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August 02, 2011

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I foresee this being an active thread. You would hope L.A. could get some transit with a population base of nearly 19 million in the metro area. Still, the "subway to the sea" will end three miles from the sand (I was indoctrinated to L.A.'s ridiculous transit system recently). I call it ridiculous because for its size, like Phoenix, absolutely "no one" rides it.

The difference between Phoenix and L.A. is that people in the desert are embracing light rail while in L.A. only the poor use their system, but even that demographic prefers their cars; L.A.'s air quality attests to that fact. I attempted to run outside and quickly return indoors to a treadmill. I thought; "I run outside in Phoenix and our air at home isn't Flagstaff...it will be fine." I think I developed asthma in L.A. and hacked up a lung.

Enough about other cities before I go on too long. I agree that light rail in Phoenix hasn't caused the building boom along the corridor that occurred in other cities. True that the recession negatively impacted the short term outcome. There still has been great activity along the line; now that apartments and condos are priced inline with the market for Phoenix, buildings like One Lexington and 44 Monroe are filling up or nearly full. But where is the investment for more housing(especially around Roosevelt)? There will be a high density project breaking ground on Roosevelt but just one? It is frustrating especially as more people would like to move downtown but cannot since few options, if any, remain. Nearly all of the one bedroom units are gone.

As to Phoenix light rail being a mostly "events-focused than live-work-shop-play", I have to disagree especially given current trends. Average weekday ridership is double average holiday, Saturday and Sunday counts. And that is impressive given that Holiday and Sunday ridership in Phoenix averages the weekday counts of the Seattle line. Another important metric: Though Dallas has many more miles of light rail (3X the miles of Phoenix), their average ridership only exceeds Phoenix by approximately 20,000. Boardings per mile in Phoenix (another important metric) is also nearly 3X higher than Dallas' system; this despite PHX LR traversing "empty" miles between Phoenix and Tempe.

So is it a failure, no. But if developers continue to ignore the obvious trend to live and work downtown then huge opportunities will be missed. This is especially true now because of the projects currently under construction or will be coming online soon (including more construction on the Bio-Med Campus). I've written many times in the past that the boom times of the last decade are gone. There will be no endless sprawl building in the exurbs. It would be wise for developers and old sprawlers to revisit their business plan and learn to build upward along the "spine" of Phoenix.

Could you please remind us of when, how and why the Valtrans initiative failed? If memory serves, it happened long before the Flat Earth Society took over.

Here's a New Times article on Valtrans:

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/1989-04-05/news/valtrans-derailed/

And an ARPA summary and report:

http://www.azrail.org/trains/regional/1990white/

Bottom line: It was probably badly handled and not sold well; it came as an afterthought following the freeway vote, instead of being part of it, and Phoenicians were still very car-centric.

I understand the sentiment of the post, but the answer to the headline is a resounding "No." When speaking about government reforms, politician’s often use the metaphor of “turning around an aircraft carrier”, and I think this is useful when thinking about the built environment of Phoenix - or any post-war American city. Remember, sprawl has had a red-carpet development process. Infrastructure investments and regulations at all levels of government were aligned with private sector construction and financing practices , and then sent into overdrive by Wall Street’s unprecedented commodification of our physical society by creating standardized financial instruments that infused the world’s capital markets into the machine. This is what you often refer to as the “real estate industrial complex” and it’s every bit as large, powerful and entrenched as the military one. So it is no small feat.

