Light rail has been a hot issue in Scottsdale for years, but it may be one step closer to becoming reality if local activist Sanjeev Ramchandra gets his way.
Ramchandra wants the city of Phoenix to use Proposition 104 sales tax increases, which were intended to fund light rail extensions, to run a line from the rail along Washington Street through Papago Park. The line would stop at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the Phoenix Zoo, and the Desert Botanical Garden and bring light rail right to the edge of South Scottsdale at Galvin Parkway and McDowell Road.
Under Ramchandra’s plan, which he recently shared with the Phoenix Business Journal, the Metro system could then be extended along McDowell to ASU’s SkySong high-tech entrepreneurial center and eventually up Scottsdale Road to Old Town.
Although he doesn’t have cost estimates for the line, Ramchandra doesn’t anticipate expensive utility relocation costs, at least not in Papago Park. In fact, he contends that the line could help boost attendance at the Phoenix Zoo and Botanical Garden and help with Scottsdale’s efforts to redevelop McDowell Road, which was once populated by car dealerships that have either left or gone out of business.
Light rail might also benefit SkySong, which houses technology companies that traditionally support public transportation. It would also provide ASU’s 51,000 students at the nearby Tempe campus with a safe and easy way to get to Old Town’s bars and restaurants.
But, if history is any indication, Ramchandra’s plan will likely face stiff opposition. In recent years, city officials have objected to a light rail link that would go straight down Scottsdale Road, citing a negative impact on the busy road (Transportation experts believe that depending on design, Scottsdale Road could lose two or three lanes to light rail).
Some residents and city leaders also believe the light rail could possibly draw in more crime and disrupt businesses during construction.
Then, there’s the issue of funding. Prop. 104 would only fund the extension through Papago Park; the city of Scottsdale would have to pick up the multi-million tab to extend the rail system to SkySong and Old Town. Some transit experts question whether there would be enough riders to even make the investment worthwhile.
One possible alternative is a proposed bus route known as LINK that would connect riders in downtown Scottsdale directly to a light rail station in Tempe. Considered a precursor to light-rail service in Scottsdale, LINK is scheduled to begin in April 2016.
Light rail supporters, like Ramchandra, argue that Scottsdale runs the risk of falling behind other Valley cities if it does not take action on light rail projects soon. For now, though, the possibility of light rail in Scottsdale is back on the table.
For more information on public transit developments throughout the Valley, or to find your home base in Scottsdale, give us a call at The Matheson Team.