2001 News Wrapup December 31st, 2001
- “Sleek or boxy? Residents get say on Valley’s light-rail style,” Arizona Republic, 19 October 2001. QUOTES: “Light-rail planners have come up with four train styles and are asking residents to pick one and offer ideas for specific exterior amenities, such as window types. Preliminary designs show three contemporary cars with small variations while the fourth is an older style used by Portland, Oregon… while the trains won’t begin hauling passengers until 2006, planners said a final rail car design must be ready by next summer.
- “Amtrak travelers: Forget Phoenix” by Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic, 17 October 2001.
- Letter: Comment on Closing of Phoenix Station by William Lindley, 12 October 2001. Printed in the East Valley Tribune newspapers on 17 October 2001.
- “Light rail sparks transit-tax debate,” Arizona Republic, 12 October 2001.
- Letter: Comment on Closing of Phoenix Station by William Lindley, 12 October 2001.
- “Transit issue an emotional trip All options included in single vote” by Dennis Godfrey, The Arizona Republic 10 October 2001.
- “Transit vote’s ‘little tickets’” The Arizona Republic 10 October 2001.
- Maricopa Grand Opening: 16 October 2001
- “Travelers taking train again” by Mary Jo Pitzl The Arizona Republic 27 September 2001. QUOTES: “Ronnie Miller lugged two overstuffed duffel bags and a bulging suitcase into Union Station, Phoenix’s old rail depot, preparing for a 28-hour ride to San Francisco… Like the Millers, more Americans are sticking to the ground, turning to trains and buses if they need to travel… Even in Phoenix, where taking a train takes determination, Amtrak is drawing unprecedented interest…”
- “Airline rescue should be first step to better transportation system” by Jon Talton, Arizona Republic, 26 September2001. ABSTRACT: Talton calls for high speed and intercity rail as part of a national transportation system
- “Glendale tax promises more buses, light rail” by Dennis Godfrey, Arizona Republic, 16 June 2001.
- “Glendale closer to vote on transit: Council to decide on transportation plan in 2 weeks” Arizona Republic, 13 June 2001. QUOTES: “Glendale took another step toward asking its voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation improvements… Light rail is the glamour item in the proposal. Council members spent much of a three-hour meeting discussing a proposed two-mile corridor to be built in the city. They concluded that no specific route should be identified but that the line should run either along Bethany Home Road or Northern Avenue.”
- “Light rail roaring toward overrun?” Arizona Republic, 9 June 2001. QUOTE: “Building the Valley’s electric rail line could cost $187 million more than residents were told a year ago, according to a recent application for federal money to help fund the project.”
- “Union Pacific right of way key to future: Arizona can’t risk losing rail link to L.A.” Arizona Republic, 20 May 2001. QUOTE: “With our cars stuck in traffic and our planes stacked up at Sky Harbor, we must not abandon a real transportation alternative. Already we risk losing a competitive advantage to cities that are chugging ahead on rail projects. Fortunately, transportation chief Mary Peters is on board. She hasn’t given up on a Phoenix-Los Angeles rail link.”
- “Light rail can boost region’s economy” by Stephen Farley, Arizona Daily Star, 3 May 2001. QUOTE: “Light rail is not just a transit mode; it is a powerful tool for economic development. Over the past 15 years, there has been a light rail transit renaissance.”
- “Return to a track-less desert? Phoenix may lose rail-passenger links” by Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic, 2 May 2001.
- GLENDALE — “$1 billion transit blueprint includes light-rail link to Phoenix” by Lori Baker, The Arizona Republic, 20 April 2001. QUOTE: “A $1 billion proposed transportation package includes financial incentives for Phoenix to speed up construction of its light-rail transit line from Chris-Town Mall at 19th Avenue to 43rd Avenue, where it would connect with Glendale’s light-rail system. The light-rail line is part of a bigger transportation package Glendale residents could vote on Nov. 6 if the City Council opts to ask for a half-cent sales-tax increase to pay for the improvement package.”
