June 2001 News Capsules June 22nd, 2001
PHOENIX â€“ â€œLight rail roaring toward overrun?â€ Arizona Republic, 9 June 2001. QUOTE: â€œBuilding 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.â€
ARIZONA â€“ â€œUnion Pacific right of way key to future: Arizona can’t risk losing rail link to L.A.â€ Arizona Republic, 20 May 2001. QUOTE: â€œWith 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.â€
FLORENCE â€“ â€œFlorence tries to engineer scenic rail dealâ€ Arizona Republic, 12 May 2001. QUOTE: â€œJim Webbâ€¦ Florence’s economic development director, is trying to engineer a $3 million deal to create a scenic railway along the Gila River, carrying tourists from Florence to Kearny. Florence’s town manager, John Geib, said the line could turn Pinal County into a tourist’s day trip, with other stops at Coolidge’s Casa Grande Ruins and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior.â€
ARIZONA â€“ â€œADOT seeks to keep 76 miles of rail lineâ€ Arizona Republic, 4 May 2001. QUOTE: â€œThe director of the Arizona Department of Transportation met this week with a top Amtrak official to discuss ways to preserve a rail line west of Phoenix that is destined for destruction. â€˜We think it would be in our long-term interest to retain that corridor,â€™ ADOT chief Mary Peters said of a 76-mile stretch of track west of Phoenix that connects with the mainline to Los Angeles.â€
TUCSON â€“ â€œLight rail can boost region’s economyâ€ by Stephen Farley, Arizona Daily Star, 3 May 2001. QUOTE: â€œLight 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.â€
PHOENIX â€“ â€œReturn to a track- less desert? Phoenix may lose rail-passenger linksâ€ by Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic, 2 May 2001.
CALIFORNIA â€“ â€œCalifornia gets 20-year, $10.1 billion rail plan,â€ Railway Age, April 2001. QUOTE: â€œAmong improvementsâ€¦ would be hourly trains between Los Angeles and San Diegoâ€¦ hourly service between San Jose, Oakland, and Sacramentoâ€¦ new or expanded service to Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Monterey, Reno, and Reddingâ€¦ San Bernardino and Riverside.â€ Trip times on several corridors would be cut by 40 to 45 minutes.
UTAH â€“ â€œUtah advances commuter rail planâ€ Railway Age, April 2001. QUOTE: â€œThe Utah Transit Authority has reached an agreement in principle with Union Pacificâ€¦ which would permit UTA to put commuter trains on UP tracks between Ogden and Brigham City, and build its own corridor inâ€¦ the Salt Lake City – Ogden corridor. It would also open the way for further commuter rail development and extension of UTAâ€™s Trax light rail systemâ€¦â€
DALLAS â€“ Also according to Railway Age, the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, encouraged by the success of Trinity Railway Express commuter trains, is now interested in a rail connection to the DART trains.
GLENDALE â€“ â€œ$1 billion transit blueprint includes light-rail link to Phoenixâ€ by Lori Baker, The Arizona Republic, 20 April 2001. QUOTE: â€œA $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.â€
GERMANY â€“ Lufthansa has begun â€œAIRailâ€ service, with trains carrying airline passengers from Frankfurt am Main to Stuttgart. Service from Frankfurt to Cologne is under consideration. Both rail trips are competitive with airplane times. Here in Arizona, a rail connection between Sky Harbor International to Tucson International Airports could easily accomplish similar goals.
HIGH SPEED RAIL â€“ â€œComfortable, attractively-priced trainsâ€ by Michael D. Sternfeld and David R. Johnson, Railway Age, April 2001. Authors support incremental improvements in rail passenger service to pave the way for truly high speed service later. QUOTE: â€œToday, Talgo Cascades [in Washington and Oregon] with dramatically improved onboard amenities have allowed Amtrak to shave 25 minutes off the [early 1990s] schedule, with minimal infrastructure investment. Ridership has increased nearly six-fold, and customer satisfaction figures have risen as well. The Cascades example proves initial rail service improvements need not be truly high speed to attract the traveling public.â€
Gilbert Approves Gateway Plan with Commuter Rail Station June 21st, 2001
Gilbert has taken the lead in the the metropolitan Phoenix area by becoming the first to designate a formally designating a commuter rail station.
