Tag Archives: Phoenix

Phoenix Commuter Rail: The Beginning of A Plan

With the Talk Transportation community engagement in full swing I figured it is time to dedicate a full post to Commuter Rail and its importance to Downtown.

Why Commuter Rail is important to Downtown Phoenix:

Downtown Phoenix gets over 85 thousand daily commuters, plus thousands more for sports, concerts, and entertainment events. These individuals all add vibrancy to the core, but their cars limit us from obtaining a walk-able / bike-able urban environment. Downtown Phoenix will always be a commuter destination, and if it is to continue as the hub of commerce, knowledge, and entertainment then we need to add capacity at the same time we are trying to pedestrianize our streets. Light rail is helping to refocus our growth patterns along its route, and new developments will help create options for people who want to live/work in downtown, but this is not enough.
Great cities serve as hubs for transportation networks. Phoenix and Downtown in particular needs to reassert its self as the epicenter of the regions transportation infrastructure network. Phoenix has to do this because the knowledge based economy is dependent upon bringing qualified people together, and for downtown businesses, it is imperative that their employees can get to and from work seamlessly. Therefore, if we are truly looking at ways to reduce our freeway congestion, grow downtown businesses, and create a comfortable safe pedestrian space, than commuter rail is the only high capacity option.

A reasonable plan:

I know many people who agree with the thoughts above, unfortunately the two organizations who should take the lead on commuter rail, ADOT and Valley Metro seem too entrenched in there respective methods ( Highway building and Bus/Light-rail) to look at the third alternative. MAG (Maricopa Association of Governments) has been more forward leaning on the topic conducting the 2010 study that helps to form the base for the suggestions below, but MAG has no way to implement projects.1 ADOT however, is studying Phoenix to Tucson intercity rail options, one of which (the Yellow option) corresponds with Phase 1 of my basic proposal. They are also studying high speed passenger service to California and Nevada as part of the general state rail plan which corresponds with Phase 2 & 3. 2
What is envisioned below is a three layered passenger transportation network, Maricopa Commuter Rail, Inter-city regional rail, and an Inter-Airport transfer service all built upon the current heavy rail freight infrastructure. Because all of these can operate on the same improved track and because the current rail system sits where these connections need to be, the improvement costs are lower and the capacity is higher than many other transportation options. This also creates a shared maintenance and operations burden between multiple stakeholders.

How to start:

Map

Phase 1
MAG’s proposed Southeast alignment runs directly from Downtown past Gateway Airport. Currently Transfers between airports requires a private shuttle van service at around $25. Connecting these airports by train allows Gateway airport and its budget regional airlines to effectively link into the national/international hub and spoke system. This allows Sky Harbor to focus more of its facilities on the economically vital national and international carriers while Gateway grows for budget service and East valley commuter flights. Reliable, baggage friendly, scheduled service is key to making transfers between airports work. While Gateway is currently struggling, it is still geographically positioned to serve as Sky Harbors relief airport over the next 30 years and so it is critical that we plan that infrastructure connection now. While Airport to Airport train service typically only takes place in Tier 1 cities like London and Shanghai, Sky Harbor’s proximity to downtown and the strategic placement of Gateway, Goodyear and Tucson airports if joined effectively could create a robust transportation network for the region.

Mag-Map

MAG’s 2010 estimate for the track improvements needed on this Southeast section was $477 Million. This number also includes building 10 stations, which is not necessary because Commuter Rail stations can typically be privately funded or worked into a PPP (Private Public Partnership) thus reducing cost. Nonetheless, globally many large transportation projects actively seek voluntary investments or connection fees from major Airports, Stadium Districts, and Retail complexes, so a capital investment from the airport and other organizations should be expected in any future commuter rail plan, with the goal to provide a sufficient amount to help fund this first section. 3

ADOT’s focus then can be on the Gateway to Tucson corridor and maintenance assistance for the commuter section. The key is that Airport transfers and inter-city trips are not expected to be subsidized rates like normal public transport. A $20-25 fee is potentially very close to covering the maintenance and operational needs for Airport transfers on this line and a trip to Tucson would then be a bit higher.