- PHOENIX — “Kids speak for station on rail line” The Arizona Republic, 20 April 2001. QUOTE: “The two dozen students had never been to Phoenix City Hall or the City Council’s chambers. But it didn’t take them long to make themselves at home… The council’s transportation and technology subcommittee listened large last week. Although it wasn’t an original recommendation, it agreed to buy land at 32nd Street and build a station, money permitted.”
- PHOENIX — “Central Corridor ready to become more than a wall of skyscrapers ” by Jon Talton, The Arizona Republic 18 April 2001. QUOTE: “As it emerged in the 1960s, the Central Corridor was a rationalization for land speculation that hurt downtown and created a view-killing wall of skyscrapers. Now, thanks to a combination of urban residential projects and the planned light-rail system, we could finally realize the corridor’s promise.”
- GLENDALE — “Panel ponders tax hike for transit” by Lori Baker The Arizona Republic 18 April 2001. QUOTE: “Expanded bus service, light-rail transit and improvements to 30 street intersections are among proposed Glendale transportation improvements that would be funded by a half-cent sales-tax increase. The Glendale Citizens Advisory Committee for Transportation Issues will decide April 26 whether to recommend a transit tax on the Nov. 6 ballot. Tempe and Phoenix voters have approved similar plans and are in the midst of improving their transit programs.”
- “Fears, cheers for light rail: Many keep track of proposed 20-mile system” Arizona Republic, 17 April 2001. QUOTE: “Waves of fear and optimism are rolling through Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa along the 20-mile route of the Valley’s proposed light-rail system.”
- “Hear the lonesome whistle blow from deep in that traffic jam” by Jon Talton, Arizona Republic, 9 April 2001. QUOTES: “Phoenix is by far the largest city in America with no intercity passenger rail service, yet another sign of our backwardness and paralysis. I’ve had a lot of time to think about that, stuck in traffic jams between Phoenix and Tucson or stuck in airplanes on the tarmac in LA… California, which grapples with urban congestion similar to ours, has become ever more aggressive in diverting more money from freeways to trains. The Bay Area is laced with commuter train routes. San Diego and Los Angeles are linked by 11 daily round-trips. Not us. We sit in isolation, sitting longer, wondering why.”
- “10 Most Improved Transit Systems” Metro Magazine, April 2001, page 40. QUOTE: “Phoenix Transit… Bus rapid transit, cross town skip services and light rail are all headed to Phoenix in the near future (2003, 2002 and 2006, respectively).”
- “Get state on track” Letter by William Lindley, Arizona Republic, 7 April 2001. QUOTE: “southern Arizona has hundreds of miles of eight-lane highway we’re not using.”
- “7 light rail stations seen for 5.8 miles of Tempe” Arizona Republic 5 April 2001. QUOTES: “Tempe could send part of its rail train underground and realign two streets to make way for a light-rail route that will snake through the city… Part of the rail line runs just south of Arizona State University’s intercollegiate athletics building, near a planned station at Fifth Street and College Avenue. The university is expanding that facility to the existing railroad tracks. That means as much as 600 feet of light rail could run underground or the track could be rerouted to avoid the expansion and better accommodate pedestrians… Meantime, a station on Apache Boulevard, just east of Loop 101 (Price Freeway), would be built with a park-and-ride lot for hundreds of cars; a proposed Apache/McClintock Drive station, though not yet approved, could also have a smaller park-and-ride lot.”