But, I think Phoenix light rail has turned the rudder on the carrier – and, while I can admit my urbanist bias in saying that - I think this is an honest and sober assessment. While it’s true that there have been political miscalculations – such as ValTrans – by “the resistance” that have sunk Phoenix deeper into the liabilities of sprawl, you can’t ignore the major victory of that Phoenix won by successfully implementing the largest light rail project in this nation’s history built at one time. And remember, because of the delay caused by the over-ambition of Val-Trans (Burnham’s “make no small plans” is not always the best strategy in the hyper-conservative political landscape of Arizona)

Also keep in mind - Phoenix’s light rail began operating at the start of the worst real estate meltdown in the history of this country. So, local government policy cannot be totally to blame. Are there policy problems? Yes, land-banking is a problem that policy could address. The first step is to stop the bleeding and the City is beginning the process to mitigate the worst of speculation with policy reforms (http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/2011/08/01/20110801phoenix-mulls-use-land-near-light-rail-stations.html). The second step would be to use a carrot/stick strategy to spur development of the key properties in the Central corridor in which the zoning does not match the market fundamentals now or even 50 years from now. This will require a combination of subsidies and property tax reforms. There are other policy reforms that need to occur at the state level (such as TIFF, which has been a subject of discussions on this blog, and that’s probably the extent of the public dialog on this technical, complex tax issue), and growth boundaries are all but impossible after the passage of prop 207.
Though, these are relatively minor adjustments to the fundamental shifts occurring in the real estate market (let alone the energy market), both locally and nationally. That reality will drive economic development near the stations regardless of policy interventions designed to accelerate the process.

However, I agree that we should not ignore the policy errors. Correcting them - along with an aggressive rail transit expansion program (why you think the extension to Metrocenter is foolish is unclear to me), and –equally as important – reforming the private sector real estate development process - is essential to position Phoenix to be a serious economic city in the face of so much competition for talent and capital. But, we shouldn’t so quick to declare failure and retreat to the hills (or Seattle) – especially when we’re talking about the single biggest win for urbanists in Phoenix – probably ever.

For some reason Phx Planner's link for the article didn't work. This one might:

http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/2011/08/01/20110801phoenix-mulls-use-land-near-light-rail-stations.html

Phx Planner,
I fought as hard as anyone to make LRT happen, so its successes, failures and challenges -- I take them personally. And I didn't "retreat"; I was forced out, in no small measure because of my vocal support for LRT. As to Metrocenter...why there? It's a fading shopping zone that might provide lots of park-and-ride spaces, but is that where the most riders will be found? Maybe. I don't claim to have all the answers. But sometimes things are done for political reasons instead of practical ones. Beyond that -- and thanks for your many good points -- I go back to the need for the central core to attract private investment and lots of it. City Hall and GPEC are not up to this task.

Jon - appologies - I meant the "retreat" comment in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. I understand the emotions involved in the effort to advance/restore Phx, and many of us take these things personally. I came across your column last night after a few drinks, so I'm reading it again this morning and it's a bit of a ramble (your site is becoming a sort of virtual "third place" for some of us it seems :).

Regarding the Metro Center extension - its a good corridor. 19th Ave is among the most residentially dense streets in Phoenix. If you recall, or go over and look at an aerial on google much of it is block after block of garden apartments. And while this isn't ideal TOD, it's the density we have in Phx and these residents are the ones who will actually use the train and benefit from it most (as opposed to the luxury condos built along Central where each unit has a multi-car garage and residents use the train as more of a "boutique" service than basic, everyday transport). Plus there is plenty of surface parking in retail strips that could be retrofitted to walkable mixed use.

Metrocenter itself is a challenge due to fragmented ownership, but presents a big opportunity to change the area. The area to the east and south of it is a fairly large employment/educational center, so LRT is almost certain to attract decent ridership on opening day.

Thanks again for providing a great forum to converse about this City we love.


Who was this Linda Nadolski who had such prescience . . even the 80's?

"Phoenix is just too big," says the Phoenix councilwoman. "We have no sense of identity and direction,"

I'm curious to know who the visionaries were back then . . .

I wish that the ValTrans TV commercials from 1989 were on YouTube.

Ewwwwww! Would we have to ride with illegals?

Up in Vancouver, city government approved TOD rezoning for the Canada Line stations on Cambie St. This will replace single-family residences with up to eight-story condo buildings. The market is there even if many of the long-time residents have reservations about their hometown becoming denser.

