The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

Our Mission: Monkeywrench the Anti-Transit Forces

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Thursday, July 17, 2003


Home of More Transit Links Than You can Possibly Check(tm), Unless you have no life other than websurfing

"Truth passes through three phases: 1) It is ridiculed. 2) It is violently opposed. 3) It is accepted as self-evident." Albert Schopenhouer. In the United States, rail is currently passing through Phase Two.

From the Cabalmaster:

The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal is pleased to bring you the following details of light rail progress in Phoenix.

On March 14, 2000, Phoenix voters approved a 0.4-percent sales tax for public transit, including light rail. "Yeas" outnumbered "nays" by two to one. This was the third attempt to win voter approval for major new transit funding in Phoenix. According to the Federal Transit Administration, the plan attracted the third-highest "yes" vote aver recorded for a U.S. transit-funding ballot measure. Details of previous transit and highway funding measures are here

The plan includes Sunday bus service, expanded bus service, and 24 miles of light rail to be built over a 16-year period. The official Valley Metro Rail website is here The advocacy group "Friends of Transit" also has a website, here

The 20.3-mile light rail starter segment will connect Phoenix Spectrum Mall (formerly known as Chris-Town Mall) and central Phoenix with Tempe and Mesa to the east. It will serve Sky harbor International Airport by a connection with the planned airport people mover. Construction is planned to start in spring 2004. The first segment, between Phoenix Central Station and Tempe Transit Center, is scheduled to open on December 16, 2006. The remainder will be completed by August 2007.

The estimated cost is $1.03 billion, with federal funds anticipated to pay $500 million. Owing to Bush Administration plans to limit federal funding to $80 million per year to any one project, Phoenix plans to issue $500 million in bonds to provide an adequate cash flow during the peak of the construction period (2004-2006). (This will cost an estimated $205 million in debt service -- way to go, W., stick it to local taxpayers! Of course, the Bushmen are probably not pleased that those . . . miscreants . . . voted for the project.)

The vehicle design, "Concept V," was unveiled in January 2002; details here and here Design prototypes for the 26 stations envision a series of towers with white louvers to create areas of shade for waiting passengers, a concept dubbed "cool screen." See here fore details Phoenix also plans a transit-oriented development "zoning overlay" diatrict to guide development around light rail stations

FTA issued a Record of Decision on the Final Environmental Impact Statement in January 2003; see here This clears the way for the final design phase (expected to begin in summer 2003) and permits the cities to begin purchasing land. FTA reported in February that the Phoenix light rail project is one of the best "new starts" in the country, and was rated "highly recommended." Details are here Phoenix mayor Skip Rimsza said that this rating "virtually assures" eventual federal funding; A Full Funding Grant Agreement is expected in early 2004.

Valley Metro Rail held a contest to select a name and logo for the new light rail service; details here Details of the nine "finalists," selected by a citizens' committee, are here The Valley Metro board will select the "winner" (, but the planned June 18 date was postponed to fall.

Projections of rapid growth -- the regional population is expected to double by 2030 -- have led to predictions of gridlock if Maricopa County voters do not renew a half-cent sales tax for transportation set to expire in 2005. The Maricopa Association of Governments (the metropolitan planning organization, or "MPO") is considering three draft proposals, emphasizing "freeways," "arterials" or "mass transit;" details here

Phoenix's transit director explains the case for light rail here URL is: Not everybody is pleased. Support from the Arizona Congressional delegation has been, at best, lukewarm. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl appear to have a visceral dislike for the project. Check this link to read a weak attempt at satire; "Light Rail Man," a rewrite of "Nowhere Man" by The Beatles, aimed at Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza (These guys are stealing our act!). On this page, you'll also see a link to a piece titled "On May Day Celebrate Capitalism," written by Edwin A. Locke of the Ayn Rand Institute.

Aside from lugubrious lamentations by Libertarian lamebrains, light rail has also generated the type of problems, and problem-solving, associated with any large public works project. The 13.4 miles of line within Phoenix would be built in medians and paved only at intersections. Early in February 2003, business owners along Central Avenue complained that rock-ballasted track would "permanently scar" Central. However, paving the track would add $3 to $4 million, depending on material: "pavers" or stamped concrete. A local improvement district is one of the options under consideration. Early in May, the Citizens Transit Commission approved combining two statiions into one to improve access to Gate Way Community College, and for Sky Harbor Airport employees. Final approval by the Valley Metro board is required; details here

The city council in the upscale suburb of Scottsdale voted to designate Scottsdale Road as a possible future transit corridor, but council members made clear that they don't want light rail. One called light rail a "heinous" option, and others stated that light rail would "devastate" the "tourist-town atmosphere" of Scottsdale (Gotta keep the hoi polloi away from our golf courses and country clubs!)

Light rail is a popular idea elsewhere in the region. An 18-month, $2.5 million study was approved by the Phoenix city council early in 2003 to investigate a light-rail extension from Phoenix Spectrum mall to Metrocenter Mall in North Phoenix. This would extend about four miles with about four stations. The target date for completion is 2010. See here for details.

And, as a postscript -- that's about all he deserves -- we'll note that Wendell is VERY displeased.

The Wonderful Wizard of Fudge got one of his usual screeds published in the "East Valley Tribune," Mesa, AZ ("Playing with Trains," August 6, 2002). He claims, among other things, that "Light Rail Results in Increased Traffic Congestion in Portland, Dallas, and St. Louis" (no, no, no, we're not making this up; see; the "Jefferson Review" is a Libertarian-leaning online publication). This drew a snappy response by Bill Becwar and published online by The New New Electric Railway Journal here.

(Try not to laugh too loudly as you read Wendell's windy wordplay . . .)

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