Public to weigh in on possible Light Rail cuts

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on March 2, 2010 at 7:00 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 2 at 2:05 PM

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PHOENIX -- It cost nearly $1.5 billion to build the Valley's Light Rail system, but now budget woes are forcing Metro to cut costs, and possibly service.

According to Valley Metro, Light Rail ridership has surpassed first-year projections, but the revenue generated by riders' fares, which support about 25 percent of the system's operating costs, has not been enough to keep up with the sharp drop in sales tax collections. Metro gets most of its funding from sales taxes.

Even as the Phoenix City Council prepares to approve cuts in an effort to close the $240 million budget gap, the Metro governing board has the final say about the Light Rail because it runs through several cities.

There are several proposals, including cutting weekday hours. Right now, trains run 4 a.m.-midnight. Shortening the service day by an hour on either end -- starting at 5 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m. -- would save about $321,000.

Other options include eliminating late-night service on Fridays and Saturdays and lengthening the time between trains. (Complete list of potential Light Rail changes and anticipated yearly savings)

Whatever is decided, the changes would go into effect in July.

Valley Metro said it's trying to minimize impact  on Light Rail riders and would like to the public to weigh in on the potential cuts before it makes any decisions. There's a public hearing tonight at 6:00 at the Metro Light Rail offices on First Avenue (101 N. First Avenue, Ste. 1300) in downtown Phoenix.

A second public meeting will held next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Don Cassano Community Room, 200 E. Fifth St., Tempe.

If you can't make either of the meetings, you can still make your opinions known by sending an email to info@metrolightrail.org including your name, address, city and contact phone or email or by downloading the comment card and mailing to METRO at 101 N. 1st Ave., Ste. 1300, Phoenix, 85003 or faxing to 602-262-2682.

The cities of Phoenix and Tempe also offer online surveys. Phoenix’ can be accessed by visiting http://www.phoenix.gov/publictransit/svtransit.html and Tempe’s at http://www.tempe.gov/tim/. They are available during their respective public comment periods.

Even as Metro looks at ways to cut operating costs, it's also cracking down on those who don't pay their fares.

Officials said Tuesday that they are launching a "focused fare enforcement" operation on the Tempe portion of the line.

Metro said most people do pay their fares, but there is a steady stream of complaints from riders about those who don't, which leads to a perception of noncompliance.

Fare inspectors will be stopping riders as they get off the trains at specific locations. Metro said delays will be minimal for those who have proper tickets. Those who did not pay will be cited.

An all-day pass for the Light Rail is $3.50. A citation plus court fees can run up to $500.

METRO FY 2011 Service Change Options for Public Input

Reduce peak service frequency from 10 to 12 minutes
Estimated annual savings = $401,000

  • CURRENT:  Ten-minute peak service is provided on weekdays from 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • OPTION:  Peak service frequency would reduce to every 12 minutes from 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Reduce peak service frequency from 10 to 15 minutes
Estimated annual savings = $496,000

  • CURRENT:  Ten-minute peak service is provided on weekdays from 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • OPTION:  Peak service frequency would reduce to every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Shorten the 10-minute service period by two hours
Estimated annual savings = $252,000

  • CURRENT:  Ten-minute peak service is provided on weekdays from 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • OPTION:  The peak period would decrease by an hour on each end to 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Shorten the service day
Estimated annual savings = $321,000

  • CURRENT:  Service is provided from 4 a.m. – midnight on weekdays.
  • OPTION:  The service day would decrease by an hour on each end to 5 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Eliminate late-night service on Fridays
Estimated annual savings = $229,000

  • CURRENT:  Service is provided until 3 a.m. on Friday nights/Saturday mornings.
  • OPTION:  Service would be provided until midnight, similar to any weeknight.

Eliminate late-night service on Saturdays
Estimated annual savings = $144,000

  • CURRENT:  Service is provided until 3 a.m. on Saturday nights/Sunday mornings.
  • OPTION:  Service would be provided until midnight, similar to any weeknight.

Implement holiday service on five more days
Estimated annual savings = $40,000

  • CURRENT:  Regular service is provided on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Veterans Day, day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.
  • OPTION:  Service would reduce to a Sunday schedule on these days

 

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