Rail
U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., Federal Transit Administration official Peter Rogoff and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith tour the Metro light-rail line Monday, March 28, 2011.

Valley transit advocates are lobbying hard to secure federal funds for new rail systems in Tempe, Mesa and elsewhere, fearing the success of the Metro line may not be enough to win over Congress.

Political leaders count many factors working for them: The Metro line has 50 percent more riders than projected, the White House supports transit and federal transit officials offered praise of Metro during a visit this week.

But even some of Arizona’s Congressional delegation may not support rail projects, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. He’s worried the anti-spending climate could override the economic development that he expects more transit to create.

“Our concern is the overall tendency in Congress to cut, cut, cut and cut away,” Smith said.

He was one of several elected officials who spent much of Monday whisking federal transit authorities along the Metro route to highlight progress. They claim development within walking distance of light-rail stations is $6.9 billion, which they say justifies the system’s $1.4 billion cost. Weekday boardings are nearly 40,000 a day despite projections of 26,000 a day.

The statistics and development along the line impressed Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. He noted the Obama administration’s 2012 budget includes a $200 million Metro extension in Mesa, which would bring the line to Mesa Drive. Local officials also discussed plans for a streetcar on Mill Avenue in Tempe, and pushing the Mesa line to Gilbert Road. Rogoff said the Valley’s ridership will be a strong factor in winning federal approval.

“We want to continue to move forward and extend a very successful line to other communities,” Rogoff said.

The tour indicated local support isn’t as strong. One of the tour hosts was U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, a Democrat who represents Phoenix. Not present were Reps. David Schweikert and Jeff Flake, Republicans who represent parts of Tempe and Mesa, respectively. Smith said he’s trying to convince the two of transit’s benefit.

Rogoff was especially impressed with a discovery he made on his own while riding Metro on the weekend. To illustrate, he showed a cell phone picture he took Saturday night while in Tempe, where a swarm of high school students going to prom swarmed train. That shows how locals have integrated the transit system into their daily lives, Rogoff said.

“They took over a whole car and they were having the time of their lives,” he said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

(8) comments

EmperorSmith

It ain't perfect. But nothing is.

You are learning Dale.

Red-Feather

Sorry folks, please do some research on the states that already have light rail. ITS A FAILURE in every city...its a money pit at the tax payers expense. Seattle finished their light rail and its so far in the hole its stupid . On top of that? No-one rides the darn thing. Who wants to take a 45 min trip by car and turn it into an 2 joke? Going from train to bus and back again. I am from Seattle and they are killing us with the taxes on this rail. Now they need more money because its going under...DUMB DUMB DUMB. You dont want it!

Dale Whiting

Clearly none of the above has ever ridden the system. It ain't perfect. But nothing is.

ubu122

Are these people out of thier minds? They have no clue what the long term holds for these rail systems. At the rate technology is advancing the auto industry is changing as we know it. There will soon be a car in mass production that everyone can afford. Then what happens to this precious light rail ridership? It will look like the buses running around with zero people on them.
Besides that did they ever think that maybe the reason ridership is higher than expected is because of the agreement to allow those going to the ballpark and arena are riding for free. If that wasn't in effect would they have the increased ridership? NO!

Has the light rail been paid off yet? If so, how much money in profit has been made? NONE! Pay it off then use the profits to do what you want. Our federal government needs to pay off its debts before funding an unproven unprofitible business venture.

If it is going so great then light rail employees would not have been laid off!

Cerulean

The article said, “Weekday boardings are nearly 40,000 a day. . .” That must include more than just school children. It sounds to me like it is almost paying for its self. That seems like a good thing.

tededitedit

It's great the high school kids were having a good time, but all in all, it's a very expensive limo. These rail projects should, first and foremost, reduce automobile passenger/miles at a more economical rate than other forms of mass transit. Does the light rail do this? No. Will the Tempe Mill Avenue trolley project? Absolutely not. The argument that these projects spur massive redevelopment is weak in my opinion. I think if government and business leaders sincerely applied the same level of effort promoting development without the rail project (at a fraction of the taxpayer cost) they would get similar results.

091468mr

Just another way to enrich the thieving mormon contractors in mesa, gilbert and the valley wide.

Leon Ceniceros

"anti-spending climate"...........is Mesa Mayor Scott Smith unaware that America under the Obama...BORROW, TAX AND SPEND BUDGET.....has pushed the DEBIT to.....$17,000,000,000,000.00 = SEVENTEEN TRILLION (WITH A "T") DOLLARS.

Mayor Scott Smith.....let me be the first to clue you in...........AMERICA IS BANKRUPT....we are printing money with nothing behind it......pieces of paper.

No one............ask around....no one....is going down to Tucson from Phoenix except ...beer and soda pop distributors.
SPENDING A COUPLE BILLION (with a "B") DOLLARS MAY BE.......CHUMP CHANGE...TO YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE A........MULTI-MILLIONAIRE.....BUT IT ISN'T TO THE REST OF US.

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