Sunday, January 04, 2009

Light Rail Impressions

On Friday afternoon, I finally had the opportunity to check out metro Phoenix's new light rail line. The rail line runs from Sycamore and Main in Mesa (roughly Dobson and Apache to Tempeans) to Montebello and 19th Ave. in Phoenix (aka - Christown Mall).

While the crowds were smaller in size than those reported for the opening day festivities (and the free rides), the trains were still full. A number of riders were like me and just checking it out, but there were also a large number of actual users, people using the train to commute from point A to point B and back again.

My impressions, both good and bad -

...The system was clean (not surprising given its brand spankin' newness), but more importantly, it was bright and visually friendly.

...The station ticket kiosks could be a little more user friendly. I wanted to purchase an "all day pass" ($2.50), but couldn't figure out how to make the kiosk even get to the mode to go there.

...The stations need more signs (that are readable from the trains) to indicate what station you are at - right now there is one sign, and if you miss that one as your car pulls by, you are out of luck. Yes, the PA systems announces the station, but if the car is full and you can't hear the PA over the conversations around you... :((

...The route is really well-placed for going to/from downtown Phoenix, going by or through the Arts District, Chase Field/U.S. Airways Center, Phoenix Convention Center, etc.

...The route is also convenient for students attending either ASU's main campus or the campus in downtown Phoenix. In addition to the Phoenix locales in proximity to the route, it goes right by Wells Fargo Arena and Sun Devil Stadium on ASU's Tempe campus.

...The crowded passengers, were, well...*friendly*. People talked to each other and were polite, especially when seated passengers gave up their seats to elderly passengers or to other passengers with small children.

...Not sure what it says about the folks running Phoenix's light rail system, but at least in the cars I was in, the signage for the "don'ts" (no open containers, no eating, no weapons, no loud music (even on headphones), etc.) was in both English and Spanish.

The signage for normal and emergency procedures (location of bike racks, how to open the doors in an emergency, etc.)?? Not so much.

In fact, not at all. Those signs were all in English and were text-only.

While the likes of Russell Pearce and JT Ready might object, upgrading the signage would definitely be appropriate. At least make them English with visual cues.

...In addition to the number of cultural and sporting destinations that the rail route is close to, there is one less obvious but far more vital destination that can be easily accessed via train -

The headquarters of the Arizona Democratic Party, and next door to it, the HQ of the Maricopa County Democratic Party, are at the corner of Central and Thomas in Phoenix.

There is a light rail stop at Central and Phoenix.

What that means is that Democratic volunteers from LDs 18, 17, 16, 15, and 14 (and 13, 12, 11, and 10 are close) are able to journey in air-conditioned comfort to downtown to help out at the headquarters without having to spend money on gas or having to deal with traffic.


...Overall impression - It's nice to see metro Phoenix moving boldly into the mid- to late-20th century (Hey, this isn't exactly cutting edge technology. It's still a big step up for a place like AZ).

I just hope that after the gawker riderships fades that people still use and appreciate what has begun here.

The impressions of AZ blogger Shrimplate here; EV Tribune columnist Mark Scarp offers up his take here.

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