- “Tempe designs light-rail bridge” Arizona Republic 28 March 2001, page B1. “Tempe is making a public pitch starting this week to design a light-rail bridge over Town Lake and change the location of one station.” (alternate location)
- SRP to provide Commuter Rail study funds. From Permit conditions: “On Feb. 12, 2001, the Arizona Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Committee recommended by a 6-to-1 vote that Salt River Project (SRP) be granted a certificate of environmental compatibility (CEC) for its Santan Expansion Project (called “the Project” in the text below) in Gilbert, Arizona. The Committee recommended that the certificate include the following conditions listed below. Many of these conditions are attempts to solve potential problems brought forward during the several months of testimony before the Arizona Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Committee. SRP fully embraces these changes and will work diligently to make them successful. … Condition 12 SRP shall actively work with all interested Valley cities, including at a minimum, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Queen Creek and Gilbert, to fund a Major Investment Study through the Regional Public Transit Authority to develop concepts and plans for commuter rail systems to serve the growing population of the East Valley. SRP will contribute a maximum of $400,000 to this effort.“
- “Proposed stations will slow rail trip” Arizona Republic, 23 March 2001, page B1 (East Valley) “A light-rail train expected to whisk passengers between Phoenix and the East Valley will stop so frequently it owuld take 45 to 55 minutes to get from one end to the other of the 20-mile route.”
- “Had enough? Time to get serious about transportation options” by Jon Talton, Arizona Republic 21 March 2001, page B1. Talton dismisses dismisses four “Big Lies” — Transit doesn’t pay for itself; Transit means we’ll be forced out of our cars into dense city-center housing; Light rail is a boondoggle; Nobody will ride it.
- “Amtrak urged to focus on viable routes: Split train operations, facilities, panel says” Houston Chronicle, 21 March 2001. QUOTES: “National rail company Amtrak can become profitable only by shedding its government responsibilities and focusing exclusively on commercially viable train service, a federal panel says.”
- “Panel says Amtrak suffers ‘fundamental institutional flaws’” Fox News, 20 March 2001. QUOTE: “Amtrak, which has lost money every year since its creation in 1971, suffers from ‘fundamental institutional flaws’ and should no longer be expected to balance business and governmental responsibilities, a reform panel says in a new report.”
- The Amtrak Reform Council has issued its second annual report, available online.
- CALIFORNIA — “Get on Track, California” San Francisco Chronicle 5 March 2001. QUOTE: “If California wants help with its transportation worries, it should look no further than the little-used train tracks running through most communities. Rail travel, long ignored in a car-crazy state, has a renewed role to play.”
- COLORADO — ” State: ’03 best for RTD tax” Denver Post, 3 March 2001 (with map). QUOTE: “Colorado’s leading transportation official said it would be better to ask metro Denver voters in November 2003 for billions of dollars for transportation projects rather than next year. RTD is considering asking voters in the six-county metro area next year for a sales tax hike to pay for a network of commuterrail lines across the metro area, along with other transit improvements.”
- COLORADO — ” RTD to seek sales-tax hike for rail” Denver Post, 2 March 2001. QUOTE: “RTD says it can build a network of commuter-rail lines across the metro area by 2012 if voters approve a sales-tax increase to raise more than $2 billion.”
- WISCONSIN — “Amtrak service to Fond du Lac stalled” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 28 February 2001. QUOTE: “Amtrak’s proposed Milwaukee-to-Fond du Lac service isn’t likely to start until late this year at the earliest, railroad representatives said Wednesday.”
- ” Transportation targeted in proposed US budget cuts” Reuters, 28 February 2001. QUOTE: “The White House budget blueprint released Wednesday proposed increased funding for major aviation, highway and mass transit programs but wanted transportation spending in other areas reduced by $2.1 billion… The White House plan also called for $521 million in Amtrak funding.”
- Tempe asks fast track to stadium Arizona Republic, 26 February 2001. At Tempe’s request, the regional transit authority is considering speeding up construction of the electric train line so it will be running when the Cardinals’ stadium opens in four years.
- TEXAS — Dallas “DART seeks options to get cities on board” Dallas Morning News, 26 February 2001. QUOTE: “Once faced with keeping member cities from fleeing, Dallas Area Rapid Transit now faces the equally difficult task of figuring out how to accept new members. More than a dozen cities surrounding Dallas have approached the once-scorned agency with visions of buses and trains serving their residents. DART has developed a tentative proposal to extend commuter rail service more easily to nonmember cities, which could improve the region’s worsening traffic snarls. At the same time, it must consider the 13 cities that have dedicated almost $4 billion to build and run the agency’s trains, buses and high-occupancy vehicle lanes since 1984.”