A proposal by the Airport and Phoenix to investigate the feasibility of such a project, and the initial prospect of some capital would likely be enough to politically bring Tempe, Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert into a realistic conversation about adding commuter rail along the same route. ADOT would then be able to latch on, selecting to extend this corridor to Tucson. The further hope being that Valley Metro joins as the transportation organizer with a proven commuter rail operator (maybe BNSF) in charge of operations and day to day logistics.

Why The South East line First.

The passenger estimate for this route from Queen Creek to Downtown is 6450 boardings a day and MAG’s operation and maintenance estimate was $9 per boarding. There are many flaws to these boarding numbers given that tourists, special events, and potential transfers between airports, light rail, and other lines will add to the counts. Plus none of this takes into account generational or development shifts all likely to favor more passengers. Taking that the Rapid bus service currently costs $6.50 per round trip a $2-2.50 subsidy is reasonable and the $9 is well below the national commuter rail average of $11. Figuring in the unaccounted boardings I listed above, possible profit sharing with station retail/airport transfers, and the reduced maintenance cost due to private stations, very little Federal or local tax assistance may be necessary for this starter section.

For some practical, political, and financial reasons this Southeast commuter line should terminate at the State Capitol with a new private development station. There should be very little added cost for this extra two miles but the increased ridership and political statement is important. Historic Union station can be brought back to serve as both a commuter rail stop for the downtown government district and future regional intercity passenger rail hub incorporating commercial space. Also, a mixed use development/station somewhere between 4th & 7th Streets, possibly incorporated into the ballpark, would serve the sports and business district.

l41051-1

PHX-TUC Airport Connector.

A typical PHX-TUC train would depart from Union station, stop at Sky Harbor to pick up plane transfers and more Tucson passengers. This train would then be a direct to Gateway, making the airport connection and bringing on board more intercity passengers. A stop in Eloy could potentially serve Casa Grande before Downtown Tucson and then Tucson Airport. The ‘local’ commuter line and freight lines can then run on the improved tracks behind this service.

Phase 2

The next phase should be the Yuma line (Airport to Buckeye). Once again there are benefits to the Airport due to a possible connection with Goodyear Airport. While it is not used for passenger service at this time it has the potential as a west valley provider in the next 30 years. However, the major use I see for Goodyear Airport is in freight and cargo. It has one of the longest runways in the southwest, currently sits in the growing west valley warehouse transfer area and is close to the potential I-11 corridor (not that I like it). It is an asset with huge economic and employment potential and connecting it into the transportation network is essential to regional economic growth.

The Yuma line also runs less than 2 miles south of the proposed I-10 light rail extension. If a solid alternative was presented there may be political room to stop the I-10 extension boondoggle. I am a huge light rail supporter but building light rail ( a system designed for street activation) down the middle of an interstate for commuter traffic is a disastrous mistake for the system. Especially when we have heavy rail tracks so close. If $400 million of the $1.1 billion dollars slated for the I-10 west extension was used to create a commuter rail option; which is MAG’s estimate for this section, the other $700 million could go to the South Central light rail extension which is a far more suited light rail line (this also keeps the money in the same district). The Yuma line would also effectively replace the I-10 rapid bus service so while MAG shows this as a low boarding route it is the cheapest to build and has future potential.

The East terminus for this line should be Sky Harbor which will also help with boardings and create a future direct airport transfer to Goodyear. This would require sidings and double tracks through downtown (and I hope a 50 year plan to bring the downtown section below grade). This is the only way I can see preventing a terrible mistake with light rail, and building a solid transportation network.
The flaw with MAG’s projection for this segment is in extending the line past Goodyear airport. The far west valley boardings are not sufficient enough to justify the maintenance and operations costs at this time. It is obvious that the study was trying to include all possible MAG members in the proposal, but any real project would have to be far more reasonable about costs/boardings.

Phase 3

One of MAG’s suggestions is for BNSF to be the system operator. If this was implemented then Phase 3 should be The Grand Ave commuter rail service. This line has the second greatest passenger potential and the tracks are BNSF owned. Unfortunately it is also the most expensive to implement, but between BNSF, Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria, Surprise, and the possibility of Federal support for a Las Vegas to Phoenix intercity line, adding this portion into an already operating commuter rail system becomes more feasible. Many of these NorthWest cities already understand the economic growth potential of commuter rail and have been pushing for leadership and movement on the issue. (see compass study) 4

What does it mean for Downtown?

