Tempe Trolley

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Two different routes are being considered for a new Tempe streetcar. Councilwoman Shana Ellis will discuss the trolley and the possible routes.

Ted Simons: The federal government recently approved a 2.7 mile streetcar track for downtown Tempe. The city is considering two different routes for the streetcar line, and here to tell us more is Tempe city council member Shana Ellis. Good to see you again.

Shana Ellis: Good to see you.

Ted Simons: This is definitely going to happen. Correct? This is not so much of a proposal, but how are we going to do it.

Shana Ellis: Well, that's how we believe. We have been working with the federal government, the FTA, hand in hand, and we were submitted for a project development, and so that means that they're holding our hand through this process, we have a couple more steps that we need to do before our final submittal, but we believe it will happen.

Ted Simons: OK. We're talking a streetcar, not a light rail system. Define the difference.

Shana Ellis: Correct. A streetcar, it does look a little bit like light rail. If people have seen the modern streetcar in Portland, this is the model we're using. It actually runs in the lane of traffic, so in that aspect it is different from our light rail system, the stops are much closer, and the stations are much smaller. The construction also will be a lot less.

Ted Simons: So basically not so much of an impact on businesses down there while this is being constructed.

Shana Ellis: Correct. Portland's experience has been they could do three blocks in three weeks and open the lanes of traffic during the evenings for people to be able to still travel on.

Ted Simons: So what is, before we get to the routes, what is the streetcar designed to do? What is this project designed to do?

Shana Ellis: There's a lot of pieces of value we believe it will add to our community. 1st and foremost, it will be able to offer additional mobility options to our residents, it will be connected to our existing transit system, it will be run by metro rail that runs our light rail system, and also will integrate with our bus system. We've seen those numbers go through the roof. People are riding transit in record numbers, so this is just a piece of the transit network that's out there.

Ted Simons: So is this a people mover? A student mover? Or a downtown mover?

Shana Ellis: Yes.

Ted Simons: Yes, OK. It's all of those. So let's talk about the routes. I find this is fascinating stuff, planning a city here. The first one is called the Apache Rio Solado option. What are we looking at here?

Shana Ellis: The first option we're looking at is shaped more like a C. So it starts behind the ASU stadium at Packard drive, and then it would turn south down mill Avenue, and then it would turn east at Apache, which is where Gammage is, and go all the way to rural road. The second option that we're looking at starts at Rio Soldao and Mill, goes south to Apache and again turns east, but it would connect to light rail at terrace, which is just east of rural.

Ted Simons: Where we're looking right now, the red line, Apache, on both -- Both angles for Apache, Rio Solado, and the one stop for terrace, are those turn-arounds?

Shana Ellis: The downtown area is an actual loop. It runs counterclockwise, and that is to avoid utilities that are in the street. So it makes it a lot less expensive. The other line that you see through there is the existing light rail line. So people can see how it does go in a circular motion.

Ted Simons: And benefits, pluses and minuses of each option. What are you hearing?

Shana Ellis: Well, we are gathering public input on this now. We've had an open house that had about 80 people attend, and they gave some input and online we're collecting some input, people can go to valley metro.org/Tempestreetcar, and that's through June 30. But there's additional studies that need to be done too. We need to find out how expensive it is to move existing things under the street, so the council will be weighing in all of those options in the fall, and then making a recommendation to the region and ultimately to the federal government.

Ted Simons: Originally I know that the streetcar line was supposed to actually go farther down Mill Avenue, I think to Southern around those lines? That didn't seem to last very long. What happened?

Shana Ellis: It lasted quite a few years, but we received feedback once we summited our application to the federal government, that that area wasn't an area that was ripe for economic development or for additional population growth. It's mainly single-family homes. And because it's federal government money, we need to abide by their criteria and they felt either one of these routes would have a higher chance of being funded with their dollars. The main -- Another main thing that a streetcar would do is economic development potential that it has.

Ted Simons: I think everyone who's been along Apache Boulevard can see what light rail has done for that area. It's almost ridiculous how that --

Shana Ellis: Yeah. 1.4 billion dollars in investment and we have 7 billion back already. So we know that with permanent infrastructure actually putting tracks in the street, that we do have additional businesses and residents that will be located along the streetcar route.

Ted Simons: Traffic concerns, especially on mill Avenue with the streetcar in the street? Studies done, what are you seeing?

Shana Ellis: Well, because it shares a lane of traffic, we don't believe that it will have much of an impact there. There are buses going up and down Mill Avenue now that have stops, and we're hoping that people will take the streetcar instead of traffic. One of the things I think is great are those billboards that are out there that say you're not stuck in traffic, you are traffic. If people have an additional option for transportation, their trip doesn't seem to take as long.

Ted Simons: Last question here, it looks as though I would guess there would you be opportunities for expansion, the one that stops at Packard I can't see why you wouldn't go all the way to Tempe marketplace and maybe the one that stops at rural, maybe on the way to Mesa -- Is there any talk of that?

Shana Ellis: Yes. Actually, we've had conversation was officials in Mesa, they would love to see it go to their Cubs stadium. ASU would love to see it go through their stadium district. We've talked to Chandler, they would love to see it there. And additionally, Phoenix is doing a study south on Central from their light rail line to see if a streetcar could be something they could do in the future.

Ted Simons: Alright. We'll keep an eye on that. Thank you so much for joining us.

Shana Ellis: Thank you.

Shana Ellis:City of Tempe, Coucilwoman;

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