- “Rapid transit study OK’d by Chandler” Arizona Repubic, 24 February 2001. Chandler is the latest city in the Valley to hop on the rapid transit bandwagon. The City Council unanimously approved a major investment study Thursday that will look into various methods of high capacity transit – including a light rail system that would connect to the light rail system planned for Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and Glendale. The major investment study will most likely begin in May and look at various rapid transit options like light rail, commuter rail, elevated rail, monorail and bus rapid transit. It will then decide which option is most feasible for Chandler.
- Tempe chosen for football stadium Arizona Republic, 14 February 2001. The site is adjacent to the light rail alignment, and UPRR tracks where regional rail may run.
- Stadium not just football to Tempe Arizona Republic, 14 February 2001. QUOTE: “Tempe said in its proposal that it would lobby for a second light-rail stop near the stadium, which will be located at Washington Street and Priest Drive.”
- City asked to aid firms along light-rail route Arizona Republic, 14 February 2001. QUOTES: “Those who took the microphone at a recent light-rail meeting didn’t waste time explaining what they hope will happen… Construction of the light-rail route, which will begin at Chris-Town Mall and run along 19th Avenue, Camelback Road, Central Avenue, Washington Street and then into Tempe and Mesa, will start in 2003 and conclude in late 2006. Voters approved the project last spring.”
- Glenn Jones’ map of Amtrak’s proposed Crescent Star. 14 February 2001.
- CALIFORNIA — “Altamont Line Getting New Trains” San Francisco Chronicle, 13 February 2001. QUOTE: “Relief is just around the bend for passengers of the Altamont Commuter Express, who cram their way onto two overcrowded daily trains between the San Joaquin Valley and Silicon Valley. ACE officials announced plans yesterday to begin running a third round-trip train March 5, with a fourth daily train on track for a fall start.”
- HOUSTON — “Legal Fight Stalls a City’s Plan for Light-Rail Relief” Houston Journal, 13 February 2001.
- FORT MADISON, IOWA — ” Amtrak, City Meet” The Hawkeye, 12 February 2001. QUOTE: “City and economic development officials will meet with Amtrak to discuss moving the Amtrak ticket office from its location in the rail yards at the foot of 20th Street to the restored Santa Fe Depot Museum.”
- “Businesses on edge over light-rail impact” Arizona Republic, 7 February 2001. with map. QUOTE: “The Valley’s planned light-rail system may be a boon to Phoenix commuters, but property owners along Camelback Road call it a bust… On Thursday, the business coalition will discuss the impacts and offer suggestions to ease the pain… Publicity about the rail project has been heavy and will include more details later this spring or early summer when environmental impacts are published… [R]esearch has shown in other cities with light rail that property values go up instead of down, as feared by Camelback owners.”
- Amtrak’s 20 year capital plan calls for, among other things, 333 new Superliner cars for long-distance travel. This would be 1/3 of the resulting long distance fleet. 2 February 2001. (Press release)
- “Airport light-rail route explored: Link to people mover might cost another $300 million” Arizona Republic, 2 January 2001. QUOTES: “Phoenix intends to pursue the idea of running the future light-rail transit line through Sky Harbor International Airport to ease congestion and provide a more efficient link to a proposed $200 million people mover that would whisk passengers from terminal to terminal. The people mover would be virtually worthless without the link, say critics of a plan to build the light rail line north of the airport.”
Private Companies Could Take Over Amtrak Routes December 14th, 2001
Arizona Republic, 14 December 2001, by Christopher Doering. QUOTES: “Amtrak, the money-losing national railroad, could have its routes divided among regional operators as part of a broad plan to restructure the passenger operator, the board that oversee its finances said on Friday.”
