Phoenix Light Rail Opens up New Possibilities


The next time you’re in Phoenix, I highly recommend taking a ride on the newly opened light rail. Whether your niche involves marketing apartment communities, financing them or building them (or, like me, reporting on them) I’d say checking out public transportation options from time to time is a no-brainer. It’s interesting to see the backbone of future transit-oriented development in action.

I didn’t intend to research the Metro Light Rail ($2.50 for a day pass) while in Phoenix for the NAA’s green conference, but it turned out that my hotel was much closer to the airport than to downtown. Also, I thought the train would save me lots of time—it did, but first I had to get myself to the light rail. This meant catching a ride with the hotel shuttle, and aligning myself to its schedule.

Needless to say, I just took an expensive taxi back from the convention center that evening. As the Urban Land Institute points out in its “10 principles for Successful Development Around Transit,” TOD is a great idea, but it can be challenging to get people to ride transit.

Overall, my experience drove home the reality that while some cities are made for driving, it’s also true that many more of us could develop an appetite for public transportation if it’s fast, inexpensive, and stops at ALL the places we need to go.

The Metro Light Rail describes itself as “a great way to get to work, school, shopping and events in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa.”

The city of Phoenix has initiated a Station Area Planning Program in support of transit-oriented development (TOD) around light rail stations. Local residents, business owners, and community groups are encouraged to improve the connectivity of their neighborhood’s light rail system by becoming involved. They’ve been invited to submit plans to identify opportunities for new development.

However, as Eugene Gilligan, senior editor, Commercial Property News, reports, “In the near term, development along the light rail corridor is likely to be subdued due to the credit crisis and the economic recession. But there’s a silver lining. The slowdown in the development cycle,” will mean more time that can be used for planning purposes. Click here to read his story, “As Phoenix Light Rail Debuts, Will T.O.D. Get on Track?”

(Diana Mosher is Editor in Chief of MHN. You can contact her at