I’m sure fine speeches were delivered Saturday at the opening of the light-rail extension in to downtown Mesa. But the candid, cute comments Mesa Mayor John Giles gave Friday at the announcement that LISC Phoenix and Raza Development Fund will add $30 million dollars to a transit-oriented development fund for projects along the Valley Metro light-rail route are worth sharing for their insights about downtown Mesa’s history and the success of light rail.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton also delivered remarks at the announcement, which kicked off a flurry of transit-related activities in the Valley over a few days. The three-mile extension of light-rail through downtown Mesa opened Saturday. On Tuesday, Phoenix voters will decide the fate of the Proposition 104 transit tax, which in part, expands the light-rail system.
Here are excerpts from Giles’ comments:
“Once upon a time, downtown Mesa was the economic hub of the entire East Valley. That was true for Tempe, back in the day, and Chandler. And then slowly but surely as the great (U.S.) 60 freeway was built and the (Loop) 202 and the Tri-City Mall and Fiesta Mall and this and that, and before you know it, the life of our downtown was slowly siphoned off.
I had the privilege of serving on the City Council in the 1990s, and, frankly, when I left, I felt like I had given up hope that our downtown was ever going to be revived. But as pessimistic as I was then, I am certain that downtown Mesa — Mayor Stanton, I’m sorry to tell you – is the next big thing.”
“Back when I was on the council in the ‘90s, I remember being somewhat pessimistic that light rail was a good idea. Because if you remember back then, we were thinking we’re in this Western sprawl environment. Really, is fixed-line transit a good idea? Or are we building some sort of Disneyland ride where we’re all going to scratch our head and wonder about later. I can’t be more delighted about being wrong about something.”
“Light rail is a huge hit. Light rail is very successful by any measure. And as good as it is as a transportation system, as exciting as it is to take (25,000) to 35,000 cars off the road in Mesa, Arizona, it is as good or better as an economic redevelopment system. The private investment that has resulted from this significant public investment is on a 7:1 scale. And already just in Mesa, before light rail really makes it into our downtown tomorrow, there’s been a $90 million commercial investment in and around the light rail route.”
“As excited as I am about Mesa’s good news tomorrow (Aug. 22), I’m almost equally excited about the success we’re going to see in Phoenix next week (with the vote on the Proposition 104 transit tax). As mentioned, this is very much a regional system, the (25,000) and 30,000 people a day in Mesa that are getting on the line right now, are going to Mesa. They’re traveling in to Tempe and Phoenix. This is very much a regional system. And so we’re very excited to see the success in Phoenix and appreciate the leadership of Mayor Stanton and (City Councilwoman) Kate (Gallego) in campaigning so hard for this great expansion of the line. It will make the system all that much more successful for everyone who uses the system.”