Considering the divisions within Phoenix City Council, it is significant that light rail to south Phoenix passed this week by 8-to-1. The five-mile route would mostly be along Central to Baseline Road.
For newcomers to this blog, WBIYB is shorthand for "We Built It, You Bastards." It is my response to the thugs, trolls and hysteriacs that opposed light rail in Phoenix. We built it, the world didn't come to an end, and it is a great success. Light rail is the most hopeful achievement so far for Phoenix to have a quality future.
Now light rail connects to the Sky Train at Sky Harbor. New lines are moving ahead, deeper into Mesa, extensions north and west, and now to south Phoenix. We Will Built It, You Bastards.
Here's an important adjustment that's needed: Run the new line over to Third Avenue and south to Lincoln and then back to First Avenue/Central. That way it can connect with future commuter trains and Phoenix-Tucson rail passenger service that should use a restored Union Station as their hub. It won't cost much more and the benefit will be exponential.
We Will Build It, You Bastards. But the time line is too long — up to a decade. And with Republican austerity ruling in D.C., one hopes the essential federal money will be available. God knows, we subsidize roads and freeways way too much, with enormous damage to the environment. Phoenix should fast-track this.
South Phoenix has always gotten the shit end of the stick from the city's elites. There's a reason that the City Hall crown gives the finger to that part of town. Cluster toxic industries there and pave over the Japanese flower gardens.
Light-rail would be the best way to provide transit to job centers for the working poor. And plenty of new residents with higher incomes have been added over the past 15 years.
Meanwhile, the northwest extension is scheduled to open in 2016. Unfortunately, it misses opportunities. Apparently the line will stop at 19th Avenue and Dunlap. Imagine if it went into the Metrocenter mall? Both would benefit. But I guess this is similar to when the then-owners of the Christown Spectrum (Chris-Town Mall) refused to allow a light-rail station attached to the building.
Contrast: An easy trip in any season, vs. walking across blazing parking lagoons. Gah! Note to anti-LRT crowd: "Those people" drive. The D.C. Metro stops at Pentagon City Fashion Center. The transit node is an asset to the mall.
Planning for Phase 2 of the route is underway, which will take it all the way to Metrocenter. Here we find some wind at the project's back. The state Transportation Department is more amenable to light rail (a source of construction jobs just like road-building). Councilwoman Thelda Williams is pushing for Phase 2 to reach the mall proper and the owners are encouraging.
This also shows the benefits of fighting to include transit in Prop. 400. The northwest extension is 100-percent locally funded (Phoenix Transit 2000 and the county-wide Prop. 400 tax), which is different from any other line abuilding.
Light-rail is a wonderful way to travel (WBIYB). But the metro area and the state also need "heavy-rail" trains for longer distances, i.e. conventional passenger trains. More about that in a future post.
Finally, Phoenix has yet to focus on its economic bleeding from the core. Light rail could be a great asset. But not of all the action is out on the fringes. And, no, I don't think many people will take LRT to work at the new State Farm office in Tempe, a good three-quarters of a mile walk from the station. Transit has to be close, convenient, frequent, clean and safe.
TAKING NOTE: The Census Bureau reported on income and poverty for counties in 2012. Median household income in Arizona was $47,796 vs. a national average of $51,371.
Looking at peer Western states: Colorado, $56,880; Oregon, $49,090, and Washington, $57,474.
No, living costs are not less for most things. It is a low-wage economy held back by "pro-business" conservative ideology.
Arizona saw 18.7 percent of its households below the poverty line (15.9 percent nationally). Horrifically, 30.5 percent of Arizona children under five live in poverty. In 2007, that number was 22.4 percent.
Maricopa County's median household income was $51,442 last year vs. $54,733 in 2007.
Comparing it to some peer counties: Seattle's King County, $68,944; Portland's Multnomah County, $51,580, and the Denver metro counties ranging from $50,455 to $67,401.
About 88 percent of U.S. counties did worse in 2012 than in 2007, and, as we know, the typical American household is making less than it did in 1989.