Tag Archives: Light Rail

Train to Hawaii

This weekend is the Aloha Festival and, unlike previous years, this year it is being held at the so-called Tempe Beach Park. (Definition of Tempe Beach: a huge cement slab positioned near a horrid man-made lake.)

Still, the park itself is green, if lacking shade, and large, which easily accompdated the large crowds.

The park is also a block or so from the Light Rail, which makes it convenient if you want to ride rather than park in downtown Tempe.

The downside is that it was 53 minutes there from the 19th Ave & Camelback station.

I like the train, but that is too long on those hard-as-nails seats.

The festival is alright, but mostly an excuse to get vilovilo chicken, so I’ll just say the chicken was really good and leave it at that.

It was my first time to disembark at the Mill & 3rd station in Tempe. They need to do some work on that one. Traffic is brought completely to a stop in all directions and yet somehow pedestrians are left stranded on the train platform. This happened both when we arrived and when we were departing.

By and large the vast majority of people tired of waiting and crossed illegally. The strange part is: there was just no way traffic could have interacted with them, so why the No Walk signal?

The ride back was worse because I got to stand for nearly the whole trip. Almost made me long for the harder-than-nails seats.

Perhaps a trip to Tempe is just a bit too far. Next time we’ll use it for a trip to Heritage Square for the Asian Festival. That’s only 27 minutes from station to station.

Addendum: (3/14/2009) – One advantage to the train ride was I had time to write and publish that post entirely on the train while standing there. But something happened when we arrived at the departure station that makes me ask, “how am I supposed to teach my young children traffic safety when the train seems hellbent on forcing me not to?”

I mentioned that at the Tempe stop, the lights for the pedestrians were so grossly screwed up that most everyone just jaywalked across the street. It was completely safe, and, had I not had my kids there, I would have crossed and thought nothing more than, “man, what lousy traffic lights.”

The same happened again at 19th an Camelback. (See illustration, which is, sadly, so out-of-date that neither the park and ride nor the train station are visible.)

Like most of the stations, it is positioned in the middle of two-way traffic, just off to one side of a major intersection. Access is via the existing crosswalk at the intersection. I’d hazard to say that most of the others have no access at the far end of the station. This station; however, is different because of the park-and-ride. It has a one-side-of-the-street-only crosswalk to get you into the park and ride. The crosswalk has a light to stop traffic – only activated when someone hits the button.

We got off the train, and several people headed with us towards this backside crosswalk. I was there first, and hit the button. There was no traffic. The light didn’t change. East-bound traffic was completely blocked by the light at the intersection. There was no way traffic could enter the street between the intersection and the crosswalk. Still it didn’t change. More people arrived, they waited a few, observed the situation and walked across the street anyway. I can hardly blame them, but I’m trying to teach my children to obey the traffic laws. (When they’re older, they need to learn a certain amount of discretion, but for now, I want them to err on the side of caution.)

Still the light didn’t change. More people crossed. This time a couple with a baby in a stroller. We stood at this light fully 4-5 minutes. I watched them walk to their car, pack up their stroller and prepare to leave. Then, the east-bound intersection light changed to green and traffic began to flow.

Just as it reached the crosswalk, the light turned red and let us cross.

Whoever setup that traffic light, is an idiot.

19th and Camelback

Encouraging train snap

It’s been two weekends now and we’re long past the free rides on the Phoenix Metro (oh, how I abhor that name!) but today we were driving by the large park and ride as the train was disgorging and I was really impressed at how many people were getting off the train.

I really believe the trains will work well for the city, but I thought it would be months or even years before I saw this many people using it on a Sunday afternoon.

Phoenix Metro Light Rail – My Impressions

I’ll preface this with my comment that I’m a strong supporter of the light rail initiative for the Phoenix metro area. I’ve seen how urban trains and subways alter the cities (in generally good ways) that they pass through, and, while Phoenix is a ghastly urban sprawl with few “destination” areas, it could certainly use a bit of consolidation.

While a supporter of the light rail, and even though I only live one mile from the nearest station, I’m not likely a frequent rider. My work is not really near the line, I virtually never have any desire whatsoever to go into downtown Phoenix. We don’t have Cricket in this country and I don’t do the other sports. Once in a while I might want to go downtown for the Asian festival, or perhaps a show at the Arena (such as when the BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs was here). I don’t attend classes at Arizona State and if I did they probably wouldn’t be at the Tempe campus anyway. There might be something going on (like Fourth of July celebrations) at Steele Indian School Park or Tempe Town Lake that would warrant not being able to drive there. Someday when they extend it into Mesa, I could see visiting the Arizona Museum of Natural History (Mesa Southwest Museum.)

For now, though, for me, it’s mostly a curiosity and something that I hope causes things to start sprouting up around the stations. The Time Lords know we could use some build up around 19th/Camelback.

For the remainder of the year, the rides are free, and the city has really pulled out the stops to get people to try the trains this weekend. Yesterday, the lines were outrageous at the end and west endpoint stations. Nearly two hours in line for the one hour ride, standing, falling-out-the-doors room only.

Today wasn’t so bad – or so I thought.

We caught the train at fourth station along the line from the west end. We chose to use the Park & Ride in the nicer area around Camelback and Central than either on 19th Avenue. The train was already at standing room only when we got on. Fortunately, somewhere not too far down the line two people vacated seats and I was able to thrust the kids into them.