I wish there was a way to replicate the Vancouver experience in Phoenix but there isn't. A smallish one-bedroom condo sells for over $350K here. A single-family house for close to a million. Rich Asians want to live here and are willing to bid up the price of real-estate in the process. Natives don't like it but many have gotten rich nonetheless. This is now a rich city getter richer because of its spectacular scenery, creative class, and superior built environment.

The death of the confidence fairy revealed a number of things about the Phoenix economy. One is that you can't separate inexpensive property from the cheap and ratty. Ultimately, the real-estate collapse means there's no difference. Phoenix can pretend to be undervalued but the story in much of this jerry-built city is that the city is cheap for a reason.

Another thing we're seeing is that politics necessarily follows demographics. Phoenix attracts low-information older white voters. They don't want urbane, sophisticated, hip, or cutting edge. They want Applebees, Walgreens, Costco, and Olive Garden. They will vote for any program that promises them low taxes and stasis.

I'm up here with the widow of a Phoenix police officer (Cal knew him). She hates Mexicans, liberals, blacks, Obama, and environmentalists. Still, she loves this city and hates Phoenix. I don't even bother to explain to her how a tightly-woven urban fabric, great mass transit, an environmental ethic, and cosmopolitanism have created this amazing city. She's not open to new information because her identity is based on the stories right-wing propagandists sold "real Americans". There is no space between these stories and her own life story.

Phoenix light rail is a victory but it's not a panacea or a solution. It's too little, too late, and mostly irrelevant to 98% of the population. It's the application of an urbanist bandaid on our metastatic sprawl. It can't heal a city that is based on a one-person, one-car transportation system and the suburban template that resulted from that. Vancouver is a city that brought in Jane Jacobs in the early '60s to fight urban freeways. It won that battle. Phoenix not only lost its battle, it's still losing it. We're a city that can't learn, won't learn, hasn't learned, and will never learn.


soleri,

Replace "city" with "salvage yard" and I think you've created the perfect essay.

soleri,
I hope you're having a good time up there. Good urban fabric exists in Vancouver though their freeway battles are not over yet (see http://gatewaysucks.org/ or http://stephenrees.wordpress.com ).

Picking up the pieces of the salad spinner development of places such as Phoenix or Detroit is much more difficult . A recent article ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-gruber/why-did-america-destroy-i_b_916438.html ) asks why American cities were "destroyed". Of the reasons mentioned, "Cultural bias against the city", "Changing demographics and racial dynamics", "The long-term lure of the frontier" will partially resolve themselves over time. "Changes in transportation or other technologies", "A failure in politics, ideology or management" require active leadership to remediate (anyone?).

In a world of diminished capital, chances are that more investments will be made in places that already have good urban bones while the places that are still scrambling will be skipped. The Matthew effect would become visible: "Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." To catch up they'd need a culture change, political change, civic life, infrastructure change, good urban design standards, appropriate zoning (or get rid of it altogether) etc. But the majority in Phoenix and Detroit probably still don't get it ( http://rustwire.com/2011/03/11/michigan-business-owner-soul-crushing-sprawl-driving-us-away/ ). They're married to their sunk investment. Consequently, the tension between the center, the ruins outside, and the wealthy enclaves make a turnaround more difficult.

Btw, a simple way to show how important rails are for our civilization:
http://stephenrees.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/rmotw-launch-flyer-1.jpg

Most light-rail users are: (1) commuters going to/from work; (2) those making special purpose trips from A to B in pursuance of a plan of travel (e.g., students, sports fans); (3) those who cannot comfortably afford private transportation.

Why should such individuals make random exits at unplanned stops in order to make (extravagant?) impulse purchases?

So, we would expect certain locations along the corridor to have benefitted from enhanced access, but in the general case little or no benefit.

Is light rail, or the economy, to blame for blight and failed small businesses along the route? Light rail can only be blamed for that to the extent that its construction disrupted established vehicular traffic and discouraged existing customers. There can be no doubt that for some small businesses dependent upon arterial road traffic disrupted by construction, this was a serious if temporary setback; and then the Great Recession.

