With transit ridership on the rise and the economic benefits of transit reaching into the billions of dollars, communities across America are seeking to add transit options. One region that appreciates the value transit adds is greater Phoenix, Arizona, where transit has proven to be a wildly successful investment and where the regional transit agency, Valley Metro, continues to seek further opportunities to serve area residents.
In Phoenix, the Central Phoenix/East Valley Light Rail project, which opened in 2008, is estimated to have spurred more than $5 billion in economic development along its corridor, and ridership continues to exceed expectations. Over the last six months, ridership throughout the Valley Metro light rail network has risen 6.2 percent on average, compared with the same period in 2011.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and Valley Metro planners are banking on light rail's success in the Valley of the Sun with the 3.1-mile Central Mesa Extension to connect residents in the downtown hubs of Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe. The extension in central Mesa will run on Main Street from Sycamore to Mesa Drive with four station locations and a park-and-ride facility.
Mirroring the success of the existing line, the extension is expected to spur new residential and commercial development in downtown Mesa while providing convenient, reliable access to Arizona State University and Sky Harbor International Airport.
When I visited Mesa last Friday to announce a $75 million grant through the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment (New Starts/Small Starts) program, I saw a community that can't wait to expand its transportation choices.
Investing in the Central Mesa Extension will help thousands of workers, seniors, students and others in Maricopa County connect with jobs, education, medical care, and all that this region has to offer. As FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said, "Extending the popular Central Mesa light rail line will open more doors to economic opportunity and spur new development, while reducing congestion in one of the Arizona’s fastest-growing regions."
We know that investments in public transit are good for residents and good for the economy. As we’ve seen right next door in Phoenix, building transit creates jobs right away. And when routes are up and running, transit reduces our dependence on oil; helps build strong, sustainable neighborhoods; and opens up new economic opportunities that will pay dividends for generations to come.
In the Greater Phoenix area, transit is working for riders; it's working for area businesses; and--by reducing congestion on area roads--it's even working for those who choose to drive. By helping Valley Metro extend light rail service to downtown Mesa, this Administration is helping extend those benefits to more and more Arizonans. We're investing in an America built to last, and we're not stopping.