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The future of Light Rail in Phoenix


The Light Rail in Phoenix is way cool. If you've been on it, you know. And if you haven't been, and think you know, like I thought I did, you'll be in for a pleasant surprise. And it comes down to a totally different feeling from being on a bus, or in a car.

Like most people my age, I rode the bus before I got a car, when I was 18, and never really thought about public transportation after that. I owned some unreliable cars in my twenties, so I remember the disgrace of walking or riding the bus. I was just hoping that no one would see me at the bus stop. Yes, there's a stigma to riding the bus, sorry. Standing on a street corner while cars zoom by is just awful. The few times that I've ridden the bus in Los Angeles, and in Phoenix, I always feel as if someone should pull over in their limo while I'm sitting there, and hand me some cash through the window.

But the feeling of the Light Rail is different. In principle it's the same thing, you sit somewhere and wait for a big machine to show up, and you get into it with a bunch of other people, but it's not the same feeling as being at a bus stop. The Light Rail stations aren't squeezed into a dirty, forgotten area of a sidewalk, they sit proudly right in the middle of things. When I'm at a Light Rail station I feel as if I'm going somewhere important, or fun. I'm not huddled into a corner. And it gets better.

The Light Rail stops at each stop. You don't have to be looking out of the window, and pulling a cord to make it stop, and worrying that you might miss your stop, like on a bus. It just stops. And people don't have to stand in line, there are multiple wide doors that open up. I don't hang my head getting off of the Light Rail, the way I do getting off of a bus. The Light Rail feels dynamic and vital, and it glides past all of the cars waiting in traffic jams. You really do get a sense of "look at those poor people stuck in their cars!"

The problem, of course, is that the Light Rail hasn't yet made its way out to where I am, in Glendale. And that means that for me to get to what I call "the end of the line" - which is now at 19th Avenue and Dunlap, I have to drive there, or take a bus, which spoils the whole effect in my opinion. So I'm looking forward to the future, and I'll tell you what I know, and what I'm hoping for.

The next major project for the Light Rail will be to get to Metrocenter, which is just west of the I-17 Freeway north of Dunlap. I've seen the plans, and it looks like they're gonna build a Light Rail Bridge across the freeway just north of Dunlap. I'm looking forward to seeing this! It's not physically a long way to go from 19th Avenue to Metrocenter, but engineering-wise there's a lot that has to be done. So it's gonna take a few years.

After that, my hope is that the Light Rail will continue along Dunlap going west to Glendale Community College (no, this isn't any kind of plan I've read about, I'm just dreaming here). Aside from the fact that I live near GCC, and it would be wonderful to have the Light Rail right nearby, it seems to make sense. I'm inclined to think that they wouldn't go all of the way south to Grand Canyon University, but who knows? One thing I'm sure of is that the Light Rail will get to the Cardinals Stadium, which is on Glendale Avenue just east of the 101 Freeway.

Until the Light Rail is built out to my part of town (hopefully!), I'll have to take bus to "the end of the line". It's really not that bad, but it's the bus, not the Light Rail.