MAG estimates 11290 boardings per day for these three lines. While I think this is a low estimate, and not all of these individuals will disembark in downtown this potentially captures 1 in 8 downtown commuters and could change the way we plan our urban environment. This also allows companies to feel comfortable locating offices and developments within our core because the parking and commute time become diminished obstacles and collaborative knowledge clusters become the draw. This will then allow us to look at our downtown streets more holistically. It is hard to have a political fight between the downtown community wanting slower pedestrianized streets, and commuters who have very few options in trying to get to work every day. There has to be a viable high capacity transit option for downtown commuters or unfortunately our city center will likely continue to be automobile dominated because of the political demands of suburbanites.

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1. https://www.azmag.gov/Projects/Project.asp?CMSID=1076

2. https://www.azdot.gov/planning/CurrentStudies/PassengerRail

3. For examples see. Peterson George, Unlocking Land Values to Finance Urban Infrastructure (Washington D.C. : The World Bank 2009)

4.http://www.azcentral.com/community/peoria/articles/20131226grand-avenue-trains-west-valley-revitalization.html

 

Jeffery is a native Phoenix area resident and lives in the Downtown Evans Churchill neighborhood. He has a Masters in Globalization and Development from The University of Sussex – Institute of Development Studies and a Political Science B.A. From A.S.U. He currently works as a Project Manager for a Phoenix based small business. All opinions are strictly his own. All rights on written and creative ideas are reserved

THE CENTRAL STATION TRANSIT CENTER DEVELOPMENT RFP: CONSIDERING THE FUTURE -Part 2

phoenix-centralstation_10817098

See full Part 1 post  here https://phxdowntown.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/the-central-station-transit-center-development-rfp-considering-the-future-2/

-Part II

I applaud the city both for considering development of this parcel, and for seeking to use its revenue towards future transit needs. Now is definitely a good time for Phoenix to leverage some of its accrued assets to spur smart urban growth. While Phoenix may never be able to use real estate development the way Hong Kong MTR or New York/New Jersey Port Authority does for their transit funding, real estate needs to be looked at as a functional tool in specific locations to help fund our public transit infrastructure.

This is the perfect TOD site for the city to recapture its value added inputs from the light rail system, and re-invest that money into enhancing the network. However, as I alluded to in Part 1 of this post, I feel the city should continue to be the controlling party of the transit center as to not inhibit present or future transportation options. Ultimately, this is why I think a joint development project would be the best for this site.

Options:

I hope by now it is self evident why a simple land sale should be taken off the list of options for the transit center. In a land sale the city would lose control of transit functions and lose out on any future earning potential. While the City of Phoenix appears to be good at inflation and valuation adjusted land lease deals (Renaissance Square is a good example), a simple long term lease may not be the best option for retaining some control over the transit functions. Again, I am not only concerned about the current functions but the citys 30-100 year possible needs. Obviously, the city could lease air and subterranean rights while working with the developer to integrate the transit center into the design, but project finance and project risk may severely limit this as an option.

In my opinion this leaves a well structured joint development PPP as the best option (2). However, due to the complexity and forethought needed for such an arrangement, I again feel that holding off on the RFP until the institutional capacity and structures can be built seems the smartest path.  While the model below is what I suggest, there are hundreds of nuanced ways to structure such a deal.

City:

First the city should create a special purpose vehicle with the directive to maintain, develop and operate any parcels that the City Council deems as ‘Transit Centers’ (1). I will call this Phx-Trans-Co for simplicity. This organizational structure would be similar to The Downtown Phoenix Hotel Corporation but without the ability to issue bonds. The SPV (Phx-Trans-Co) helps dissipate some legal risk, helps mandate earnings toward transit functions, and helps create a buffer from political variance over long project cycles. The transit properties can be used as collateral, and the citys involvement diffuses some of the developers financial risk and borrowing costs.