As Mr. Talton points out, light-rail is one mode of mass transit; and except for those with narrow needs lying along two or a few points along the route, its virtues mutually depend upon the nexus of mass transit ridership options it intersects.

Bus service (hours of operation, routes) have been reduced or eliminated, as have neighborhood circulator shuttles; at the same time, prices were raised 320% for the on-bus cost of a round trip, from $1.25 to $5.25, as 2 hour transfers (enough for most errands) were eliminated; but even the old cost of two fares (good for four hours travel time, generally) were only half the cost of the new round-trip fare; and neighborhood circulators that were once frequent and free may now be neither.

So, unless a destination is known and planned for, and lies entirely along the light-rail route, mass transit is both time consuming and expensive. Little wonder that the masses fail to wander aimlessly and spend freely. While light-rail may be a blessing to get to a campus or a sports venue or two, and some office centers, the typical small business along the route is duplicated, for most potential riders, by others with easier travel requirements; perhaps requiring only one bus instead of a bus to get to light-rail, light-rail itself, and perhaps a neighborhood circulator shuttle-bus from there; then the reverse to arrive home.

Those who fail to use buses as their primary mode of transportation fail to grasp how infernally discouraging it is, not only because of slow travel times, but also because of low frequency and (often) additional delays while transferring from one line to another, especially on weekends when service cuts have decreased frequency and shortened evening schedules. This on top of the fact that light-rail itself shares surface traffic routes and stops at the same lights (in general, though in some cases with preference) as private transportation, in addition to innumerable public stops.

I wrote:

"...Those who fail to use buses as their primary mode of transportation fail to grasp how infernally discouraging it is, not only because of slow travel times, but also because of low frequency and (often) additional delays while transferring from one line to another, especially on weekends when service cuts have decreased frequency and shortened evening schedules..."

To be perfectly explicit, weekend evenings are when most working households are likely to have the time and inclination to spend discretionary income: so this reduction in service in mass transit options is precisely the worst possible in terms of economic development planning.

The problems is, perhaps, the lack of a coherent stragegy, not only by city governments but also by state government (which must surely provide some funds in a practicable mass transit system whose borders cross municipal boundaries -- though Arizona is among a handful of singularly visionless state governments in this regard).

Critical mass is there for downtown now. The Suns and D-Backs are the two franchises most needed downtown due to their many home games. Heck the successful AZ Rattlers even help bring 15k downtown a few times on Spring Saturdays. Glendale is so hosed with their 8 games a year Cards.

Light rail here is nicer than riding BART. Much cleaner.

I don't know anyone who would buy a pass on the bus. I've only seen that a few times; Emil, if you purchase an all day pass at a light rail station or a store (Circle K, Fry's, Bashas, etc) then it is only $3.50. Also, you can purchase more than one at a time and activate them as needed. Many people I know, including myself, have weekly, monthly, or platinum passes which is a huge savings.

For us living along the line the light rail is actually time saving. When I drove everywhere it took much more effort, patience, and money (gas) getting around. IMO, what is holding back substantial growth downtown is lack of housing, plain and simple.

Soleri makes a good point on the lack of civic involvement as a major drag on progress. However, I disagree that the physical environment or "bones" make it impossible to recreate Phoenix. Remember, some of the best cities in the world were burned almost completely to smoldering rubble and rebuilt: Rome, London, Chicago, Berlin, Tokyo - and Vancouver. The landscapes that were left in these cities looked alot like the asphalt parking lots of modern day Phoenix.

PhxPlanner: burn away, then.

Obviously, cities that were destroyed and then rebuilt with the same transportation networks, the same geographical imperatives, the same defining waterways and ports, and the institutional memory that supported their infrastructure, will succeed as they did before. But Phoenix didn't metastasize because there was an inevitable great city on he banks of the Salt River. It succeeded because of cheap oil in an unprecedented and unrepeatable period of prosperity. Take that out, and there's no second act.

