Tag Archives: light rail


Phoenix tackles public transit head on

Remember what it was like to rely on Phoenix public transit last century?

Not in the early part of the last hundred years, but as recent as the 1990s. Phoenix had limited bus service and no service after midnight or Sundays. It was not the best system for a rapidly growing city.

At that time, the city created The Transit 2000 Plan. The plan focused on expanding bus service, building the light rail and creating public transit infrastructure. The plan was designed to create a new public transit system for the sixth largest U.S. city.

Public outreach was significant. There were numerous public meetings on the plan and surveys on the plan were sent to Phoenix households. The plan, and its funding source, four-tenths of a cent sales tax was overwhelmingly approved by the voters in March 2000. The tax would expire in 2020.

The successes of the plan are evident. Light rail is more popular than predicted and bus service has been expanded. However, what the city did not count on in 2000 when projecting the revenue from the tax, was two economic crises, the Sept. 11, 2011, downturn and the Great Recession of 2008. The money generated is less than projected. Consequently, many projects in the plan, such as light rail expansion, remain unfinished. More importantly, the funding source expires in 2020. In effect, all that has been achieved could shut down.
The city remains committed to public transit and is not going to wait until the money runs out to address the situation. Phoenix is also facing a funding shortage with respect to traditional road and freeway transportation.

Combining transit and transportation, the city created the “Citizens Committee on the Future of Phoenix Transportation,” a group of 30-plus individuals with diverse interests and expertise, who are assessing the current transit/transportation status and the looming expiration of the funding source.

The committee is thoroughly reviewing all aspects of Phoenix transit/ transportation and will report to the mayor and city council before the end of the year.

Light Rail Station On Washington, Phoenix, AZ

Businesses Helped During Light-Rail Expansion

As the Northwest light-rail expands into Glendale, local business owners try to work out the project’s kinks with city officials.

When talk first started of the expansion, many business owners were a bit skeptical of their success during the process. But after talking with each other and receiving much needed reassurance from the city of Phoenix, businesses can breathe a bit easier.

According to the City of Phoenix, these public transit improvements have allowed Phoenix natives to become more comfortable with public transportation. In the past year, there have been 37.4 million bus passenger boardings along with 7.8 million boardings on the light-rail.

So what does this mean for local businesses?

In preparation for the original 20-mile rail system, the city council approved $2 million to be provided for business assistance for those affected by the construction of the light-rail. According to the city of Phoenix, the program successfully joined existing city programs and resources to provide immediate support for the businesses.

“As with the original project, the construction of Metro Light Rail can be disruptive to the businesses, neighborhoods and community organizations along the line,” Sam Richard, business development director and member of the Encanto village planning committee says, “However, despite those challenges the city along with the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Local First Arizona are working to connect business owners to resources during the construction phase.”

The main concern of the businesses is the access customers will be able to have. Ruth Anderson, manager at WineBurger, says that the businesses with only one access point are going to be the businesses that have the most trouble. But once construction is gone there will be a better overall business flow.

To assist the approximate 300 businesses along the Northwest expansion, Council staff is recommending $500,000 to be spent over the next four fiscal years for the project. The City of Phoenix says that a portion of that budget will be held as contingency funds to allow responses to issues during construction.

Although the rail system is in motion now, in June 2009, the Northwest expansion was delayed due to significantly reduced sales tax revenues. During their time off, Metro researched ways to get construction underway sooner and with a $200 million plan, the expansion was approved by city council on June 20, 2012.

Ana Berzan, owner of De La Ana European Delicatessen in Phoenix, says, “In the long run it will probably bring more traffic to the business. For right now, they just started working and they do provide access (to the business), but I’m not sure what is going to happen.”

The new line will add three stations ending at Dunlap Avenue, which is 3.2 miles longer off of the 19th/Montebello Avenue light-rail stop and is expected to open in the beginning of 2016.


Groundbreaking for light rail extension

Ground will be broken Saturday on a project to extend metro Phoenix’s light rail system by three miles.

The new section of line will be built on 19th Avenue in Phoenix from Montebello Avenue northward to Dunlap Avenue.

Construction will begin Monday.

The $300 million project is slated to be completed in late 2015 or early 2016.

The first 20-miles of light rail opened in December 2008.

Six light rail extensions are under way that will create a 57-mile system by 2032.


Phoenix light rail strike averted

Officials with the light rail that serves the Phoenix metropolitan area say the potential for a work stoppage by New Year’s Eve has been averted.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 and light rail operations contractor Alternate Concepts agreed Friday to continue labor negotiations under existing work conditions.

ATU and ACI have agreed to submit their issues to binding arbitration beginning early next year.

The collective bargaining agreement between the ATU and ACI expired on June 30, leading to two 90-day extensions. The second extension is set to end on Dec. 31.

Valley Metro officials say the light rail serves nearly 50,000 riders daily.