SPV:

The Phx-Trans-Co should then look for a Design Build Finance Operate deal with any potential developers of this site. A DBFO makes Phx-Trans-Co the building owner but contractually the annual profits would go to the developer, less an appropriate percentage for transit connectivity. The intent being that taxpayers would recoup the value lost by not selling the land within 5 years of substantial completion, but all income would be directed toward mass transit projects. After the developers project payback period est. 30 years, Phx-Trans-Co should be allowed to receive a much higher profit share or buy out the contract.

Developer:

The developers key asset in this deal is the contract with the Phx-Trans-Co, which could be sold; with stipulations and any remaining debt, to other parties should they see financial need. With the ability to use the land as collateral at no upfront cost, and heavily implicit city backing, financing the project becomes easier for the developer. The developer would also not be responsible for property tax as the entire project is officially owned by a city entity. Although, the tax value is serendipitously being collected through the profit sharing agreement and funneled directly into transport functions.

In conclusion, I feel this would be the best way to deal with project finance and risk. This arrangement also deals with future transit center control issues while still earning the developer and city profit. Let me be clear this is a funding source, not a funding solution, and the potential income from this is minuscule when compared to the Light Rail operating budget. However, considering a land sale may only bring in enough money to fund one or two new stations, I believe this is a much smarter long term investment. This also creates a model and organizational capacity for future deals.

(1) This keeps the corporation from being able to buy or sell city land without City council oversight

(2) For more information on Joint Development in Transportation Infrastructure see
http://ppp.worldbank.org/public-private-partnership/sector/transportation

http://www.adb.org/documents/public-private-partnership-ppp-handbook

Jeffery is a native Phoenix area resident and lives in the Downtown Evans Churchill neighborhood. He has a Masters in Globalization and Development from The University of Sussex – Institute of Development Studies and a Political Science B.A. From A.S.U. He currently works as a Project Manager for a Phoenix based small business. All opinions are strictly his own. All rights on written and creative ideas are reserved

Comments and Concerns over The Hance Park (Deck Park) redevelopment.

I was glad to attend the community charette on Hance Park redevelopment last week, and have an active discussion over possibilities for the parks future. I used that time and format as an opportunity to voice my desires as a downtown resident over some possible amenities and ideas for the park. However, the entire process that night seemed mainly about white washing a fundamentally flawed park and very little discussion took place on fixing the problems. Therefore, I hope that many of the structural concerns I list below are being discussed and addressed through other forums and meetings. This is a great opportunity to fix some of our past mistakes, and truly improve downtown livability.

Most great urban parks serve as a connector. They should drive pedestrian traffic in and through to other places. A great park cannot just be a destination. A great park also has to serve as a detour and refuge on the way to somewhere else; and can we for once have a parking lot free space in this city..

In my opinion the park has the following functional flaws. First it lacks identity, despite having so many great existing key assets. Second the orientation of those assets, and the parks general urban connectivity problems, serve as a hindrance, creating an isolated space. It is my concern that without fixing these two issues, all the hard work and great intentions of many people may create a great show piece for a few years, but not a day to day functional urban park.

-Identity and Key Assets

Consider the following list of key assets. (I am sure that I have missed some)

    1. Central Phoenix Library
    2. Phoenix Center for the Arts
    3. Irish Cultural Center
    4. Jewish heritage Center
    5. Japanese Friendship Garden
    6. Phoenix Trolly Museum
    7. Two Light Rail Stops within 1/2 mile
    8. Linch pin connecting Downtown and Midtown

The park is at the intersecting center of a modern diverse Phoenix, and it needs to be a park celebrating and exploring our Arts and Culture, who we are, and who we want to be. This seems intuitive to me given the buildings, events, and neighborhoods surrounding it. The other Identity issue to be solved is whether this is truly an urban park? If this is an urban park, for urban residents, workers, and visitors then get rid of all the parking lots. Yes, I am suggesting that people should have to walk or bike a block or two, to enjoy the park and amenities. Even the library and culture centers have to re-evaluate, eliminate, and share parking resources.

-Orientation and Connectivity

Not one of the assets listed above integrates or focuses it’s activity or entrance onto the park. It is obvious that all of these stakeholders treat the park the same as they would an 8 lane Interstate.

While the library is mainly mentioned in this regard, it at least has windows on the park and retains the ability for better integration. The idea for indoor/outdoor reading and cafe space is always welcome, and I also wonder if the lower roof structure on the South side could be accessed or utilized as vertical space?

