Extending the hours to run light rail has been a hot topic for quite some time. Over the past couple of months, I have met with several business owners, downtown advocates, and a PR firm discussing the pros and cons of the politics and funding of such a campaign. Last week, when I heard about the upcoming Phoenix City Council meeting where the topic is on the agenda, I was pleasantly surprised.
This morning, the AZ Republic is reporting about a possible grant that could help pay for the extension. “Trains now begin their final runs on the 20-mile line at 11 p.m. But Metro officials will propose Wednesday that, starting July 1, the last runs begin at 2 a.m. for late Friday- and Saturday-night revelers.”
Right now, paying for anything appears to be tough, but the grant can be used to pick up a tab that should be “no more than an estimated $300,000 annually.” All of this needs approval on several fronts and isn’t necessarily a slam dunk at this point. Is there a back-up plan in place? Are other options available or necessary? This is going to be interesting and will be discussed at Thursday’s council meeting.
Sean’s article today titled “Light rail considering late weekend hours” mentions the “party” aspect of extending the hours, but there may be more at stake. For instance, concerts, the Symphony, First Friday art walks, sporting events and a ton of other activities are things that people often choose to drive to rather than taking the light rail, because of the worry of missing a train if they decide to have a late dinner, a drink or dessert afterwards. What are the economic benefits from people staying out later? Does it really help overall ridership? Are sales tax receipts in the area outperforming other areas?
It will be very interesting to see the discussions that continue to evolve over this potential extension.