Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday Morning in Downtown Mesa: Groundbreaking for the Metro Light Rail Extension

We were privileged to attend the groundbreaking for the first Metro light rail extension in downtown Mesa this morning, an important step in improving the East Valley's mass transit system, rejuvenating central Mesa, and getting some of us out of our cars.
The canopy over the event at Robson just north of Main Street, where the four new stops (Alma School Road, Country Club Drive, Center Street, Mesa Drive) of the first light rail extension will run, made things cooler but it made our dumbphone pics basically indecipherable.
No disrespect is intended -- we will be having a talk with our camera -- and we were impressed with the speeches of Mesa's visionary mayor Scott Smith; Valley Metro CEO Steve Banta; Mesa Councilmember and Metro Board Vice-Chairman Dennis Kavanaugh; the gentleman from Valley Transit Constructors, which will be building the project; the event's MC, David Schwarz, executive director of Friends of Transit; and others.
Michelle Moyer and the Take Cover band supplied the music,
and there was a lot -- really a lot -- of food
for the crowd that attended the event, which started at 8 a.m.
We got a "METRO Breaks Ground" pin, the first in a series of six "Mark the Milestones" pins that will end with the grand opening, sometime in 2015. And then, hopefully, the light rail will be extended to Gilbert Road and beyond. We have fantasies that someday the light rail will come all the way out to Apache Junction and extend to many other parts of the Valley, transforming the area into the kind of urban environment more and more people seem to want to live in.
As a kid growing up in postwar New York City -- inshallah, we're heading back there next week -- we saw the choices for urban development in what's probably a simplistic way, with Robert Moses and his large-project, highway-driven environment (if you haven't read Robert A. Caro's The Power Broker, you should) one one side and on the other, the street-life, neighborhood ethos of Jane Jacobs, as explained in The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
For us, downtown Mesa is the one of the places in the East Valley in which we feel most comfortable, because it's walkable and it's got at least the start of a street culture that can attract what Richard Florida calls the creative class.
With at least three colleges coming downtown, along with other projects -- thanks to Mayor Smith and other enlightened leaders -- the light rail extension can really provide a way for a city with more people than Cleveland, Miami or Minneapolis to become something better than it has been. We're hopeful "Building a Better Mesa" is more than just another slogan.

2012 Best of the Capitol - Best Elected Officials: Greg Stanton & Scott Smith from Arizona Capitol Times Video on Vimeo.

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