I have recently moved from Columbus, Ohio – a city with no form of light rail – to Tempe, Arizona for Graduate School in Architecture and Business. There are three striking differences between Columbus and Tempe. First, it is much hotter in Tempe on account of the desert climate. Secondly, it is impossible to get anywhere in Tempe without using a bike or a car. And thirdly, there is a very excellent light rail system in Tempe that connects to Phoenix and Mesa. It is very well designed.
There are many benefits to the light rail. Of course, it helps one to get around quickly in sprawling cities but that is not what I’ve noticed to be its sole advantage. Many days approach 110 degrees Fahrenheit in Arizona and so it serves a much different purpose. A day pass costs $3.50, which is not prohibitively expensive for those without homes. It then, therefore serves as a refuge for those wishing to shield themselves from the sun. It also allows three cities to essentially become one. You can live in Tempe, for instance, and be to work in Phoenix or Mesa within 20 minutes. This is urban planning at its best! It exists for the rich, poor, and middle-class; not for one or the other.
It is cost-effective, keeps the work commute sane, provides a refuge from the desert sun, allows people to live anywhere in its vicinity, and most importantly, helps those with cars avoid rush hour and those without reliable transportation through the city center, a transportation method. I personally use it often to go to downtown Phoenix. It is very convenient for me. It provides me an alternative if I prefer not to stress out over parking or if I don’t want to arrive at my destination pouring sweat from using a bicycle.
In the works for a while was the 3C program in Ohio, which would connect Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati by high-speed rail, which would add similar social and economic viability to a dying state. It was turned down. Seeing the benefits actualized here in the city that I now reside, I must argue staunchly in favor of rail travel.
How do you feel about light rail? If you had light rail in your city, would you use it? Why or why not?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.