Phoenix marks first year of light rail

The Arizona Republic is running all manner of “year in review” stories, so of course Phoenix marks first year of light rail, Dec 26, 2009 hit the news.

The light-rail cars are cyclist-friendly, greatly aiding multi-modal trips to many valley locations. The lines themselves have caused some difficulties, though that was due to engineering missteps.

The first year of operation has exceeded ridership estimates “On Dec. 27 last year, Metro opened on time and on budget. Over the next 12 months, the $1.4 billion system carried an average of nearly 35,000 passengers a day, 34 percent over estimates” and fares are covering 24% of operating expenses, despite losses on the corporate cards caused by other confusions.

The light rail, of course, garnered all sorts of opposition from anti-rail (and anti-public-transit, or perhaps I should say pro-car) folks.  On any and all grounds including that it is claimed to be phenomenally dangerous. “( light rail) averaged almost a collision a week, causing lingering doubts about light rail’s safety”. But is that really a problem, or unexpected, or out of line? Nobody seems to know. What is clear is that negligent motorists are at fault: “…No one has died, and no pedestrians or bicyclists have been hit. Police have attributed every accident to motorists ignoring traffic signal” (emphasis added).

Notwithstanding fault, is ~ 50 collisions significant? Nobody says. Keep in mind that Phoenix PD investigates ~ twenty thousand motor vehicle collisions per year.