The Phoenix Center for the Arts is already well connected and feels a part of the park. I would however, like to see Moreland Street become more of a shared space style corridor allowing the adjacent properties to blend into the park and become future homes for other art, culture, and entertainment centers. The Jewish Heritage Center would front the park if not for the parking lot and subsequent worthless turning circle. Also the residents along Culver St. should not have to cross a parking lot to access the park.

The Irish Cultural Center, and The Japanese Friendship Gardens, need to have their primary entrance, or at least a secondary entrance onto the park. May I suggest replacing the parking lot between them with a flower garden entrance to both facilities. Japanese flowers, and sunflowers could return a bit of what has been lost, also Irish wildflowers are appropriate for many celebrations.

Then there is the Trolly Museum. I wish I could have attended the revitalization meeting to hear the ideas put forth. I don’t have any ground breaking ideas here just two ghostly notions that need to be written down. First the obvious then and now contrast between the light rail going by the historic Phoenix trolleys. Second during the park meeting it was mentioned that many great urban parks have an interactive or moving element. It would be great if the park redevelopment somehow highlighted this moving piece of our history.

While the park needs to serve the city and all of its residents during special occasions, it needs to serve the surrounding community every day of the week. This is how you bring new residents to a city and into a downtown, and this is how you create new property tax revenue from empty lots. You improve the quality of life, and you create permanent investors in the community. We need to be creating a park that people want to live around and bike or walk through, not just a park that people happen to drive to once a year for an event.

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Jeffery is a native Phoenix area resident and lives in the Downtown Evans Churchill neighborhood. He has a Masters in Globalization and Development from The University of Sussex – Institute of Development Studies and a Political Science B.A. From A.S.U. He currently works as a Project Manager for a Phoenix based small business. All opinions are strictly his own. All rights on written and creative ideas are reserved.

The Proposed Interstate -11: Phoenix and the Amalgamation.

Key points. 

-Opposition to the sprawl inducing Hassayampa freeway alignment.

-Support for an alignment that realizes Phoenix’s primacy, stimulating infill and density over sprawl.

-Key requirement being the co-development of regional rail and improvements for future commuter rail.

-In this case, Phoenix’s regional primacy needs to be asserted to insist on smarter growth. 

I grew up at 88th Avenue and Pinnacle Peak, this is when 83rd Avenue was a two lane road and citrus trees lined both sides. Most of the land around our house was still desert, and so the desert was kind of my backyard. Seeing suburban sprawl overtake most of places I spent my childhood is part of why I am now such an ardent urbanist. This background makes me believe that if the I-11 project comes to fruition, it should be part of a larger ‘smart growth’ strategy, and I feel the current proposal is deficient in that regard. 

Background:

The Arizona Department of Transportation and Nevada Department of Transportation are working together on the Interstate 11 (I-11) and Intermountain West Corridor Study that includes detailed corridor planning of a possible high-priority Interstate link between Phoenix, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada (I-11), as well as high-level visioning for potentially extending the Corridor north to Canada and south to Mexico (the Intermountain West Corridor). The Corridor is proposed to include an upgraded highway facility, but it could be paired with rail and other major infrastructure components—such as energy and telecommunications—to serve the nation’s needs from Mexico to Canada.

The study finds that the I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor is indeed justified and that the Corridor is needed for the following key reasons:

  •  Transportation is a key enabler of economic development. 

  •  There is currently a lack of sufficient north-south capacity for existing goods movement or any increase in economic activity in Arizona and Nevada. 

  •  The effective integration of the economies of the Southwest Triangle mega region (Southern California, Sun Corridor, and Las Vegas) will require continuing investment in transportation capacity over the planning horizon of the study. This mega region, and particularly the cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas, are poorly served by surface transportation when compared to other U.S. cities of comparable size and proximity, and the areas lacks sufficient connectivity to the rest of the Intermountain West.             (I-11 AND INTERMOUNTAIN WEST CORRIDOR STUDY- Draft 7-2-13)

First let me be clear what parts of the current proposal I agree with. 

