Skip to content

Posts from the "Arizona" Category

22 Comments

Using L.A. Traffic Counts to Justify Sprawl in the Arizona-Nevada Desert

Congestion relief has nothing to do with Arizona and Nevada's zeal to expand U.S. Route 93 and rebrand it I-11. Photo: ##http://i11study.com/wp/##I-11 Study##

Congestion relief has nothing to do with Arizona and Nevada’s zeal to expand U.S. Route 93 and rebrand it I-11. Photo: I-11 Study

A recent report by U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group, “Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future,” examines 11 of the most wasteful, least justifiable road projects underway in America right now. Here’s the latest installment in our series profiling the various bad decisions that funnel so much money to infrastructure that does no good. 

Arizona and Nevada have proposed a $2.5 billion project to expand U.S. 93 through the desert between Phoenix and Las Vegas — a change that would mean the road could be added to the federal Interstate highway system and renamed I-11 — despite planners’ acknowledgments that barely any of the existing 200-mile road has any congestion at present, and that even under conditions of rapid traffic growth, that will not change substantially.

Justifications for building Interstate 11 often begin by noting that Phoenix and Las Vegas are the two largest adjacent U.S. cities that are not linked by an Interstate highway. But the two cities are linked by an existing highway — U.S. Route 93 — which may not boast the designation of “Interstate,” but is a four-lane divided highway for all but 45 miles of its length between Phoenix and Las Vegas. The remaining 45 miles largely traverse sparsely populated areas. The Interstate 11 project would widen those remaining stretches and make other modifications of varying scope to the entire length of the highway.

It is telling that in the official summary of reasons for constructing I-11, traffic and congestion are mentioned last, and only in terms of the potential of “reaching unacceptable levels of congestion, threatening economic competitiveness.” Recent trends in travel along the corridor show that at nearly all of the highway’s traffic counter locations, traffic growth has been slower than is forecast in project documents or has actually declined.

Arizona DOT and Nevada DOT show 12 locations between Phoenix and Las Vegas where projected traffic counts and actual traffic counts can be compared. In all 12 locations the DOTs projected that traffic would increase. In 10 of those locations traffic counts failed to reach DOT forecasts. In only two locations did traffic counts actually surpass the forecasted level; the only such location in Arizona was the six-mile stretch of U.S. 93 between the Nevada border and the remote Kingman Wash Road. In six locations along the route, traffic counts actually declined.

Indeed, the argument proponents make for I-11 seems to be as much about attracting more traffic to the Las Vegas-Phoenix corridor as reducing congestion.

Read more…

4 Comments

Phoenix Light Rail Beats Projections, and the Mayor Wants More

Phoenix Metro light rail is besting expectations. Photo: Wikipedia

Phoenix Metro light rail is beating expectations. Photo: Wikipedia

Can Phoenix become a transit city? It’s looking like more and more of a possibility lately.

Phoenix’s Metro light rail system is less than six years old but has already surpassed ridership projections for 2020. The system is carrying 48,000 passengers a day, or 22,000 more than initially projected, according to the Arizona Republic. Extensions of the system, which currently has 20 miles of track and 28 stations, are already underway and eagerly anticipated in Phoenix and the suburb of Mesa.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton isn’t about to stop there. He wants to triple the size of the system by 2030. Business and civic leaders will convene soon to develop an expansion plan to bring to voters next year. The team will be headed by Mary Peters, U.S. transportation secretary under President George W. Bush, the Republic reports.

Phoenix has also been trying to make the neighborhoods around the rail system more conducive to riding it. The city used about $3 million in funds from the Obama administrations’ Sustainable Communities Program to plan for transit-oriented development around the system’s stations. The blueprint, called Reinvent Phoenix, lays out incentives and zoning rules to encourage walkable development around the stations.

6 Comments

Arizonans Driving Like It’s 1994

Image: Arizona Public Interest Research Group

As in the rest of America, per capita driving in Arizona started to drop years before the Great Recession hit. Graph: Arizona Public Interest Research Group

Here’s more evidence that there’s a shift underway in how Americans get around: The Arizona Public Interest Research Group has released a new report [PDF] showing that residents of this sprawling Sun Belt state are driving less and taking transit more.