The first 20-miles of light rail opened in December 2008. Six light rail extensions are under way that will create a 57-mile system by 2032.


LaHood visits Mesa to unveil $75M for light rail

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has unveiled $75 million in federal funding to help build a three-mile light rail extension connecting Phoenix and Tempe.

LaHood took part Friday in a grant signing ceremony in Mesa and said the light rail extension helps fast-growing cities in Arizona.

The new Central Mesa Extension, operated by Valley Metro Rail, will run from Sycamore to Mesa Drive on Main Street and connect residents in the downtown hubs of Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe. Officials say it’s expected to spur residential and commercial development in downtown Mesa while providing access to Arizona State University and Sky Harbor International Airport.

In the last six months, ridership on Valley Metro light rail has risen 6.2 percent on average, compared with the same period in 2011.

Light Rail Station On Washington, Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix Takes On Two More Solar Power Projects

With sustainability practices continually increasing with popularity, it’s no surprise that Phoenix is expanding its go green tactics and introducing new ways to put solar energy to good use.

On July 6, the city launched its first solar-cooled light rail station. One of the most popular and well-used seating areas for the light rail, 3rd. St and Washington, recently went through a remodel and now provides free, on-demand cooling to those waiting for transportation.

The seating area was designed and constructed by NRG Thermal, and provides an environmentally-friendly system that uses solar energy. The company also uses its downtown district cooling system, which cools 34 major buildings downtown, including Chase Field.

The constructing was finished in record time, and fans that went to the Major League Baseball All-Star event were able to try out the new cooling station during one of the hottest times of the year.

With the first solar-cooled light rail station now available for citizens to occupy, another solar power project is in the first sPhoto: Toy Dog Design, Flickrtages of beginning at the Burton Barr Central Library.

Construction has already taken place at the library by SKY Renewable Energy and will occur in two phases to reduce inconvenience to library visitors. The construction will provide power for the library from canopy SolarWings that will be installed in the parking lot.

SolarWing is a Phoenix-based green company that provides covered parking solutions that deliver solar energy.

The installation of 42 SolarWings in the north lot will be able to cover 84 parking spaces, offering both energy to the library and lighting at night.

This $1.3 million project is funded by an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Centennial Photos Then and Now, Mesa - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2011

Centennial Series: Photos Then And Now — Mesa, Ariz.

The saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” aptly describes the relationship the city of Mesa and the Chicago Cubs share.

Major League Baseball first came to Mesa for spring training in 1952. Back then, the Cubs made Rendezvous Park their home until it was razed in 1976 and replaced with a new stadium at Hohokam Park. In the almost 60 years since the Cubs starting playing in Mesa, the city has evolved dramatically. But one thing hasn’t changed — Downtown Mesa remains a buzz of activity on days when the Cubs play, and the streets around the stadium are lined with carloads of die-hard fans.

Just how popular are the Cubs in Mesa? In 2009, they set an MLB spring training attendance record of 203,105. Average per game attendance was 10,690, leading all of baseball.

Big changes are on the horizon, however. In 2016, the light rail is expected to make its way to Downtown Mesa. And by the end of 2011, Mesa and the Cubs hope to break ground on a new spring training facility and retail area known as Wrigleyville West at Riverview Park at Dobson Road and the Loop 202.

Besides the light rail and the Cubs’ new home, Mesa continues to expand its residential and business base.

Incorporated in 1883, Mesa has a population of almost 470,000, making it the third-largest city in Arizona and the 38th-largest city in the United States.


Mesa, Ariz. mid-1950, AZ Business Magazine May/June 2011


Robson & Main, Mesa, Ariz., 2011, AZ Business Magazine May/June 2011

Arizona Business Magazine May/June 2011

Steve Moore, GPCVB, AZ Business Magazine May/June 2011

Q&A Steve Moore, President & CEO of Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau

Steve Moore
President and CEO
Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau

What is the outlook of tourism in Arizona and the Valley as you see it?

Tourism is a $17 billion industry here, and it is strong enough to have absorbed some body blows over the past couple of years. The recession hurt. The “AIG effect” hurt. Backlash from SB 1070 hurt. People are still worried about the economy, and large groups are still a little trigger shy.

But we are seeing a few positive signs. Business travel is inching upward. Room rates are rising a little. In Phoenix, the metric we use to assess the financial performance of our hotels indicated improvement in 2010 versus 2009. So far this year, the BCS Championship Game gave the Valley’s hotels a boost in January, spring training provided its annual injection of visitors in March, and the MLB All-Star Week is going to be a huge asset for us in July. But the outlook is not as rosy as it’s been painted in some media accounts. We still have a lot of ground to make up.

How is the Greater Phoenix CVB performing in this environment, and how would you define the CVB’s role in the local economy?

