The Valley's Light Rail Remains a Hot Issue

With the race for mayor of Phoenix running hot right now several topics are rising to prominence- including the extension of public transportation in the form of the light rail. While both candidates generally support its expansion, they differ on how to proceed with its return on investment. Regardless of what direction they take, it is certain to be full of challenges as the extension has generated a significant amount of controversy.

The Light Rail began operating in 2008 and originally served the towns of Tempe, Mesa, and Phoenix. It has expanded north to include Glendale and future expansions will connect it to South Phoenix and improve on the infrastructure in Tempe. Riders can pay $2 for a one way trip or $4 for an all-day pass. Payment is accepted both at the stations themselves and on the Valley metro app, which is still being tested. With nearly 50,000 weekly riders in 2016, the Phoenix Light rail system was the 14th most widely used in the country with that number projected to grow substantially as the downtown urban centers of Phoenix, Tempe and the rest of the valley continue to develop and grow and as the extensions continue.

The light rail serves as an important part of Phoenix’s infrastructure by providing a relatively low cost method of transportation to the city and allowing for individuals without cars to get around, something that was incredible difficult to do before the light rail was developed. Infrastructure of this type is extremely important for staffing agencies like All Quality Labor because it allows workers to access jobs they otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. This expands economic activity and benefits workers, employers, and consumers.  Ideally the continued expansion of the Light Rail will continue to benefit the citizens of the Valley.

However there are some detractors of the Light Rail, particularly the proposed Southern Expansion. These detractors point to the economic cost of expansion, especially the short term closure of roads that provide critical transportation to small businesses in the area. These local small businesses will be cut off from customers by construction, which can potentially drive some of them out of business before they can ever even see any of the benefits of the Light Rail. Additionally, some roads will be shortened by a lane even after the project is completed, which some argue will ultimately be worse for the local community even with the Light Rail providing an alternate method of transportation.

Ultimately, even though there are many who oppose its expansion, the Light Rail has enough political support to continue its growth. Hopefully, this and other infrastructure projects such as the expansion of the Loop 202 will help ease the traffic congestion in one of the country’s fastest growing cities and provide economic opportunities to those who lack other means of movement.