As Metro prepares to “possibly” cut transportation service here in the valley, many people are talking about the changes that lie ahead. It’s no big secret that participating cities and METRO alike are facing large budget deficits. How individuals, cities, and agencies react to these deficits seem to vary greatly. Changes, and the decision to make them, do not ( in my opinion) happen over night. Heck, I get the feeling they sometimes happen before any “public input” is taken in to account. Just a hunch, I’m clearly NOT a politician.
The “single-car” trains we have seen a lot of are likely just a taste of what’s to come. We will soon see hours reduced and longer wait times for light rail. Yes, this is just a guess, but I’ll gladly “eat crow” if this is not the case.
The fun but not hugely successful “Night Rail” rides will soon be a thing of the past. I saw a chart of timed light rail patterns at a METRO meeting a little while back that didn’t exactly show the most impressive late night ridership numbers. You can bet your bottom that those hours are gone, soon. I sure would hate to have to say, I told ya’ so, but they are going to cut costs and this is probably a very easy target. Many of the people, groups, and organizations that fought for extended hours have probably enjoyed the ability to ride later, but most have done little to promote or even use it themselves.
In Los Angeles, they are finding alternatives to the lackluster awareness and marketing campaigns we have here. In the video below, Matt Raymond, Chief Communications Officer for Metro in LA says, “We wanted to make public transportation cool.” It looks like their campaigns are indeed working. Showing people benefits of public transportation has increased their discretionary ridership from 22% to 36%, which they seem to think is pretty darn good. In contrast to Los Angeles, the Phoenix light rail system has a seemingly large lead over many transportation systems in that, approximately 40% of the riders take light rail for recreational use. ie: to travel between home and a destination other than work.
Another person in the video talks about promoting transportation more effectively which could help the image of transportation riders. This better image could then turn into increased ridership, better service, more hours, better frequency, etc. I think the planners here in Phoenix have great intentions, there just needs to be more awareness along with public and private involvement.
Soon, we will officially know what cuts will be made. Ok, I should say what cuts “might” be made. The light rail system in Arizona is still just a baby. Most of us don’t know what changes will be made, what innovations may occur or how we will react to them in the future. One thing is for sure, it will be fun to keep an eye on the changes and to roll with the punches…
Hat tip to Yuri Artibise for the video/article.