The ol' SUV was in the shop yesterday in Mesa, giving us a chance to use light rail for more than just an experimental commute or novelty ride. In fact, we put the Valley's urban transportation to the test with a mix of trains, Valley Metro's DASH bus and a taxi.
The trip started when we asked the shuttle van service at Darner Jeep in Mesa to drop us off at the light-rail station at Sycamore. We'd ridden the line to the end before, but on this day we noticed this station bustles. Next to a park-and-ride lot and plenty of apartment complexes, the platform welcomes more people with each turn of the streetlight.
In the picture above, you can see a train driver who took a moment to bust the chops of a teen with a full spread of fast-food laid out before him -- a light-rail no-no.
We got off on Central Avenue and, to save a few minutes, took a taxi to the Office of Administrative Hearings at 14th Avenue and Washington. It cost six bucks, but we used the ride to stretch our Spanish skills with the driver, who spoke no English. He was from Mexico City and had been in the country three weeks, legally, thanks to his U.S.-citizen son.
After looking up some public records, we then hopped on the Dash bus at 14th Avenue and Jefferson.
"Does this bus keep going to 12th Street and Jefferson?" we asked the driver. Yes, it does, he answered. But a few minutes later, he turned left on Central Avenue, then made another left on Washington and headed west. We walked back up to the driver.
"I thought you said we're going to 12th Street?"
"But 12th Street is the other way."
"We'll get there."
"We'll get there eventually."
Taking his word for it, we plopped back down in a seat. A young guy who had overheard the exchange smiled and said, "He's been driving a bus in Phoenix for 32 years."
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Sure enough, I was soon back at the office. We tried to sneak our half-full cup of iced tea on the train later in the afternoon for the trip back to Mesa, but the driver -- from his mirror -- shot us a disappointed look and slowly shook his head. We watered the plants at the station with the drink -- the cup would have been okay with a lid.
Once back behind the wheel of our own vehicle, we felt a twinge of loneliness -- private transportation suddenly seemed too private.
(Though it is a heck of a lot faster).