Comment on Closing of Phoenix Station October 12th, 2001
In 1996, Amtrak pulled its trains from Phoenix and Tempe, and replaced them with a bus. Now the last shreds of convenience — a downtown station and that connecting bus to Tucson — are being pulled as well.
Phoenix is being completely abandoned by Amtrak, will be replaced by a stop at a wide spot in the road at Maricopa, some thirty miles south of town – fifty or more miles from some of the most populous areas of the Valley.
Tourists who get off Amtrak’s three-times weekly (down from four times weekly earlier this year) Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle at Maricopa will find themselves at a depot outfitted with a beautifully refurbished streamliner railcar but without any way to get to Phoenix. There will be no bus, no taxi, and no rental car.
Those tourists will literally be stranded in the desert.
Would Amtrak close New York’s Pennsylvania Station and require New Yorkers to drive to a “new” stop in a New Jersey field? This is how they are treating America’s sixth largest city.
In 1970, Southern Pacific downgraded its daily “Sunset” to tri-weekly in a relatively successful effort to drive off any remaining travelers. For years, Amtrak promised to restore Phoenix’s train to daily — something which might actually be useful for travelers going to Los Angeles or Tucson. Now that Amtrak has abandoned its modest “Network Growth Strategy” announced last year, and any hope of its expanding its far-too-small fleet of passenger cars, there seems little hope of Phoenix getting any intercity trains any time soon.
Yet the events of September 11 showed the folly of putting all our transportation eggs in the airline basket. Phoenix and all of Arizona would benefit socially and economically from proper passenger train service.
Drive down I-10 or US 60 any time of day and they are filled with cars. Yet the parallel railroad tracks sit there unused except for a few freight trains. Meanwhile, cities across the country are using their railroad lines for commuter trains. Cities like Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego, and Dallas have commuter rail — operating on regular railroad tracks, unlike light rail which operates in the street — and all are scrambling to keep up with higher-than-expected ridership.
Between Phoenix and Tucson, I-10 is to be widened, and that means years of construction delays. With longer check-in times and vastly fewer short-distance flights, Phoenix-Tucson air travel is already a thing of the past. Again, the parallel railroad line sits ready, an eight-lane highway just waiting to be used.
The Union Pacific Railroad wants to abandon the “West Line” connecting Phoenix to Yuma. Perhaps they haven’t looked at the highways to see all the trucks going that way. Without that option, Phoenix is connected to Southern California only by road and air — and airline travel will now always be far more inconvenient. Can Arizona afford to cut its industrial and commercial lines to California and its ports? And can we afford to put all our travelers on the already overcrowded roads? No.
California has invested in passenger trains. Yes, Amtrak runs them, but only under contract from the State. Hundreds of thousands of people ride trains every day in California — a seeming impossibility in a place where people like nowhere else are married to their automobiles. Yet California realized that roads and airplanes alone wouldn’t address its needs. And we don’t need billion-dollar bullet trains. Today’s modern intercity trains between Tucson, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Diego would be filled with travelers and business people if they were convenient and frequent.
Arizona needs to get moving with commuter rail in metro Phoenix, with regional rail to Tucson, and needs to repeat California’s intercity rail successes, before we choke on our own traffic jams.
Our state’s economy depends on it.
And we certainly can’t depend on Amtrak for much help.
Arizona Rail Passenger Association
Tempe Mayor Recall Fails September 12th, 2001
Light rail opponent Gene Ganssle failed to unseat rail supporter Neil Giuliano in Tuesday’s recall election. Giuliano was re-elected by 68% of city voters.
Metro Phoenix Commuter Rail Study Progresses September 1st, 2001
By October, we expect the commuter rail study contract will be awarded to a transportation consulting firm. This is a joint study sponsored by MAG and RPTA. The study, to last about one year, will look at all existing and any possible future rail corridors in the Valley, and will build on already-completed rail passenger studies.