Thousands ride metro light rail since weekend launch

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Commuters give light rail a try

PHOENIX - The light rail in the Valley is ready to roll.

Saturday was the beginning of service for the public with more than 150,000 people expected to ride the rails for free between now and the end of the year.

For some in Tempe on Friday, it was a taste of what is to come.

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman says, "This is an opportunity to get payback for four years of construction$1.4 billion investment."< /p>

A series of celebrations began Saturday at light rail stations from Phoenix to Tempe to Mesa kicking-off service to the first light rail system ever to be built and operated in a desert.

"What people ought to understand whether they like or hate light rail, it's herereturn on that investment," Mayor Hallman added.

The trains have run empty for months for testing but that testing is over and it is time for the real thing.

The hope is that Valley residents will give the system a try over the next few days and out-of-towners will also hop on board, especially for special events like the Insight Bowl and New Year's Eve block party in Tempe.

Officers say the system will be safe for the whole family. Officer Steve Carbajal says, "Safety teams should be in place 'till about 1 o'clock in the morning...during those times as well."

Riders will also have the opportunity to try out a free airport shuttle that runs from the 44th Street and Washington station to Sky Harbor Airport. The free airport shuttle service begins for real on Monday.

For a full listing of tomorrow's events, .