Sorry for the void in posting, but I took a couple of weeks off - one of which was spent visiting some old friends who now live in the Phoenix area. I had never been to Phoenix before, so it was a great combination of seeing old friends, and visiting somewhere new. I was also interested to check out Phoenix's new light rail line.
According to at least one report, the light rail line is exceeding ridership projections. While it was originally built primarily for commuter traffic, it has also provided transport to sporting events, art gallery openings and Arizona State University. On our day downtown, we saw many riders coming in for the local farmer's market (which is right on the rail line) and several new restaurants and bars that had opened up along the line.
The light rail line has also sparked a new website - -lightrailbeer.com -- that encourages people to find bars near the Phoenix rail and get home safely. Genious.
Many in Kansas City insist that light rail can't work here because we don't have the urban density, or that Kansas Citians are too reliant on the automobile to use mass transit.
It would be arguably very difficult to find a city more reliant on the automobile than Phoenix -- a city that has basically gone from a small town to a large since the 1950s, when cities were designed around the automobile and not public transit. Interestingly, Phoenix's population was only 106,000 in 1950 -- but soared to 440,000 in 1960 and on up to 1.5 million now. Because of all of that, Phoenix has a very small downtown, with little going on. Kansas City, even though it is a significantly larger city, has a LOT more going on downtown than Phoenix. However, that is beginning to change as even the light rail line is starting to spur growth along the line. Kind of cool. Maybe you don't need density to build light rail -- but the light rail builds density.
Meanwhile, I think it is also important to note that light rail -- while costing much more to get up and going -- is significantly less costly for cities to operate after it is established -- making it less succeptable to budget shortages that are threatening to cripple our current bus-based system.
Our city has a lot of issues. Like most cities during the 70s, 80s and 90s, the city's affluent fled from our urban core (not just white flight, it was black flight as well -- anyone with the means to move out did so). Due to this, a large number of our city's jobs exist outside of the urban core. Unfortunately, without a solid (and sustainable) public transit system in place, these jobs will continue to be unreachable for the folks who live in the urban core. A good public transit system will help us to overcome this discrepency.