in Tempe, mainly because it would appear to be the easiest route to get to Scottsdale. The issues with Rural Road are many and the cost to get past the railroad tracks South of University is another major hurdle. Mill Avenue and a “modern streetcar” system appear to be a favorable route to several people. A “streetcar” is kind of a smaller version of light rail. Some of your answers to Tempe South questions can be found on Metro’s site.
It will be interesting to see how the cities react to the current economic climate. There is always the double edged sword of cost and demand. In a bad economy, people might need public transportation more than ever, yet the sales tax portion of the funding for systems appears to be harder to find. Many issues effect demand and the political process is always pretty intense when dealing with so many dollars.