Today, the Arizona PIRG released a comprehensive study of economic and other benefits that light rail has provided local businesses along the 20 mile light rail line in Arizona. The study, called The Business of Light Rail shows a very interesting insight to development and ridership along the Phoenix light rail line. 14 business owners along the route were interviewed about their opinion of light rail since the opening of the 20 mile stretch in December of 2008. Many interesting and common themes came up in discussing light rail with nearby business owners ranging from:
Increased foot traffic: Owners close to stations often see people exit the trains and head to their establishment. Increased weekend and evening traffic has been a pleasant surprise.
Businesses shaping their location decisions because of light rail: One business owner participating in the study has seen a 30% increase in revenue since light rail has been running. Mentions of increased foot traffic are a common theme of owners, as well.
Light rail’s value as transportation to special events: We have seen it here on Rail life many, many times. Events along the line tend to increase ridership significantly. Sports, the arts, music festivals etc are huge draws. One business owner was quoted as saying, “The light rail enables more people to attend while lessening the hassle and difficulty of parking.”
Increased visibility for businesses near the light rail: The high ridership numbers appear to be a real benefit to anyone along the line. Increased awareness brings new customers. Owners with a business near a station certainly see a benefit to marketing to these transit riders.
Light rail’s role in community redevelopment: More than one owner cited redevelopment of their area as another benefit of light rail in their area. Closing down “seedy motels” and chasing off “riff-raff” would probably make business owners in any part of town happy with a project.
Light rail gives a mobility option to people who cannot drive: The light rail has some very convenient design features for people with disabilities and has been popular with people who ride bicycles. From the handicapped to the elderly to those that can not afford their own transportation to people choosing to make a difference in air quality and many other demographics, the light rail is proving to be a good way to travel around town.
Many people that were once against the initial thought of having light rail run through their neighborhood are now supporters of the system, it’s convenience, economic development and it community enhancements. Of the business owners interviewed for the PIRG study, some interesting findings were uncovered:
Mulqueen Sewing: located near the end of the line in Mesa, most people probably wouldn’t think a sewing company would see much of an impact from public transportation. The owner of the store says there have been people come from the other end of the line to visit his store. See the report for more interesting info from them.
unPhogettable: Located near the Sycamore and Main station in Mesa, they have seen the area improve and have seen a benefit from new and repeat customers because of their proximity to the line.
Bob’s Tires: As an initial skeptic of light rail, they have seen increased business because of their proximity to light rail. Having so many ASU students near by and so many people see their shop daily, there is an increased awareness that turns into customers. Having a park and ride lot near by is a good fit for their business, as well.
India Plaza: This “destination plaza” has enjoyed success from their decision to locate near the light rail. The India Plaza, home of The Dhaba and other Indian establishments are glad to see so many ‘non-Indian” customers coming via the light rail.
Monti’s La Casa Vieja: Michael Monti made some very interesting points in his interview with PIRG. Discussing a more mobile society, increased synergy between downtown Phoenix and Tempe, increased hotel occupancy near the light rail line and even his own new term of “geriatric tourism.” Read the PIRG report for full details.
Brooklyn NYC Pizza: Showing that a location, location, location near the 3rd Street and Washington station, Brooklyn NYC Pizza has seen significant traffic from light rail riders heading to Chase Field, US Airways Center, the Phoenix Convention Center and nearby hotels.
George and Dragon: Keith Jackson, general manager of the George and Dragon near the Central and Indian School light rail station says light rail has helped to clean up the area and to bring new patrons to the bar. As someone formerly against light rail, Keith is now a supporter and has seen, first hand, some of the many benefits it can bring to a city.
Read about the above mentioned businesses and about the others mentioned in the PIRG Light Rail Business Report as well as finding more information about their conclusions. We all know the success of the light rail system here in Phoenix has been greater than most anticipated. With service cuts coming, it will be very interesting to watch the numbers, sentiment and budget issues get hashed around some more. Stick around, we are in for a fun ride…
Big thanks to Jesse from PIRG for the Rail Life mention in the report! 🙂