Episode 9: Twitter Topics #1

2010 March 23
by bullybully32

Episode 9:

 
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MADPHX takes a different direction for a bit to talk about topics submitted through Twitter. A discussion about proposed Lightrail changes starts us off and then we roll into topics from the decision to put an upscale grocery store downtown; speed and redlight cameras (are they making a difference?); and Ramadagate.

Participants: Derek Neighbors, Jose Gonzalez, Nina Miller, and Bully Bjorn

MADPHX Theme Music: Andrew Jackson Jihad

MADPHX Intro: Billy Boy Binder

6 Responses leave one →
  1. March 26, 2010

    Hey guys. FYI this is how to pronounce my name: http://bit.ly/by2SNp

    Transit cuts:

    In response to the first topic on transit reductions. Yeah 10->12 minutes doesn’t seem like that big of a deal… but few use the light rail after 12am. In fact it’s estimated that less than 210,000 rides would be cut annually by cutting scheduled late night service, that’s about 2% of the annual ridership. However, changing the headway to 12 minutes and reducing those peak service hours by 2 hrs daily will reduce ridership by 1,080,000 annually = 9.5%. That’s a big difference. Special events like New Years Eve will still have special service going until 2-4am. For the specifics of how I feel about this check out this doc I threw together before Phoenix’s METRO board members decided what their priorities were. http://bit.ly/ax6O6B

    And raising the fare was necessary to keep a similar level of service since there are revenue shortfalls because of dwindling sales tax revenues (in 2000 Phoenix voted to approve a special sales tax increase that must go to transportation projects and operations, so funding is not from the general fund meaning the city cannot cut transit funding and put it into libraries since that was not the will of the voters). Fare capture is intended to provide 20% of the funds for operating the system, improvements to the system and service will never come from increased fares.

    Roads are subsidized too, for example, Phoenix’s general fund pays for potholes to be filled and certain road enhancements like left turn arrows being installed at intersections where they are needed… the general fund is made up mostly by sales and property tax… so people who drive aren’t necessarily paying for that infrastructure either, I don’t own a car but my money is used for amenities for automobiles. Oh, and food is now subject to the sales tax that pays for these road improvements in Phoenix. Shouldn’t be hard to guess how I feel about that.

    Unsubsidized operation of light rail here would mean that tickets would be around $12/ride.

    I ride lrt at all times of the day since I have a flexible work schedule, classes get canceled etc, the busiest time those trains see is during afternoon commute home. Sports and entertainment events driver ridership up, so suns games and baseball games at early afternoon = full trains.

    Downtown grocery:

    Hey Nicky! Let’s talk about your food questions because my best friend/roommate and I eat a low fat plant based diet and we live in the heart of downtown. Plus we don’t dumpster dive, although I am sure I know people who do.

    Traffic cameras:

    I support initiatives that (measurably) improves public safety! But I also agree with Derek in that this can’t replace due process. Let’s just be aware of these issues and keep talking about it. But I think a lot of the people with problems with this issue is because they want to get away with breaking the law more frequently.

    Great job you guys. Keep thinking, speaking and doing.

  2. March 26, 2010

    Hi! I just want to offer my two cents. I am Khamis’s roommate, so I can respond to the “Where are vegans buying their food?” question. There are many types of vegan (no meat/eggs/dairy/animal products) diets people follow from very high-fat, low-nutrient processed foods (e.g. taco bell) to nutrient-dense, high-fat, raw foods to low-fat, unprocessed or unrefined, starch-based…etc. The list goes on. As you can imagine, most vegan diets require much thought and planning. “Vegan food” is everywhere. A few bananas from Quick Trip, a quinoa salad at Phx Public Market, a Chipotle burrito. It just depends on your standards, your transportation/travel time and how much money you have to spend. Khamis and I live across the street from the Safeway and within a few minutes walk from the public market, yet we still have to travel to Trader Joe’s or a “health store” a couple times a week to accommodate our budget. Basically, “our food” is just quality (fresh, organic and local, if possible) food at a decent price (no thank you to the gourmet groceries) that didn’t use an animal to produce it. For now, the Phx Public Market is the winner (produce is hella cheap for organic and local), but it’s not ideal if you’re shopping for something that comes in a package (quality, local, but $$$); however, it is the closest to servicing the residents of “downtown” than other existing or proposed stores at this time. Now, if Ranch Market III stocked locally-grown, organic produce, that might be the perfect store! Thank you for discussing these topics and I like the format of using discussion points through Twitter.

  3. bullybully32 permalink*
    March 26, 2010

    Thank you for listening and adding to the discussion. We are certainly not the experts on eating well (if this wasn’t an audio podcast…).

