One year ago, METRO light rail arrived in the valley amid much fan fare, speculation, criticism, joy, fear and excitement. This past year has been mostly good news for light rail, but challenges have been many and will continue to face a new METRO CEO.
Metro celebrated their birthday about a week early by working with some of the business owners along the line to offer discounts and promotions. Maybe they wanted to do something last weekend to allow more people to get in some more Christmas shopping or because they thought today would be a lower ridership day due to people being out of town, etc.
Given the benefit of much larger than expected ridership numbers and some favorable economic activity near many of the stations, light rail in Arizona has kept a muzzle on many of it’s critics. Expansion of the system has been a hot topic from day one, and the overall economy has kept a similar muzzle on light rail fans wanting to grow the system more quickly. While Phoenix has had some serious delays in their expansion plans, Mesa’s light rail expansion appears to be on a faster track.
Without a doubt, ASU has been a huge part of the success of the light rail system, as well as recreational users heading to everything from art walks, sporting events, and food festivals, to restaurants, bars and coffee shops. While there have been challenges with fare enforcement, it was largely do to a lack of education for riders. Employers and Universities had issued passes that need to be “tapped” at each boarding without making sure everyone knew how to use them.
The seemingly endless story lines of accidents, revenue, schedules, housing, fare enforcement, budgets, fun things to do, expansion, lifestyles and more have been covered by many over the past year by light rail fans and foes. I’m pretty sure they will continue to be covered a lot more in the future. Right now, there is a lot of positive momentum with the Phoenix area light rail system, even though some of the national numbers are beginning to slip due to, what many believe, are the result of poor economic conditions.
Well, today is their birthday. Even though we celebrated last week, I think I’ll go down and take a ride. Heck, I might even go take a hike… Hope to see ya’ around!
Happy 1st birthday to our light rail system!
Photo from Metro Grand opening celebration 12/27/2008