When I visited Phoenix, Arizona in 1996, it appeared to be the archetypal car-dominated city. I was told pretty much the only PT was buses once an hour. The freeways were packed at rush hour. Nobody walked anywhere.
The downtown area was (especially on weekends) so deserted that they had to have signs saying “Welcome to downtown Phoenix” so that you knew you were downtown.
While the people were friendly, it was exactly the type of city I’d hate to live in.
But it looks like it’s changing: they’re getting a lot more medium-density and mixed-use development, and… trams.
A new tram/light-rail line, 20 miles long. Quite impressive. Having spent all that money on infrastructure, they didn’t skimp on the services, either — every 10 mins weekdays, 15 weekends, 20 evenings.
Obviously it’s only one route, but apparently already they’ve got more patronage than expected, and are looking at more lines.
Nice to see even the most car-dominated cities are starting to move in the right direction.
5 replies on “Phoenix changing”
Now to get Los Angeles, the most decentralized city in America I’ve heard, onto PT. That is not going to happen in our life-time I doubt. Where they could really use it due to the air pollution due to the mountains. But that is ‘freeway’ city, and the ‘freeways’ are actually ‘stopways’.
Bravo tho to Phoenix.
When I hear people complaining about what a terrible transit system we have here in Melbourne I try to explain just how good we really have it here even though there are some serious problems sometimes. Most US cities are as you describe above: a few busses and that is all. In some places I have lived it would be unsafe to use the bus at night in certian parts of the city. Trams (streetcars) and trains are better overall but they require much more infrastructure to be installed as compared to busses and most cities just don’t have the funding or this.
I thought that LA had made enormous strides in recent years in public transport provision?
I;ve never been there (although I have been to Northern California, where San Francisco had public transport that even many European cities might envy) but thought that Light Rail had appeared on a few lines?
The problem with these multicentric cities is that, even if you want to serve them by public transport, it’s difficult to do as things are so spread out and the “matrix” of possible journeys so complex. Even in Melbourne (and Jed’s right, its public transport is exemplary, even compared to the rest of Australia and the UK, never mind the US), cross-suburban journeys are sometimes a challenge.
I travelled to LA in 1998 and they had started to reintroduce light rail to the city. Although very small for a city of something like 14 million, it is a start.
Ironically it once had one of the largest tram (trolley) networks in the country up until the 1940s with operators Pacific Electric and the Los Angeles Railroad (LARY) both running lines in the city:
The Pacific Electric Railway also included a subway section in Hollywood which still in part exists abandoned today
The demise of LARY is seen in the film ‘Taken for a Ride’ which explains the GM backed National City Bus lines buying out many of this like many other private systems and replacing them with buses that on one amongst the travelling public wanted as they provided and inferior service, as claimed in the film. The last LARY lines closed in 1963. Pacific Electric also abandoned rail in the late 40s/early 50s to save costs on renewing the lines as the film claims. I have heard mixed responses to the film ‘Taken for a Ride’ over the years – any comments out there??
The new lines in LA can be seen here:
Essentially these are a mixture of light rail and subway trains.
If you watch the movie Speed, they travel on the bus down a freeway under construction to the airport. The freeway (concrete pavement, like all LA freeways) opened in the late 90s and includes a railway along the middle which can also be seen in aerial shots. This is the ‘green line’ running along the middle of the 405 freeway (called the ‘Imperial Fwy’ on opening, now the ‘Glen M Anderson Fwy’) .This line is operated by Light Rail cars similar in size to the articulated trams they run in Melbourne or Adelaide these days
loved the video ! thank you for bringing it to our attention.