Recently, we mentioned that a meeting would be held to discuss the Central/Camelback park and ride expansion, detailing the current design for an additional 165 – 175 more parking spaces that will be entirely shaded by shade canopies. That meeting was held yesterday and since I wasn’t able to make it, I was really happy to hear that my good friend, David was at the meeting. David writes one of my favorite blogs, PHX Rail Food and is very in-tune with our light rail system. I am happy that he agreed to write the following guest post for Rail Life to give us a feel for what took place at the recent meeting. Thanks David!
If Metro’s latest plans come to fruition, light rail users from Uptown Phoenix and nearby neighborhoods may enjoy more parking and more shade by this time next year. The evening of Tuesday, August 11, Metro Light Rail and the City of Phoenix hosted a public meeting at Central High School. The topic was a proposed expansion of the Central/Camelback park-and-ride, along with the addition of shade canopies over most parking spaces. Even as the northwest extension along 19th Avenue is stalled due to shortfalls in Transit 2000 tax revenues, the City has been able to obtain federal stimulus funds for an enhancement of this small but popular park-and-ride.
Before Metro staff addressed the audience, an unannounced guest, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, took the stage. The Mayor emphasized that he was speaking more as a neighbor (Gordon’s residence is within a few blocks of Central and Camelback.) than as the City’s chief executive. He talked about jobs to be created by the construction project and the benefit of more abundant and attractive parking options for light rail users. Long a fan of coffee houses, the Mayor also took a moment to recognize Lola Coffee, a popular new hangout near the Central/Camelback station.
After Gordon’s brief remarks, Metro staffer Gary Flunoy took over and explained project details. During light rail construction, the entire southern side of Camelback from Central to 7th Avenue was cleared. Initially, the eastern half of the property was used to create the existing park-and-ride. Currently, that park-and-ride consists of two portions: A square lot west of 3rd Avenue and a rectangular peninsula east of 3rd Avenue. The peninsula ends in a cul-de-sac, known in transit jargon as a “kiss-and-ride.” This is an area in which cars may park for up to 30 minutes while dropping off or picking up customers.
The plan for the park-and-ride expansion is to create a second peninsula extending west from the square portion of the lot and continuing all the way to 7th Avenue, where it will terminate in a second kiss-and-ride cul-de-sac. Because the western end of the park-and-ride will be much closer to the 7th Avenue / Camelback station than the Central / Camelback station, the expanded lot will in effect serve both stations, an unusual arrangement in transit planning. Although passengers boarding at the Central / Camelback station can walk from their cars to the train platform without crossing any streets, anyone using the western end of the park-and-ride will have to cross both 7th Avenue and the eastbound lanes of Camelback Road to reach the trains.
The growth of the park-and-ride to nearly double its existing size will come at the same time that shade canopies will be installed over at least some of the spaces at all park-and-rides in Phoenix. At Central and Camelback, the plan is to complete the expanded portion first and then go back and add shade over the existing spaces. That sequence will ensure no disruption of existing parking opportunities until the new spaces are available. Once the project is complete, virtually all spaces at Central and Camelback will be covered. Interestingly, at least one billboard on the stretch of land from 3rd Avenue to 7th Avenue will remain as part of the new park-and-ride.
The project is a complex one — probably more complex than it would appear at first glance. Utilities and even irrigation lines affecting the homes behind the park-and-ride in the Pierson Place historic district will have to be replaced. As at most of these meetings, audience reactions varied from enthusiasm about expanded transit amenities to concern about impacts on the surrounding neighborhood, which was significantly affected during the original light rail construction project from 2005 until 2008. One member of the audience inquired about the possibility of redeveloping the southern side of Camelback as a small business corridor. Metro staff replied that was more likely west of 7th Avenue. Another inquiry focused on the possibility of establishing taxi stands at either or both kiss-and-rides. At this point, there is no plan for official taxi stands, but any passenger may call a cab from the train and request a pick up at either cul-de-sac.