  1. The need for faster and easer passenger and commercial transport between Nogales, Tucson, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Especially as Arizona tries to compete with Texas and California for cross border trade. 
  2. The minimal changes to US-95 between Las Vegas and Wickenburg required to upgrade the designation.
  3. Infrastructure for freight and passenger rail between the two cities.
  4. Tying the new Interstate into any of the current or future state highways that are part of the regional plan. I may not completely agree with the current plan but that is another post entirely.

I am completely against the following part of the proposal.

  1. The Hassayampa freeway. This is the section slated to run completely around Phoenix and tie into I-10 around Casa Grande. (I am taking to calling this Loop 909)
  2. Any proposal that is not in conjunction with regional, Intercity rail lines (Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas) and future right of way use for commuter rail. 

                                       ImageMap #1

Explanation:

The Hassayampa freeway (see map #1) runs from Wickenburg down to I-10 then loops around to run parallel with I-8 separated by very few miles in some sections. One of the big supposed selling points of I-11 is that Phoenix and Las Vegas are the only million plus population cities not connected by interstate. I hate to be the one to point out that the current proposal never gets closer to Phoenix than Buckeye. (40 miles from Downtown) 

This loop around is all about one thing. Providing access for building large master planed communities between the White tanks and Hassayampa River. The entire section from Wickenburg to I-10 is incorporated into the City of Buckeye, and is being published as a possible PPP (private public partnership) highway between the developers and ADOT. It is being sold as a way to bypass Phoenix congestion and reduce pollution, just as as 101,202, and 303 were before. Currently 100 communities have been approved for this corridor, which of course will only add to the congestion and pollution. This has to be viewed as an attempt to add one more ring of sprawl to the Phoenix metro landscape, all to benefit leap frog developers.

I believe what would be best for Phoenix is to instead continue the Southeast alignment down US 60/Grand Ave to I-17. I’m sure many will disagree but let me briefly explain why and how. 

Why:

The expected growth of the Phoenix region from 4.2 million to 8 million requires a massive re-working of the current development model. Most of the regional plans are in expectation of the 4 million new residents to add to the circumference of the city, building 4th and 5th generation suburban rings. However, given current demographic shifts, and the unsustainable nature of such expansive sprawl, we should be planning for a different scenario. We have to expect, plan, and provide tools for up to 50% of the population growth to take place on city infill lots and through increased urban core densification. The current regional transportation plan does not address this adequately. 

Part of the I-11 proposal is the mention of a high speed rail corridor between Phoenix and Las Vegas. I highly doubt any plans for passenger rail service between the two cities would not follow the current rail alignment down US 60 into Downtown Phoenix thus requiring possible signal and grade separation through the traditional and historic urban cores that sit along the highway.Grand Avenue (US-60) is still a hodgepodge of partial flyovers, train crossings, worthless intersections, and historic access roads, reminding me of the urban patched highways of Bombay more than anywhere else I’ve ever been. It is a massive problem and an amazing asset for anyone wanting to see Phoenix build with density and in-fill rather than sprawl and jump development. 

How:

(see map #2)

Continuing a major interstate through historic Wickenburg without destroying or economically isolating the city is a problem. A bypass may not be the answer, but neither is a direct shot through the town.Upgrading the junction at SR-74 which is already now part of the projected regional system gives the first access to North Phoenix and Cave Creek. A full interchange at the 303 loop provides additional eastward access and allows connection to I-10 west. 303 is already slighted to continue south from I-10 to the 808 and then tie into SR-85 and serve as access to I-8 east and west. I will call this ‘Phoenix bypass #3’.

From 303 to 101 there are limited crossings and a standard urban freeway template could be used. The tracks on the western side of the roadway do create extra hight requirements and complicated on/off ramp issues but nothing that hasn’t been done before. The connection to 101 provides further east/west and north/south connections including access to the future south mountain loop 202, ‘Phoenix bypass #2’.

From this point things get complicated, but again non of these problems are new or unprecedented. Peoria has already planed to lower and deck portions of US-60 in-order to re-unify its downtown. I would assume this would happen in Glendale maybe Surprise and possibly at other strategic locations in Phoenix (think Big dig I-93 but before things get too congested). All of this would finally end at I-17 providing I-11 actual access to Phoenix and of course the original ‘downtown bypass #1’, I-17 south. 

