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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Light Rail is Only the Beginning for the Future of Arizona

I started to write this month’s article on the Amtrak train from Baltimore to Philadelphia . My plan was to leave on a direct flight from Phoenix to Philadelphia, but due to arriving at the airport at 12:05pm, I missed the check in for my 12:59pm flight. Consequently I was pushed back to a flight leaving Monday afternoon. Due to my commitments for Monday morning and the opportunities already lined up, I decided it would be best to catch a different flight. I was fortunate enough to get one of only two tickets left on Southwest to Baltimore .

I arrived in Baltimore around 9:00pm on Sunday evening and was able to catch a train from Baltimore to Philly by 10:30pm. The train was set to arrive in Philly by midnight. It was packed with people trying to get to New York , Connecticut , and Philadelphia due to flights being cancelled by a major snowstorm Sunday night.

The people were very nice and it seemed like it was no big deal for them to catch the train instead of flying – it was convenient and safe. I sat next to a Navy Officer who was on his way to New London , Connecticut . He was setting his alarm clock to wake him up at 5:30am; He was telling me that he should be home by 6:30am. As the train ride progressed, his stories were very interesting. He told me all about living on a submarine for months at a time and how he had been all over the world underwater.

As he started to snooze, I started to write. He reminded me of my most recent family adventures on light rail in Downtown Phoenix and how much I have enjoyed talking to the people traveling. Over the past few weeks my family and I have gone Downtown to ride the new Metro light rail. My wife and four children have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the city as passengers of this great new transportation system.

I was pleasantly surprised how many people were on the light rail and the diversity of its passengers. There were so many different families, workers, young and old couples, varying socio economic levels and many cultures represented. As you could imagine, it’s not very easy traveling with four children, but we had no problems at all. The people were so generous, offering their seats to us so we could sit together as a family. People were having neighborly conversations; it was great to hear passengers being very courteous saying, please, thank you and excuse me. I felt extremely proud of the citizens of Phoenix and the city as a whole. I remember thinking to myself, “we are finally starting to mature as a city.”

I was born and raised in South Phoenix (SoPho) and although I remember catching the TICO bus system, the feeling on the light rail was much different. Even today my perception of the city is different being behind the wheel of an SUV. The light rail has given me a new and fresh perspective of the City of Phoenix and its future. You start to understand the potential for our city to become more sustainable and think about how we travel for work and leisure.

My children are totally stoked about going on the light rail! We have already been to the Spaghetti Factory for an affordable dinner, Macayo’s for its great chips and salsa and the Fair Trade Café to play checkers and drink hot coco. As we were driving home from our second trip, my oldest daughter stated “dad wouldn’t it be awesome to catch the light rail from your office on Saint Catherine’s and Central Avenue!” I took a minute to think about her question and began to imagine all the possibilities for people to discover the great assets we have in SoPho. I imagined where all the stops could possibly be placed, one at Lo Lo’s chicken and Waffles, Comedor Guadalajara, the new 600 acre Rio Salado habitat restoration project and Audubon Education Center, Pete’s Fish and Chips, Ranch Market, Poncho’s, Los Dos Molino’s and ending at the South Mountain Preserve. “That would be awesome!” I told her.

I am finishing this article on the Acela Express Train from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. As we are traveling over a 120 miles per hour, I realize that we are just beginning to scratch the surface with light rail. I can’t help but imagine seeing myself sometime in the future traveling on a similar system from Phoenix to Flagstaff , Tucson or even Mexico . Now that would be awesome!



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