In fiscal year 2010, our sales staff booked over 400,000 future delegates into the convention center and hotels across the Valley. These delegates will spend over $525 million when they get here — that’s direct spending, and it doesn’t include what the family and friends who accompany them will spend. If you were to look at the CVB’s future bookings in terms of corporate portfolio, that “portfolio” would be valued at $2.4 billion. That’s how much direct spending is attached to the future delegates we’ve booked, and that’s the price you could expect to get for the CVB if it were “sold.” Of course, we’re not for sale — we’re a nonprofit. But I think the analogy helps people get their heads around how vital the visitors industry is to the local economy.

What obstacles are currently facing the visitors industry, and what are some future challenges for the Greater Phoenix CVB?

The economy’s signs of recovery give us reason for optimism — but that optimism has to be tempered with a measure of caution. Group business may gradually climb back to pre-recession levels, but spending probably will rise at a slower rate. In that way, this recovery will somewhat mirror the industry’s post-9/11 recovery, albeit with a more gradual climb out of the bottom, because the recession affected all industries, not just ours.

Also, as the cost of oil continues to rise, so does the cost of air travel. Airlines have gradually decreased their capacities, switching to smaller planes and fewer flights. This can increase the cost of air travel and inflate travel times, both of which factor into a business’ decision about where to hold a meeting or convention. It’s something we play close attention to because Phoenix is a fly-in destination. Another challenge for us arose this past September, when the GSA recommended that federal agencies substitute teleconferencing and webcasts for face-to-face meetings whenever possible. Suppliers will likely follow suit, and that’s not good for our industry.

Within the CVB itself, one of our greatest challenges is budgetary. The formula funding we created back in 1998 will yield a million dollars less for us in the next fiscal year than it did in this fiscal year. We have lost four sales people this year, and we have not been able to replace them. We also lost half of our Prop 302 funds to the Legislature, which hinders our ability to market the destination to a national and international audience.

Has the Greater Phoenix CVB seen improvements since the passing of SB 1070? How so?

It’s been about a year since SB 1070 was passed, and in that time we’ve lost six definite conventions. We’ve lost only two since last July, when (federal) Judge (Susan) Bolton’s ruling blocked some of the bill’s most controversial provisions. Our sales team spent a lot of time and energy holding onto some of our large conventions and rebooking others. It’s the pipeline we are most concerned about, and at the close of the calendar year, our booking pace had slowed by 36 percent over last year’s pace — and last year was a recession year.

The fact that 19 other states have introduced immigration bills similar to SB 1070 has taken a little of the heat off us. It’s hard to quantify how much convention business we aren’t even getting considered for due to concerns over the bills. We do know that large, diverse associations are more risk averse than smaller, corporate meetings. Those smaller meetings have started to return to the Valley.

How will the All-Star Game and the MLB FanFest at the Phoenix Convention Center impact Phoenix’s economy and tourism?

The All-Star Game and the events surrounding it — the Home Run Derby, the Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, and FanFest at the convention center — are expected to inject $67 million of direct spending into Arizona’s economy. This estimate does not include local production expenses by national and international broadcast media, nor does it take into account hospitality expenditures by sponsors for receptions, parties and banquets.

The fact that All-Star Week arrives in town during summer, our traditional low season, magnifies its economic benefit to the community and provides us a grand-scale opportunity to show leisure travelers and meeting groups that visiting Phoenix in summertime is fun. And it’s the latest in a growing list of mega sporting events whose presence here proves that large and diverse groups and events are welcome and successful in Arizona.

What are your thoughts on the Arizona Office of Tourism’s “In One Word — Arizona” marketing campaign that launched in November?

Well, using just one word is economical, and that’s a good thing. Seriously, though, it’s a beautiful campaign that dramatically captures the beauty of our state. The existence of such a campaign is absolutely essential. Tourism is a $17 billion asset for Arizona. That asset must be trumpeted; that asset must be leveraged; that asset must be cared for. We all know AOT has been devastated by state budget cuts. If there’s one word that should be applied to AOT’s funding, that word is “restoration.”

What are your thoughts on the new Westin Phoenix Downtown and the rest of the downtown hotels and how they can potentially attract more tourists and business travelers?

Westin is a trusted brand, and the new hotel is a wonderful addition to downtown. Many of the conventions we book at the CVB are what we call “citywide conventions.” What that means is, they are big enough so that their attendees and their families spread out to multiple hotels. With the addition of the Westin, there are now more than 2,700 guest rooms within walking distance of the convention center. And more are on the way: A boutique Kimpton hotel — another trusted brand — is scheduled to open in CityScape early next year. So we’ll have the Sheraton, the Hyatt, the Wyndham, the Westin and the Kimpton right in the city’s core, all near the convention center, all near stops for the light rail, all near CityScape. For years we tended to talk about downtown in the future tense — as in, “It’s going to be great.” Downtown is now all about the present tense. It is great, and the catalyst to making it that way was the visitors industry.

Arizona Business Magazine May/June 2011