US-60/ Grand Avenue from I-17 to VanBuren than should be given historic status as the City’s western gateway, building on the work already being done. With dedicated passenger rail lines now along this key corridor commuter rail is all the more possible stoping at the historic town sites and key locations between Wickenburg and Phoenix downtown. With both additional interstate connectivity and rail options infill and denser development will be constructed along this route as opposed to adding to sprawl between the White Tank Mountains and the Hassayampa River bed. 

Yes, this will be more expensive. Yes, this would be a complicated project, but anyone who doesn’t foresee it having to happen in the next 40 years anyway is making a huge mis-judgment on the future development of the region, and the demographic changes occurring nation wide. The I-11 designation would just add the possibility of federal funds to a project that will help the Phoenix region develop and grow smart instead of irresponsibly. 

The City of Phoenix (with the help of all Grand Avenue cities) needs to use all of it’s leverage with ADOT, and MAG to mandate that any Phoenix to Las Vegas transportation corridor benefits in-fill growth and smart development. While Phoenix has very little leverage over the other local municipalities. It does have de facto political power because of its primacy. The project is being sold on the claim that it connects the two big metropolitan cities. Phoenix needs to make clear that the current proposal falls short of that claim and thus diminishes the possible economic impact of the project. The mere threat of losing any Federal support should be enough to make most State and regional officials contemplate modifying the plan.

 Image

Map #2

ImageMap #3

Jeffery is a native Phoenix area resident and lives in the Downtown Evans Churchill neighborhood. He has a Masters in Globalization and Development from The University of Sussex – Institute of Development Studies and a Political Science B.A. From A.S.U. He currently works as a Project Manager for a Phoenix based small business. All opinions are strictly his own. All rights on written and creative ideas are reserved.

Phoenix and the Pin

When I was a child growing up in Phoenix I always questioned why there wasn’t a giant mythological bird rising out of South Mountain. As a teenager this idea re-emerged as a possible man made icon, a symbol of the city, and a national tourist attraction. Just like the St Louis Arch is the gateway to western expansion, The Phoenix Bird could similarly be symbol of one’s arrival to the West. However, as I grew up I realized that this was a whimsical and impractical fantasy. Not every major city had, or needed an iconic attraction… right? It always seemed to me that the hard working mentality of rise and fall, construction boom and sprawl Phoenix left no room for such sideshow antics. Then I read about ‘The Pin’, the proposed 430’ observation tower allegedly under serious consideration for approval by the city.

“The tower would rise on a tube of reinforced concrete, culminating in a vertigo-inducing open-air sphere containing flexible spaces for observation, recreation, retail, and exhibition functions within its spiraling structure. The lower hemisphere is slated for restaurants.”http://www.theatlanticcities.com/design/2013/03/phoenix-just-might-be-serious-about-building-pin/4957/

I now realize the Disney-fication of Phoenix is no longer taboo. So let’s commission a public art contest and RFP (request for proposal) to top South Mountain Park with an iconic bird as tall as the broadcast towers. A concrete steal and stone monument with a bird’s eye observation deck and mountain view restaurant at the base to satisfy the private investors. Let’s build a cable car from Scorpion Gulch to the mountain top completing the worlds fair like attraction, while still leaving some of the mountains roads and trails for nature lovers. Think the London Eye, the Golden Gate, the Colosseum, la Sagrada Família, the Kremlin, you know all the things not rebuilt in Vegas yet. Think of all the new traffic this would bring down Central Avenue. The hordes of tourists interested in the sight they saw out an airplane window. This would inject new life through an area much neglected by city developers over the years.

What the hell. I figure if we are desperate enough to build an empty water tower to nowhere just to create an icon for the city, maybe we should make it instead, well… the icon of the city. It would at-least satisfy my personal childhood fantasies.

Jeffery is a native Phoenix area resident and lives in the Downtown Evans Churchill neighborhood. He has a Masters in Globalization and Development from The University of Sussex – Institute of Development Studies and a Political Science B.A. From A.S.U. He currently works as a Project Manager for a Phoenix based small business. All opinions are strictly his own. All rights on written and creative ideas are reserved.