Between 2005 and 2012, the average number of miles driven by each Arizona resident declined 10.5 percent, according to PIRG. They are now driving fewer miles per capita than they did in 1994. These trends closely track national driving declines, and show the phenomenon isn’t limited to compact coastal metro areas.

In notoriously sprawling Phoenix, people are starting to ditch their cars. Between 2006 and 2011, the share of households with two or more vehicles decreased 2.9 percent, PIRG reports. And the total number of cars and trucks on the state’s roads is dropping, even as the population grows. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of registered vehicles in Arizona declined 4 percent.

The authors attribute these trends to a combination of factors, including the economic downturn, the retirement of Baby Boomers, rising gas prices, increases in telecommuting, and the changing preferences of Millennials.

“It is unknown whether this increase in carless households is the result of changing preferences or economic hardship, but it does represent a dramatic reversal of the national trend toward increased vehicle ownership since at least the 1960s,” write authors Serena Unrein and Diane E . Brown.

Meanwhile, transit ridership is on the rise in Arizona’s major cities. In Phoenix, between 2005 and 2010, total transit trips increased 16 percent. Part of the increase is certainly due to the opening of Phoenix’s light rail system in 2008. That system has been outpacing ridership projections. In the Tucson area, growth has been more dramatic. During the same period, total transit trips in metro Tucson increased 25 percent, PIRG reports.

Read more…

114 Comments

Arizona Police Arrest “Jaywalking” Professor in Racially-Charged Incident

Arizona earned its reputation for police excess yet again recently when an officer demanded identification of an African-American pedestrian — for the crime of walking in a campus street to avoid construction on the sidewalk — and got violent when she refused to produce it.

Arizona State University professor Ersula Ore was walking around some construction on the Tempe college campus last month when an ASU police officer stopped her. Before she could even explain why she was walking in the street, he asked her for ID. When she bristled at the request, he threatened her with arrest. Before long, he had slammed her violently to the ground, her body exposed, and his hands in all the wrong places.

“The reason I’m talking to you right now is because you’re walking in the middle of the street,” Officer Stewart Ferrin told Ore when he stopped her. “That’s called obstruction of a public thoroughfare.”

“I’ve been here for over three years and everybody walks this street,” she replied. “Everybody’s been doing this because it’s all obstructed. That’s the reason why. But you stop me in the middle of street to pull me over and you ask me, ‘Do you know what this is? This is a street — ’”

“This is a street,” Ferrin interjects.

Then he demands that she put her hands behind her back, she demands that he take his hands off her, and trigger warnings start to fly.

Read more…

1 Comment

Washington, Colorado, and Oregon Win Top Bike-Friendly State Honors

The League of American Bicyclists' annual bike friendly state rankings.

Congratulations are due to Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Minnesota; those four states took home top rankings this year in the League of American Bicyclists’ annual Bicycle Friendly States appraisal. The winners were announced this morning.

Washington has held the top position for six years running. But there were a few shake-ups further down the list.

Delaware was one of the main up-and-comers, jumping from number ten to number 5. The Bike League’s blog praised Governor Jack Markell, along with the state legislature and advocacy organizations.

“The benefits of biking are countless, and that’s why I’m proud to support dedicated federal funding for biking and walking infrastructure,” U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) told the Bike League.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, meanwhile, said his state is not satisfied with second place.

“An important part of making Colorado the healthiest state is encouraging people to be more active in their everyday routines,” Hickenlooper said. “We’re proud that our bicycle-friendly policies have skyrocketed Colorado’s rank up 20 places in just five years, and we are committed to being No. 1 in the near future.”

Among the other most-improved states were Illinois and Arizona.

Michael Sanders, the Arizona Department of Transportation bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said his state has been studying bike collisions and developing ways to reduce them.

These testimonies from high-ranking political officials prove how effective the Bicycle Friendly State program is at incentivizing a little good-natured competition to make cycling easier, safer, and more convenient for everyone. 

Here’s a preview of the top 15:

Read more…