Last night’s meeting to discuss the Tempe South High Capacity Study had many interesting components. I’ll cover more in the future, for sure. One of the more interesting ( to me ) components had to do with the recommendation of a fairly recent idea of the Mill / Ash loop with a Modern Streetcar. A Modern Streetcar isn’t some cheesy little trolley like many envision. It is similar to a light rail car in that it rides in a fixed guide way. The Modern Streetcar is said to carry 130 passengers with 35 seated and 95 standing. These cars typically have more frequent stops than light rail cars and travel with traffic instead of dedicated lanes like the current light rail cars we have here in the Valley.
This idea and recommendation of a Mill Avenue loop, with a connection at University to head south to Southern Avenue, sounds like an effort to create more development opportunities and a way to stretch the Mill Avenue District out over a larger area. If approved, this 2.6 mile, $163 million project is scheduled to begin operations in 2016 with an annual operating and maintenance cost of $3.1 million for the City of Tempe. One of the handouts mentioned that their study “determined that for every $1 invested in rail transit, you can expect $1.30 in return in other community benefits.” I took a photo of one of the drawings METRO had at last night’s meeting that shows the proposed loop. Further below, I have a map that I made of the area. Eventually, I’ll add some of the area points of interest to that map and talk more about it.
We were told that with a loop around Mill, there is more flexibility with larger events. For instance, when Mill is closed down for New Year’s Eve or another large event, the Ash portion can be used to get people from one end to the other.
The Q&A session from last night’s meeting had many people asking why the expense is necessary and asking about the popular city circular bus services. Obviously, some of the planners and city employees feel the economic benefits and impact from a fixed guide way system far exceed that of a “rubber tire” route. Hopefully, I can get some of the slides from their presentation to show where much of their proposed growth can come from. The route along Mill Avenue has a large mix of commercial and residential properties. There was talk of possibly making some zoning changes to further enhance the areas. Of course, it will be fun to watch the effects of Tempe real estate prices along Mill as we get closer to the 2016 opening.
They said the Tempe City Council meets on October 21st to discuss this recommended route. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to leave a comment below. You might want to contact METRO or your favorite council member to voice your opinion, as well.
View Tempe Modern Streetcar Map – Stretching the Mill Avenue District in a larger map