For weeks, we’ve known a rough outline of how light rail will make its debut in the Valley. On Friday, Dec. 26, there’s a big media preview with reporters, photographers and camera crews riding the last test train.
That night, the VIPs will enjoy a celebratory banquet in downtown Phoenix. Over the weekend, people will be allowed to ride the 20-mile line for free.
And on Monday, Dec. 29, the parties are over and passengers have to pay to get from here to there.
But Metro is quietly rethinking the timing of that last part.
On Wednesday, Metro’s board of directors will consider whether to hold off charging for service until New Year’s Day. That’s the recommendation of a subcommittee, although it comes with a potential revenue loss of between $50,000 and $200,000.
As Metro staff members explain, whenever a new bus line in the Valley Metro network is brought online, the practice has been to make it a free service for its first week.
In fact, that’s the plan for a bus rapid transit route in Mesa, opening at the same time as light rail, which will connect the station at Sycamore and Main Street with Superstition Springs Mall and Banner Baywood Medical Center.
As Metro notes, delaying the start of the rail line’s revenue service would create consistency of fare collection in those opening days.
Also, that first week is expected to be marked by sparse ridership, as Arizona State University isn’t in session.
However, downtown Tempe will be hosting the Insight Bowl and Tempe Block Party on New Year’s Eve. These events draw more than 200,000 participants from around the Valley, and Metro anticipates light rail might carry 20,000 to 24,000 attendees to the game and/or party, especially if there is no cost to ride.
Getting There plans to attend Wednesday’s board meeting, so check the Tribune’s Web site that afternoon to find out the board’s decision.
In last week’s column, I misidentified Rep. Ed Pastor as hailing from a Tucson district. Actually, his district is in the West Valley.