After living in the DC area for thirty years or so, I’ve become very used to having a pretty good public transportation system. It’s in need of many improvements, but would allow me to easily get to almost anywhere in the metro area, even if it took much longer than driving.
That’s not the case in Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the US.1 And Arizona Republicans want to make sure it doesn’t get any better.
But here’s the thing. The Maricopa levy [to fund public transportation] is set to expire in 2025 unless lawmakers give the go-ahead for an election.
More to the point, Monday’s debate and vote shows that any county that wants to fund transit projects will get the necessary legislative approval to ask their own voters for approval only if the plan complies with how state lawmakers agree how the money should be spent.
And that has become tainted by political philosophies, including a specific bias in favor of more roads at the expense of mass transit and light rail in particular.
To say the Phoenix area is sprawling is extremely understated. This is an area that grew up on single-family homes with big grassy yards, two-car garages, and pools. Most accepted not being able to keep the lawns only a few years ago.
A future with fewer cars will likely take much, much longer. And when it finally arrives, Republicans around here will likely blame Democrats.
As Stephen Colbert wisely observed:
We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in reality. And reality has a well-known liberal bias … Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, […] because 32 percent means it’s two-thirds empty. There’s still some liquid in that glass, is my point. But I wouldn’t drink it. The last third is usually backwash.
Between declining availability of water (which many Republicans in this state deny has any to link to climate change) and increasing traffic, that reality is headed to the Valley of the Sun at high speed.
But not on light rail.
The picture is from the linked article and shows “A Metro light rail train run[ning] along Washington Street on Dec. 22, 2008, in Phoenix.”
1. DC is “only” 23rd and has its own sprawl and traffic issues. But nothing like Phoenix.