The train itself runs nice and smoothly, the only hints of a rough ride occur as the train passes crossover points and even those are minor. The acceleration of the train is quick enough that you really do need to hang onto something if you’re standing.

The interiors are very reminiscent of the buses in town, which have the poorest seating arrangements I’ve ever seen. I’m sure it must have something to do with ADA requirements, but they make terrible use of space and there are a lot fewer seats than there could be. Other train systems handle disabled access with better seating arrangements, but the light rail here seems to have intentionally eschewed other tried and true arrangements to continue with the lousy city bus seating plan.

As for the ride across town itself – this left something to be desired. Of course, these were not typical days and, in retrospect, I think Valley Metro screwed up with these opening celebrations. People won’t be riding this thing end to end for the most part, but that’s what most everyone was doing this weekend, and,when the train is packed to standing room only, it’s miserable standing for an hour crowded together. In a real-world light rail scenario, people would be getting on and getting off regularly. This weekend people just kept getting on. With each stop the train just kept getting more and more unpleasantly crowded and you knew it wasn’t going to get any better until the very end of the line. (At one point I was dreaming that they’d all get off in the downtown area or at the Mill Ave shops, but it didn’t happen. I mean, why the hell would anybody want to go all the way to Sycamore and Main in Mesa? There’s nothing there, but to anticipate your question: We went that far because the Mekong Plaza is about 1/2 mile from the last stop, so we used this as an excuse to go back to Taiwan Food Express for lunch.)

There were lots of people this weekend riding the train – indeed any form of Phoenix metro public transit – for the first time, and it wasn’t the best first experience to cram them all in a sardine can for an hour, I should imagine.

So that’s not really a complaint about the train, more the nature of the startup. Perhaps people will be more understanding than I think, but people typically astound me with their lack of perception, so I doubt it. Just read the user comments at the Arizona Republic’s or ABC 15’s websites on most any news story (but especially about the light rail) if you want to see just how dumb people can get.

One other observation, and this one is a major flaw in the train system itself… although, perhaps they can right this one easily.

The train stops way too often at red lights.

I recognize the fact that any train system that travels down the middle of the roadways must stop at red lights. That’s inevitable and necessary, sometimes they have to stop at green lights – for example, this weekend I witness an idiot in a truck creep into a U-turn across the tracks. He was running a red left arrow and completely in the wrong; however, he was was stopped on the tracks as a train came up on him. The train honked and honked, but could do little other than stop for him. It turns out the nimrod wasn’t just in a truck, he was towing a second truck.

But there were times when the train was stopping at least one extra time for every station. The Valley Metro website used to respond to that question by saying the lights would be synchronized with the train. They sure as hell weren’t synchronized yesterday. We stopped at streets that were literally T-junctions, that didn’t even have any through traffic. The streets themselves were barely more than alleyways and, to add insult to injury, they had no traffic at all waiting at the lights. We were stopping for nothing – no traffic, no pedestrians nothing!. I can understand this sort of thing at major intersections and at busy times of the day, but many of these stops were ridiculous.

They’ve got to improve that. The train speed was very good in most places, but going down Central, starting about Indian School was too slow because of the traffic. it’s that stretch alone that will prevent me from being able to take the train and get to work in a timely fashion. To use the train, I’d have to travel 4 superfluous miles north-south, which, if they were quick, might still be faster than just taking a bus along the east-west route I need to follow to get to work. (Working on the assumption that I’d make up a lot of speed on the east-west leg.)

When we got to the last stop, we could see a huge line of people waiting to board the trains. They were keeping the crown controlled in a parking lot, filtering them across to the platform in small groups to fit on the train. It looked to be about an hour’s wait, so instead of taking the train back, we grabbed one of the “special” buses the city had laid on that were running parallel to the trains for the weekend. It was mainly designed for people who didn’t want to wait in line, and it was free, so we travelled, in comfort, sitting down the whole way back. It took the same amount of time the train ride did.

This week is rather messed up for me, but I may try to take the train just to time the ride. If not then next weekend.

This morning before 7, the stations were mostly empty along Central and the trains were less than half the seats full.

Here come the trains!

The December 27th arrival of the light rail is just around the corner and I’ve even seen a train or two out on the tracks near the house.

Unfortunately, more often than not, what I usually see are morons, and I’m not the only one to notice. According to light rail operator Kim Zablonski:

“People are walking down the tracks to get where they’re going, riding their bicycles, ignoring the fact the tracks are for trains only, they’re driving their vehicles down the tracks”

You can read a bit more about preparations at ABC 15.

Link: ABC15 => Metro Light Rail prepares for debut.

First Phoenix Light Rail Accident?

First Phoenix Light Rail Accident?Driving south on 19th Ave today, I saw this amusing situation. I wasn’t in a position to take a picture except through my mirror as I reached the first stop light. What you can kind of see in the blow up is that the white car has managed to beach itself on the curb that prevents you from driving onto the train tracks. The curb is so high that the car’s tires cannot reach the ground.

It’s a little fun to try to figure out how he managed this stunt. If you look in the main photo, you’ll see on the left the where it is painted yellow. This is the nearest point where it would have been low enough for this guy to get over it. My guess is that he attempted to drive with one wheel on the curb and failed. Otherwise, I’d think his wheels would be showing damage. If he did that, he made about 50 feet before stranding himself.

Seems little likelihood that there’s any way he could be in this predicament without a certain modicum of stupidity being involved.