On July 25, 2000, the Gilbert Town Council approved an update to their General Plan, calling for a densely populated urban â€œvillageâ€ south of Williams Field Road, between Recker and Higley. Among the centerpieces of this development is the designation of a future commuter rail stop southwest of that intersection. This is to be surrounded by retail, office, and residential spaces, in a traditional â€œMain Streetâ€ town center design.
The Independent newspapers quotes planning director Jerry Swanson: â€œThe village center will be a high density center modeled after the Mill Avenue area in Tempe, centered at the intersection of Williams Field Road and Reckerâ€¦ it will have a higher density than anywhere else in town.â€ The design is to encourage pedestrian and bicycle access, with shuttle buses linking to the college and airport facilities.
Gilbertâ€™s changed General Plan, Community Design Element, now seeks to â€œPromote and design a commuter-rail / shuttle-bus transit station, with a park & ride lot along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, near the Village Centerâ€ and â€œPromote rail-oriented development around the future rail transit station so that commuter rail transit will be feasible and implemented for the East Valley and the Gilbert Gateway area.â€
The developers of the Cooley Station property, on which the designated rail station lies, are enthusiastic about the promise of commuter rail service for the residents who will live in the new community. ARPA hopes to continue to work with the town and with the developers to fulfill this potential.
With funding forthcoming from SRP, among other sources, and a possible Commuter Rail study later this year, it is greatly encouraging to see ARPAâ€™s efforts over the past 22 years finally paying off in an integrated transportation system with buses, light rail, commuter rail, regional rail, and intercity rail.
We are getting there â€“ one step at a time.
Why Rail? June 21st, 2001
Presidentâ€™s Letter â€” June 2001
from the Western Rail Passenger Review
Commentary by William Lindley
An argument we hear occasionally is that Arizona, or Tucson, or Phoenix, â€œdoes not have the density for transit to work.â€ Why is this wrong? John Bredin explains it this way:
â€œBack at the last turn of the century, the New York subways were extended into farmland and sleepy villages in the boroughs of Bronx and Queens. No, that’s not a misprint. The area that is now the home of millions, block after block of apartments and small houses, was essentially â€˜exurbanâ€™ until the subway ran through them. There are pictures, in various books on the history of the New York subway, of the four-track Queens Boulevard line being built literally through fields of grain! Once the line was built, they fields grew a â€˜cropâ€™ of apartment buildings, houses, stores, theaters, etc..
â€œThis extension of transit into empty land was done on purpose: 1) as always, developers wanted to buy relatively inaccessible land cheaply and then sell or rent it when accessibility made it valuable. 2) Lower Manhattan was unbelievably crowded. Densities much higher than modern Manhattan, but without skyscraper apartment buildings to fit lots of people comfortably on a small piece of land. The city and private welfare groups wanted people to have decent housing but still work in the city, and encouraged the building of the subway. Cheap land in Queens and the Bronx made inexpensive but livable apartments possible. The subway made it possible for their residents to get to Manhattan jobs quickly.
â€œFor a more modern example: when suburban highways are extended into undeveloped rural areas just outside the present ring of suburban development, nobody complains that the roads will be empty because everyone knows that office parks and subdivisions will be popping up along the highway even before it’s completed.â€
Here in Arizona, itâ€™s not a question of whether our cities will continue to grow, for they will. We must rather decide whether to reward suburban sprawl, or to reward a channeling of denser development along existing travel corridors like the new light rail line and the existing BNSF and UP rail lines where commuter and regional trains will run. The emphasis on existing corridors is far more sensible, for it not only encourages pedestrian-friendly development, reduces the stress on other infrastructure (power and telephone lines, water and sewer pipes), and diminishes the amount of native desert we have to flatten to maintain our economic growth.
Rail, then, is among other things, a method of social engineering. Rail allows us to channel development where want it â€” not by laws and â€œpunishing bad behaviorâ€ but by rewarding the type of development we want