$3,617 an inch

Via a reader, comes this update on the link from Phoenix's new light rail line to the airport:

Down the line, Sky Harbor plans to phase out shuttles.

Eventually, an automated train will take passengers around the airport. The project will cover 4.8 miles and will cost $1.1 billion.

Construction on the project began this year, and the first phase is scheduled to open in 2013.

The entire system will be up by 2020, Sky Harbor officials say.

I beg your pardon?  $1.1 Billion.  With a B?  For 4.8 miles?  That is, as the title implies, $3,617 per inch.   It is probably so expensive because they will be working at the blistering pace of 1/3 mile per year, or about 5 feet per day.

Some Valley residents have questioned the reason Phoenix and transit officials didn't build one train system - light rail - with several stations at Sky Harbor.

Transit leaders considered that, but they decided against it, light-rail officials have said.

Running the line through Sky Harbor would have made light rail even more expensive.

Because, you know, if the Sky Harbor extension is an entirely different project that has to be funded later to make up an obvious service gap that everyone and his dog can immediately spot in the system, then the cost doesn't count?

  • Mike

    It's extremely rare that I am in the vicinity of Skyharbor. I didn't know the light rail line was NOT running through, or near the airport. I was floored when I drove up 24th? street to find the light rail running a few blocks north of the airport.

    It seemed completely illogical to me. They EASILY could have built the light rail close to the airport, and run express trains for commuter traffic past the airport. Imagine:

    Instead of driving to an economy lot, and taking a shuttle you decide:

    Have a friend drop you off at a light rail stop, it's summer, and the sun's up. (They probably will have to drop you off, odds are you don't live near the light rail anyway, you'll have to get a ride!)

    You way about 15 minutes in the hot sun, with your luggage. You board the train. It's a bit crowded, and you have your luggage. You deal with stop after stop, people are boarding and leaving the train, always tripping over your luggage.

    Then you make it to your stop, a mile or so away from the airport. You exit the train, to wait for your bus. 10, maybe more minutes, in the heat, with your luggage. You then have to lug our luggage on the bus, and you get a ride to the airport.

    You fool, why not just have your friend drop you off at the airport anyway?!? Most of the light rail runs either through low income neighborhoods, or the neighborhoods will become low income after the light rail starts running, how many of these residents (who don't drive) fly often enough to really benefit from taking on such a journey?

    Making $30,000 a year, it would take someone 36,667 years to pay off the $1.1billion.

  • http://www.creativedestruction.com/ Sameer Parekh

    A billion dollars is no longer a lot of money. You have to hit trillion now.

  • Allen

    Be careful what you wish for. The officials at MSP shelled out big bucks for the Hiawatha line to be tunneled under the airport. They got 2 stops out of it. One at the main terminal and the other at a remote terminal. They built a butt ton of parking at the remote terminal (there was already some remote lots there) and they dropped the shuttle bus. So instead of parking in the remote lot and even at odd hours having a shuttle bus every 10 minutes or so, you had to quickly pile onto the light rail train with your bags (not an easy task since it's not designed for that) and ride it over to the main terminal. Off hours the train only came every 1/2 an hour. What a mess. I believe after a couple years of complaints from their customers, MSP has finally re-instituted the shuttle bus between the remote lots and the main terminal (but I'm not sure).

  • Allen

    BTW - Mike is right, it's pretty impractical to ride the train to the airport. Those comments touch on something more fundamental ---> Since when did public transportation go from existing to help ensure the poor and working poor can get around to ensuring the upper middle class can get to the airport cheaply or avoid paying $11 / day for parking downtown?

  • http://www.tinyvital.com/blog John Moore

    Errr... what's wrong with just keeping the buses? They work. And by Obama logic - hey, they create jobs for bus drivers and mechanics.

    Did they give any justification at all for this nonsense?

    Long ago I concluded that the Sky Harbor area was a training ground for civil engineers, a place where they could lay the highest density of unconnected concrete roads and confusing traffic signs, always in a state of construction.

    I liked Sky Harbor better when it was just Terminal One ;-)