    Khamis – I tend to have a very hard time when it comes to my taxation. I find it slightly appalling that I pay for creation and maintenance of services I don’t use. I like to choose where my ‘donation’ goes. But now I am sure everyone will think I am a selfish, heartless, bastard. :P

  4. March 29, 2010

    Hey, Khamis & Angie!

    Thanks for the feedback and thoughts!

    Re: Light rail -

    Thanks for the thoughts and the info.

    I guess that I don’t understand how going from a peak service hours frequency of 10 minutes to 12 translates to 761,000 riders lost.

    Where do they go and what do they do to get where they wanted to go? That stat assumed and not explained.

    I’m assuming that they don’t all just decide to stay home, buy a car, or schedule carpools (though that would be a fantastic development if it happened en masse). If the light rail route was at all useful for people to get to work or wherever, I’d assume that taking the bus probably isn’t that much more convenient for them as an alternative.

    I’ve used public transportation in Phoenix off & on since I was a teenager.

    If I wanted to get from West Phoenix to Downtown via McDowell (Route 17, represent!), generally, the frequency was (and maybe it’s changed) was one bus every 15 minutes during peak service hours and one bus every 30 minutes during off-peak hours (weekdays).

    It would have been awesome if the frequency of that bus were 10 or 12 minutes instead of 15, but it wasn’t. I still had places to get to, so I would just plan for that frequency instead not using the bus.

    That’s definitely not a “Let them eat cake” moment from me at all, but my hunch is that most people will then just plan for that extra 2 minute wait.

    Re: A vegan diet in downtown / central Phoenix -

    Great thoughts and info!

    I don’t think it was meant to sound impossible to be vegetarian or vegan around here as much as it’s a little ridiculous that mainstream supermarkets like Safeway or Basha’s have so little veg/vegan items stocked – particularly dairy and meat substitutes (necessitating all of the planning that you’ve described).

    Non-meat diets seem pretty common nowadays and definitely not fringe. I would think that grocery stores would try to see that as an opportunity.

  5. March 31, 2010

    Thanks for recognizing that I get out and experience Phoenix a LOT. Part of that is driven by the fact that I have to commute across town most days, so I travel past a lot of great coffee shops, restaurants, etc. every day. But I’m also motivated to go find the well-known and hidden gems of the Valley, regardless of where they are. There’s no one part of the city that has everything, so I don’t mind getting in the car and going to Scottsdale, Chandler or Gilbert. The fact remains that the Valley is a big place and if you limit yourself to only one area, you’re going to miss out on a lot of great things.

    With regards to light rail cutbacks, I hate to say it, but that I think the night rail hours wouldn’t be a terrible casualty. I know that people (including me) really were all for it initially, but it hasn’t turned out to be used very much at all. Late night hours sound like a good idea, but the truth is that not that many people can entirely replace driving with light rail. Yeah, maybe there’s some good places to drink along light rail, but there’s a lot more that aren’t close to the rail. There’s also not that many people who truly live within walking (or stumbling/crawling) distance of a light rail station.

    The light rail is used MUCH more heavily by people who connect with it via bus or drive to a park & ride. That’s the only way I make light rail work for my commute. Night rail is a great idea, but it needs to wait until the urban density along the line has gone WAY up.

    Keep rocking the good conversations, guys (and lady)!

  6. April 5, 2010

    Good podcast. I just caught up on it — while riding light rail, of course.

    I’m torn about the late night hours. It’s great for Phoenix to boast that it has the latest rail transit hours in the western U.S. (later than San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles, etc.). I also like the ability to attend a Downtown event without having to check my watch to see if I need to leave before the final curtain call in order not to be stranded Downtown. Then again, I have young children at home, so it’s a rarity for me to be out past 8 PM anyway. I’m not really the target demographic for night rail.

    On the other hand, Khamis and Matthew make good points. I hate to see night rail preserved at the expense of service levels during the day, when light rail is pretty consistently full. In response to Bully’s question about who rides light rail during the day, I’d say it’s a mix of students, people who work early or late shifts, and a lot of leisure riders going to destinations and events along the line. The estimates of ridership dropoffs due to service reductions are just that — estimates. It will be interesting to see how the public tolerates frequency reductions during peak hours from every 10 minutes to every 12 minutes. People predicted a big ridership reduction due to the fare increase, yet that didn’t happen.

    By the way, that fare increase was necessary for a few reasons: 1) Dwindling sales tax revenues have reduced funds that subsidize rail and bus transit. 2) METRO Light Rail must recapture a certain percent of costs (%25, I believe) through fare sales in order to meet conditions imposed by the federal government as a condition of helping to fund construction of the rail line. 3) Transit fares in Phoenix were way below national averages before the fare hike. The hike basically bring them in line with other cities. For all these reasons, it’s probably not realistic to expect more service from the fare hike. Instead, it simply reduced the number of cuts to service due to the economic situation.

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