» In spite of questions over whether the federal streetcar program has a future and the death of a project in Fort Worth, local dollars are distributed to build new links in Cincinnati, Dallas, New Orleans, and Tempe.
Last week’s decision by officials in Fort Worth, Texas to halt planning work on the city’s streetcar line struck a blow to the nation’s nascent collection of modern streetcar lines, one of the Obama Administration’s biggest transportation policy moves. Local leaders backed down from a $25 million grant received from the federal government earlier this year, arguing that the city wasn’t ready to invest its own money in a project that some suggested shouldn’t be funded by taxpayers.
The decision reinforced the commonly heard argument that the federal government is encouraging a form of transportation that is not fully accepted by people on the ground. It is certainly true that
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» Planners suggest that the current 27-mile expansion plan isn’t big enough to meet the travel demands of the region’s population.
Now that they have gotten their hands wet, Phoenix’s leaders are pushing for a much larger transit investment than planned before the opening of their first light rail line. Apparently once you get a taste of the stuff, there’s no turning back.
Arizona’s first modern light rail transit line opened in December 2008, running twenty miles from Mesa to Alhambra’s Spectrum Mall, via Tempe, Sky Harbor Airport, and downtown Phoenix. The $1.4 billion Valley Metro Rail project was predicted to carry an average of 26,000 daily riders. But like many similar rail lines that have opened in recent years, Phoenix has shot past initial estimates, reaching an average of 35,000 daily users and succeeding in distributing traffic relatively evenly throughout the day and on weekends,
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This weekend, Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the United States with 1.5 million people, opened its first rail line in sixty years. This light rail line, a part of the region-wide Valley Metro system, will also serve the cities of Tempe and Mesa, with populations of 174,000 and 453,000, respectively, and the airport in the middle, called Phoenix Sky Harbor International. This passes the honor of “largest U.S. city without a rail transit system” to San Antonio, Texas, with a population of 1.3 million (#7), which, as far as we know, has no plans to build one (other than a potential commuter line to Austin).
Phoenix’s light rail opening attracted a lot of crowds this weekend. People were attracted to th $1.4 billion project, whose 20-mile line crisscrosses the region and will allow easier access to downtown Phoenix, Arizona State University, and the airport (which is
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