Today, members of the City of Phoenix Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee met to discuss (among other things) agenda item #7 which read:
Extended Weekend Light Rail Service: This report provides the transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee with information, cost, and funding alternatives to provide extended light rail service on Friday and Saturday nights.
Many options have been considered with the final recommendation being 20 minute service until 2:00 am on Friday and Saturday nights beginning July 1, 2009. It was my understanding that the extension of hours will be done on a one year trial basis after being heard by Tempe, Mesa, and by Metro's board on May 19th for their approval. Mesa and Tempe have a much smaller stake in the system than that of Phoenix, but Mr. Simplot mentioned his understanding that Mayor Hallman of Tempe was in favor of extending the hours, and another person mentioned that she believed Mesa to be supportive as long as Tempe was on board.
While this was mainly a council discussion, they did take public comments. The only public comment was from Steve Weiss of the Downtown Voices Coalition who made some excellent points about the downtown business climate. Steve was careful to point out that an extension of the light rail hours isn't just about people partying until the bars close.
With little opposition so far, this extension of the light rail hours sounds like it could happen by the July 1 time frame. The "trial period" will be an interesting test. Will enough people use the system to justify approximately $300,000 in added cost? ( I believe that was the figure given.) Will any restaurants or bars begin to stay open later? Will there be an effect on overall ridership numbers? How will the economic impact of the extension be looked at?