Recreating Phoenix to be something it might have been suffers from too much wishful thinking. I think Phoenix could conceivably retrofit itself for straitened circumstances, maybe decline to a size of 500,000 or less, and then use our limited water resources for agriculture. Will that happen? I don't think so. The problem is that once catastrophic climate change and national bankruptcy kick in, there's no way to manage a successful transition. And since denial is our local cognitive style, there will be no strategizing or planning to make the best of challenging circumstances. We will go down blaming environmenalists and the federal government because that's what we do. It's our nature. And in the end, nature always wins.


What about all this talk of light rails running yearly deficits which amount sometimes to millions of dollar??

The price of a day pass, phxSUNSfan, even when purchased off-bus, is still a 180 percent increase over the previous cost of an on-bus round-trip fare.

Most mass transit riders don't live along the light-rail line. That was one of my primary points: light-rail, for most users or potential users, is only as good as the nexus of mass-transit ridership options required to travel; light-rail is only one aspect of this.

Light-rail is scarcely time-saving, compared to private transportation, whether you live along the line or not: it travels the same surface routes as private transportation, stops at the same lights (in general) and also stops at countless public stops which, for any given rider, do NOT coincide with his own.

The number of riders making economically nonsensical pass purchases, including but not limited to buying on-bus day passes, is surprisingly large. I see it all the time; and on-bus passes (identifiable by the lateral notches where they are detached from the tape) litter both transit centers and bus stops (and their trash cans).

The question of what is holding back substantial growth downtown is quite different, and non sequitur. Mr. Talton spoke of blight along a 20 mile light rail route, not just downtown. One shouldn't expect individuals to contribute to economic development while making their travel options more expensive (through fare hikes) and more time-consuming (through service reductions). These also decrease the likelihood of spontaneous, increased travel and impulse purchases associated with economic development.

Tim, subsidies to a mass-transit system must be evaluated within the context of
broader economic and social benefits.

Do they increase tax revenues to offset the subsidies? Do they provide the kind of transit network attractive to both citizens and potential employers? Do they give those for whom private transportation is financially impracticable, a means to obtain and maintain gainful employment? Do they provide necessary transportation services to others unable to afford or use private transportation? Do they reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, and conserve non-renewable resources? Do they reduce the need for roadbuilding to accomodate private transportation?


"The price of a day pass, phxSUNSfan, even when purchased off-bus, is still a 180 percent increase over the previous cost of an on-bus round-trip fare." -Emil

True! And honestly, I believe those much lower prices were a reality before my Phoenix stay became a permanent one. So I did not notice a change in price; cities I am familiar with and have lived before out-priced and out-prices Phoenix transit costs for riders.

Furthermore, I maintain that light rail saves time over personal transportation; especially during events, rush hours, and weekends. True trains must stop at the same lights as POV's however, they are given preference and lights are timed and programmed to minimize wait times at intersections. Moreover, if you are driving the likelihood of being the first car at the stop light every time is extremely low. The LRT is always the first "vehicle" at the light; therefore, when it changes it has priority.

My segue into continued growth in downtown concerns future ridership and reach of the system: Meaning how many people will be willing and able and will give preference to using the system as opposed to driving themselves. This will create demand and ultimately, reduce headway.

RE: ROI on LRT subsidies,

A study conducted a few years ago (CNT was the firm) took a look at transportation costs of different neighborhoods in select cities across the nation - Phoenix was one. It calculated the transportation costs of the Encanto Village (the walkable neighborhoods in the Midtown area) vs. conventional suburbia in Gilbert.

The study concluded that if half of the neighborhoods over the next 20 years (based on projected population growth at the time) were built like Encanto as opposed to Gilbert, the metro area would save $2.1 billion in transportation costs.

In a city like Phoenix, a rail transit station is essential to make walkable neighborhoods feasible.

