The Phoenix Metro area has seen a steady increase in ridership on the Valley Metro Light Rail.The surge in riders to almost 50,000 a day has prompted Phoenix Metropolitan area policymakers to accelerate the engineering, design, and completion of extensions, in some cases by seven years. Phoenix has made a valiant effort to provide access to bus and light rail passes at local businesses, including grocery stores, drug stores, and convenience stores. For a city whose urban sprawl competes with cities around the world, urban planning efforts with a sustainable transportation focus are a must. With America’s commute time climbing steadily, and car ownership following suit, Phoenix must focus on public transportation in order to compete.
The Census shows that less than 5% of Phoenicians used public transportation to commute to work. That puts us at 32nd in the list of the nation’s metropolitan areas. We have a lot of catching up to do. The City of Phoenix has taken a step in the right direction by studying two new stops for the light rail, as well as expansions of the system. Another innovation under construction in Phoenix is the PHX Sky Train. The PHX Sky Train replaces the existing airport shuttle that completes the last-mile journey from the light rail to Sky Harbor Airport.
Phoenix is not the only city in the Valley to have an innovative public transportation program. Tempe has created a fantastic branding scheme for their bus system – The Orbit. The Orbit is a free bus system whose lines are named after planets. The Orbit is a circulator bus that provides neighborhood service, is handicap accessible, caters to cyclists with bike racks on front of buses, and is planned to be alternatively fueled in its next replacement cycle. Recently, the Valley of the Sun has begun moving in the right direction with its public transportation. It is a sprawling metropolitan area with many planning problems, but the regional collaboration has proven to be a great asset.
Does regional transportation planning make sense for your city?
Credits: Photo copyright of James Gardner. Image and data linked to sources.