Teens for Light Rail

Scottsdale Republic "Opinions Editor" Grant Martin

In the most recent of what seems to be a never-ending stream of nonsensical opinion columns, cub editor Grant Martin of the Scottsdale Republic somehow manages to conclude that because a bunch of teenagers said so, Scottsdale should have light rail [Teens set an example for the way civil debate should be].

Martin says that the recent Future Leaders Town Hall at SkySong included,

…the most cordial and reasonable debate over light rail this city has ever seen.

Martin goes on to quote one of the participants:

“I can’t say we shouldn’t have a light rail, because we don’t have a light rail,” one young man opined. “I just don’t know what having one would look like.”

Therein lies a big problem. Not only do these teens by-and-large have no understanding of the challenges of light rail, most didn’t even know the first thing about Scottsdale’s General Plan prior to attending this ‘summit.’ I wonder whether Grant Martin knows the first thing about the General Plan, either, since he never even mentions it in his column. The “visioning” process is the first step in updating our 2001 General Plan.

Further [again Martin quotes directly from the Town Hall report]:

Five of the six panels ultimately came down in favor of light-rail expansion.

Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact wording of those expressions of support (other than the one half-hearted participant comment, above), because as is the fashion of sanitizing and distilling participant input down into sound bites and “consensus” statements, no record was provided of what was actually said during the discussions that constitutes being “…in favor or light-rail expansion.”

If Martin had been doing his job, he would have also reported on the participant list provided by Arizona Town Hall (the group to whom the visioning process has been contracted). One astute community advocate who did so, says,

In reviewing the list of Teen Hall participants, it is greatly disappointing to see the low representation of teens who live in Scottsdale.  It is further a concern that more than 30% of the participants are from an already cohesive thought-group, the Mayor’s Youth Council.   It was a false hope that the Teen group would provide the February adult group with specifics (not long-range planning terms and jargon).

That’s right: 30% of the participants were not even Scottsdale residents. And yet, Councilman Dennis Robbins and Mayor Jim Lane promised the group that their work would be included in Scottsdale’s General Plan, the master policy document for the government of the City of Scottsdale.

We might as well have invited a bunch of light rail riders from Phoenix to participate. But they were probably too busy planning next year’s “No Pants AZ Light Rail Ride” [photos, because I’m sure you want to see].

There’s no word from Grant Martin on whether he supports no-pants light rail riding in Scottsdale.

On a tangential note about alternative transportation, I enjoyed this series of tweets from Martin about one of the challenges of utility biking (as opposed to recreational biking) in Scottsdale: What to do with your bike?

Grant Martin on Bike Racks

“Find a tree,” indeed! I hope that wasn’t the TPC’s advice when asked for directions to the nearest bathroom.

In all seriousness, if Scottsdale really wants to do be serious about transportation, better accommodations for self-propelled modes would go a long way toward relieving congestion…but, I’m not including pedicabs in that recommendation.

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  1. Agree to disagree about light rail in Scottsdale. Agree completely about Grant’s bike tweets. It’s ironic that the Waste Management Phoenix Open is touting its green credentials in terms of *re*cycling, but hasn’t made any accommodations for *bi*cycling.

    1. I appreciate your perspective, David, and I know you are a “light rail guy.” However, there are many things about light rail that Scottsdale residents need to know before buying into the concept. My biggest point is that neither this teen town hall or Grant Martin’s column about it contributed to the critical analysis that must take place before we start ripping up traffic lanes and laying down rails.

      Light rail is very expensive. $8 million/mile and $1.5 million/mile operating cost. Much of the money to construct it comes from federal grants that contain stipulations requiring municipalities to continue operating it regardless of whether it even pays for itself (which it has demonstrated that it does not and never will).

      Light rail was ‘sold’ to the municipal partners here in the Valley on the basis that it would reduce congestion. However, even if operating at full capacity it could only displace about 2% of the vehicular traffic from surface streets and freeways.
      Further, light rail actually increases pollution because of increased idle time for vehicles waiting to cross the signal-favored trains.

      The biggest tragedy of light rail is that it saps funds from our existing bus system, which rail can never replace or even adequately supplement. The bus system desperately needs better vehicles and more frequent headways if we are going to sell commuters on the idea of abandoning their vehicles for mass transit.

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