A few thoughts:
1. All transit systems are "subsidized." They are part of the commons. They don't make a profit for the free-market fairy. Indeed, highways don't "pay for themselves," either, and that's even before factoring in externalities such as the cost of car pollution, sprawl and lost productivity due to long commutes behind the wheel.

2. Light rail is plenty fast, but this misses the point. It gives one time to work or read or relax, which being in a single-occupancy vehicle does not. It lowers greenhouse gases. It allows for an LRT-based lifestyle, particularly in cities with good systems such as Portland.

3. Transit must be frequent and reliable to attract users. Here Phoenix is in bad shape. I remember waiting 30 minutes for a bus on Central. On my street in Seattle, I rarely have to wait more than five minutes. But the Republican war against transit may even gut Seattle's system. So stay tuned.

Unless I've misunderstood him, phxSUNSfan wrote that other cities where he has lived had higher bus fare prices than Phoenix. I'll offer a concrete counterexample.

I lived for a short time in San Antonio. One of the reasons I chose San Antonio was that the city had half the population of Phoenix but a fleet with twice the number of buses. (Note that San Antonio's geographical sprawl is comparable to Phoenix's.)

Currently, Phoenix charges $1.75 for a one-way, full-fare trip, no transfer given. San Antonio charges $1.10 for the same, with a transfer (issued upon request) good for two hours. A reduced fare is only 55 cents. San Antonio also allows seniors and the handicapped to ride for just 25 cents from 9am-3pm weekdays. A full-fare 31 day pass in Phoenix is $54; in San Antonio a monthly pass is just $30; reduced fare passes are $27.50 in Phoenix and $15 in San Antonio.

http://www.viainfo.net/FaresAndPasses/FaresList.aspx

Again, San Antonio has (or had) a bus fleet twice the size as Phoenix's, for half as many residents as Phoenix has.

It also arranges routes covering a given area to meet in local hubs, simultaneously, which reduces transfer times.

Furthermore, San Antonio's buses generally run more frequently, start earlier, and end later. The Naco/Broadway (Route 10), a major route, runs every 13 minutes in the middle of the day; it starts running 4:14 am Mon-Sat. and 5:15 am Sun., and ends at 1:17 am.

By contrast, the Thunderbird Road bus (typical of major routes in Phoenix) starts at 5am (6am weekends) and the last bus starts at 9pm (8pm weekends); the frequency is every half-hour weekdays and once an hour (!) on weekends.

So, don't tell me it can't be done.

Here in Phoenix they either haven't heard of a thermostat (to turn the A/C on and off automatically to maintain a preset, comfortable temperature) or else their mechanics don't know how to set/maintain them, because most of the time the A/C runs constantly; passengers (in some cases drivers) commonly open up the windows, to keep from freezing, even on warm days.

This must cost Valley Metro a fortune in operating costs. So much for the efficiencies of the "free market" (since we contract with private companies to operate these buses).

P.S. Seniors and the handicapped ride for free all day on weekends in San Antonio.

I've never lived in San Antonio but have been to bases in the area; as I recall they do not have rail transit in S.A. which could impact fares and reduce the cost of bus ridership. Initial costs for buses (subtracting all the externalities) is much lower than rail projects. There are still free transit services in metro Phoenix; downtown's DASH and weekend trolleys, Tempe's Orbit and Flash, and Scottsdale's Trolley.

No time to research this. You might have a point, phxSUNSfan, but so far as I know, construction costs for light-rail were covered by taxes, grants, and so forth. Operating costs are supposedly 25 percent covered by fares. (No fare checking -- anyone can ride without a pass, if they're confident they won't be caught by one of the handful of auditors riding.) Also, I don't ever recall VM claiming that LR was the reason for fare hikes: though they did use every other excuse in the book (most factually inaccurate).

More tomorrow, perhaps.

I'd always considered the variety of people on the Vally metro light rail a sign of its success - students, tourists, the evidently poorer going to Christown to shop, commuters, scruffy guys on bikes, D-backs fans. I haven't seen as much diversity on Seattle's light rail. By the time you get to Othello station (southbound) it's pretty much all folks going to Sea-Tac airport.

