Thursday, December 27, 2007

AZ Light Rail - You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

I noticed in the paper recently that one of the biggest stories of the year was light rail. If they think 07' was big news, wait till they get a load of what's coming in 08'! Of course, they are mainly talking about the construction issues and business owners effected by the bumps, barricades and bruises to their wallets. Now, we are starting to see more and more "good" press as we are within a year from actually riding the rail lines in Phoenix, Tempe and in Mesa.
The Phoenix Business Journal recently had an article about driving in Tempe where they mentioned some updates on road conditions along the light rail line. Most of the road work is done in Tempe but Mesa and Phoenix still have some serious construction going on.
This morning, I decided to take a drive from downtown Phoenix and head east all the way to the end of the line in Mesa. Starting near the Van Buren / 1st Ave stop I noticed some of the never ending construction in this rapidly changing area. I thought of the benefit for many of the people that work (and might actually live and play ) down town. The large projects going on around here will bring some major changes in the near future.
As I headed east on Jefferson, I noticed a ton of construction, torn up streets, barricades etc that are probably driving people nuts. Once you get to where the Washington and Jefferson routes align, you pretty much have smooth sailing. This seems to be an area (along Washington) that will be changing more than most. You still find a lot of under developed land along the section from say, 24th street, all the way to the Tempe border. Two places along Washington that I noticed near future rail stops and felt would benefit from the rail line were Gateway Community College ( Washington / 38th St stop ) and the Crowne Plaza Hotel. ( Washington / 44th St stop ) Access to each of these places will improve and give students and travelers more choices to get to restaurants, entertainment etc.
Continuing east through Tempe, the roads are in good condition. I think the area near College and 5th street is going to see some really cool changes in the near future. The proximity to the Mill Ave district, ASU football / basketball, student housing etc will be a great place for a rail stop. (more about that soon)
Once I got to the Tempe Canal near the Mesa border, there was a ton of construction again. Just a short drive from there to the end of this first 20 mile section of light rail. The Park and Ride lot at Sycamore is taking shape but currently looks in disarray with all of the construction and unfinished building of the structure and rail stop. The neighborhoods near Sycamore should see a benefit as new life gets breathed in. Time will tell, but I'm pretty sure 08' will have a lot of new news for Light Rail in Arizona..

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Light Rail Info from KJZZ

Here is a Light Rail interview from the KJZZ radio program.. They discuss ridership, extensions, demand, uses for light rail's existing route, area development, future commuter rail options etc.
Interesting comparisons to other Light Rail Cities such as San Diego, Houston, Salt Lake, Dallas etc. etc.
The "car culture" of Phoenix was discussed and some interesting points of view were shared. The 20 mile "starter" line sound to be just the begining for AZ Light Rail.
Check it out.. Let us know what you think..

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Award Winning Tempe Town Lake Bridge

Tempe Town Lake plays a major part in the light rail system. In fact, nearly $22 million was spent to build an award winning bridge to carry light rail cars and passengers over the lake.
The bridge design includes a state-of-the-art fiber-optic lighting system that can change colors as the train crosses and provide other interesting visual effects. A fiber optic tube will be installed under the deck of the bridge and illuminate screens covering the truss structure. The
lighting component will be the art feature for the bridge, and was conceived by artist Buster
Simpson who is developing several lighting programs to control the color, pattern and movement of the light, such as how quickly the colors change or move across the bridge. The lights were tested over 4th of July this past year but will remain off until further notice. (Grand Opening?)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Smooth Sailing for Light Rail Test

Light Rail Trains began a week long series of tests along Washington this morning running at different times between 9:00am - 3:00pm through Friday. The difference between these tests and some of the past tests mainly focus on the fact that they are without police stopping or guiding traffic. Guess what, no-one was hurt. Well, not that I know of anyway. :-) I did speak with a few people from Metro that were on hand to observe and they were very nice and seemed very "proud" of their sucessful runs. I took this video as the train headed West on Washington Street from just under the 202 bridge. I have some pics of the cars with the doors open etc. and will add some more later...