Light rail will ferry New Year's Eve revelers - East Valley Tribune: News

Light rail will ferry New Year's Eve revelers

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Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 2:32 pm | Updated: 8:43 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Light-rail officials are doing their part to get New Year's Eve revelers off the roads and into the trains.

Metro, the Valley's new transit system, will be operating until about 3 a.m., Chief Executive Officer Rick Simonetta said Wednesday.

Under normal circumstances, the trains will stop running at midnight.

However, Metro views the night of Dec. 31 as an opportune moment to increase the system's exposure to potential riders.

Downtown Tempe hosts college football's Insight Bowl and popular Block Party on New Year's Eve, and Metro estimates that as many as 20,000 people may take light rail to the events. As for getting those partygoers home, Simonetta said the plan is to "run it until it's no longer necessary" that night.

As further enticement, Metro won't be charging fares until Jan. 1, six days after the system's official opening.

Simonetta made his remarks at a luncheon sponsored by the civic organization Valley Forward.

If demand is high on New Year's Eve, this could boost efforts to extend Metro's service on weekend nights.

Metro is considering a proposal to have the last trains run as late as 1:20 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Currently, the planned operating hours are between 4:45 a.m. and midnight.

But officials said the later hours would come at an annual cost of $350,000.

"The challenge we have is the funding," said the chairman of Metro's board, Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot. "We find private sources of funding, and we're done."

Public sources of funding are tapped out, Simonetta said, meaning some frills were cut. He acknowledged the train cars do not have the capability for wireless communications.

Also, only one of the system's eight park-and-ride lots has shade structures to protect vehicles from Arizona's baking sun.

"We didn't try to add everything that was possible into the original plan," Simonetta said. "But I do think, over time, we're going to find ways to enhance it."

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