Mr. Talton makes an excellent point about subsidies.

In fact, I'd expand the scope of his argument: in modern capitalist society there is virtually no economic activity in the so-called "private sector" that could succeed, at least exist in its present form, without substantial public subsidies.

These subsidies consist -- for example for retail businesses -- of the public infrastructure that allows such businesses to operate: the electrical grid that brings power for light, air conditioning and heating, computers and other devices; the telephony systems (both land-line and satellite based) that allow communication (voice, fax, Internet); the water purification and delivery systems that allow restaurants (for example) to wash dishes, serve fountain drinks, and so forth; the sanitary systems that process waste and allow public bathrooms; the public roads that allow goods and customers to be driven to and from businesses, not to mention the railways, ports, and airports that facilitate the movement of wholesale goods; the military/academic (government subsidized university) research nexus that developed the Internet and digital computer systems; the courts that allow for an orderly resolution to business torts and conflicts; the police who patrol, interdict and arrest criminals and discourage robbery, theft, and extortion against business targets; the firemen who are ready, at a moment's notice, to risk their lives as well, to protect not only life but property; public schools which, by providing universal literacy, help provide the basis for a broad middle-class whose incomes feed local businesses; and on, and on, and on.

Public taxes, fees, and borrowing (e.g., bond issues) make all such things possible; in most cases on an ongoing basis, and in some cases providing the original funds (not available from private capital -- see for example the history of public telegraphy) that laid the foundations for private enterprise to build upon. If small businessmen (who are rare in the context of the general population) had to pay for all of these things (or any substantial portion of them) themselves, via private contributions to private infrastructure providers -- even assuming (contrary to fact in most cases) that such for-profit infrastructure were available (they aren't because such activities generally aren't profitable without government subsidy) -- their bottom line costs would be insupportable on the basis of their private revenues. It is only because such costs are shared by a population of 300 million individuals (or the large fraction of this possessing incomes and paying taxes and public fees) that such infrastructure costs are affordable.

Several good points, Jon. Republicans hate mass transit -- yes, especially the pale stale male contingency in its last throes around here. Additionally, the hyper-competitiveness between transportation entities (ADOT, McDOT, Valley Metro, et al) shocked me when I worked as an ADOT PIO. It's not about what's best for the community; it's about being "the leader." Yes, that's a political reality, but it's extreme by any measure of civic duty, with the competing forces undercutting each other at every opportunity. Finally, your point about how many Phoenicians have never ridden a bus is well-taken. I hadn't until about 7 years ago, and shoot, I'm one of those durn liberals. Couple laziness enabled by cheap gas with a populace whose associations with urban life are to avoid "those people" and you have a sisyphean battle. Me? I'm perversely hopeful that the collapse of our economy and the rise of a new generation of activists will force folks out of dead-ass silos.

I have been wanting to ride Phoenix Light Rail since it opened. I noticed when I was in town in early 2008, when it was still under construction, there wasn't much development and yes that Red Line bus line was packed and had a lot of service. I almost wonder if the light rail ridership are former bus riders from the Red Line. I disagree that riders in LA LRT are mostly poor. We have a lot of people who commute on our Blue Line LRT from Long Beach to downtown LA during peak hours. We also boast a lot of concert goers, sports fans at the Staples Center from our Blue Line as well. Our subway from Hollywood to downtown is packed the majority of the time and yes we need the subway to the see as it will come closer to major city east coast numbers in subway ridership. Yes we have a lot of the poor who ride our system but more Angeleno's esp from the 2008 voter approve LA County Measure R voted for more rail transit and other improvements. The poor alone would not have gotten that passed. So please don't make outlandish claims that only the poor ride rail in Los Angeles. The reasons above are simply not true. I do support your view on what Phoenix needs to do improve light rail market ability to have more development along the LRT corridor.

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