This column appeared in today’s Scottsdale Republic print edition.
City leaders must get on board rapid transit for Scottsdale
As one of the residents who submitted a citizens petition to place the issue of mass transit as an agenda item for the City Council to consider, I want to briefly explain my reasons for doing so.
Although this topic was considered previously, I concluded that changes throughout the Valley and in the economics of travel warranted a new examination. One factor is the price of gasoline and the increasingly high cost of single transportation. Four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline is probable and $10 is not a fantasy any longer.
The other major factor that caused me to ask the council is the transit system that is rapidly becoming regional in nature. Phoenix has extended its system to the northern part of the city, Gilbert has requested the system, and Tempe is working on additional mileage. To ignore the changes in transportation that are taking place in the Valley is to abrogate the responsibility voters assigned to the City Council.
One of the actions pertaining to mass transit is the negative attitude certain individuals demonstrate without having gained knowledge how light rail functions in other cities, what factors influenced governments to adopt the system that was chosen and what would the governments do differently. I have done some research pertaining to light-rail systems and one conclusion stands out: There is a vocal minority against mass transit before installation, and a majority strongly in favor once a system is in place and functioning for a time.
Several people have spoken of light rail providing the means for criminals to invade our sanctuary to commit crimes of a heinous nature. That conclusion is based upon the assumption that felons cannot drive or are not comfortable taking the bus.
Experience and records show that light rail does not increase the crime rate. What a mass-transit approach would accomplish would be a system that transports a workforce that our tourist and high-tech industries sorely need. Those industries provide a tax base that helps Scottsdale keep property taxes low.
There are many additional reasons for a rapid-transit system. A main impetus behind the petition is that there is a need to revisit the issue. Speaking out against any topic without a detailed review is a mistake asking to be made.
This issue, if mishandled, can cost Scottsdale dearly. However, if a proper and complete study is made — sans politics — then Scottsdale’s future will continue to have the reputation of being one of the most desirable in the United States. Too often, the naysayers gain the attention of voters, while the optimists speak quietly with knowledge.
This issue is one that ignites emotions. However, a calm, studied approach will educate residents as to which system serves Scottsdale best. Yes, it will offer opportunity to some. That means more tax revenue and new businesses. That is capitalism.
Jerry Gettinger is a political adviser and consultant in Scottsdale.