Valley Metro pulled out all the stops for yesterday's debut of the 20-mile light rail system we've been writing about all month. They had parties scheduled at pretty much every stop on the line -- though, honestly, I'm not sure there was anything beyond an unmanned purple tent full of fliers at the ghetto fabulous 24th Street/Washington Stop, where I foolishly disembarked at one point -- the biggest in Tempe, where native son Roger Clyne managed to deliver a satisfying set in broad daylight.
So, like I said, Clyne and his band, The Peacemakers, were good. The festivities as a whole? Pretty awful. Seeing Roger for free is always cool, but it required braving Valley Metro's giant clusterfuck-of-an-opening-day, and it's hard for me to separate the two. While most media out there seems quick to dwell on the positive, I can't help but dream up a couple dozen ways this whole thing could have been handled better.
So there are already plenty of doubters about this whole light rail project, mostly oweing to the fact that in a car-and-booze-loving and DUI-dreading town like Phoenix the train is (beyond being an attempt to appear sophisticated to folks back east) and a billion dollar party bus.... albeit a billion dollar party bus that stops running at midnight, making it borderline useless.
Ostensibly, Valley Metro is well-aware of this criticism and is gearing up to win the hearts and minds of Valley residents, slowly convincing them that light rail is not a novelty, but, rather a legitimate transportation option. Their opening day dug them a pretty huge hole, as looky loos waited
Further Listening: Forget listening, you have been reading Night Train, our light rail bar crawl, right?
By the Way: I'm glad I went through all the hassle to ride the train the first day. It's a story I plan to tell for a long time. I just wish Valley Metro had made things easier on us by deflating some of the hype with a soft opening.
Top photo by Benjamin Leatherman, others by Martin Cizmar