The AZ Republic has some of the first information I have ever seen on the nature of Phoenix light rail ridership. The first part confirms what I have always said, that light rail's primary appeal is to middle and upper class whites who don't want to ride on the bus with the plebes
Light rail has changed the demographics of overall transit users since the system opened in 2008, according to Valley Metro.
Passengers report higher incomes than bus riders, with more than a quarter living in households making more than $50,000 a year. Many riders have cars they could use.
The 20-mile system running through Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa recorded more than than 14 million boardings last year. Still, census data estimate less than one-third of 1 percent of Phoenix commuters — or about 2,000 people — use rail as their main transportation to work.
.0033% huh? If we built similar facilities to serve everyone, it would only cost us about $420 billion at the rate of $1.4 billion per third of a percent.
But I thought this next bit was the most startling. I always had a sneaking suspicion this was true but never have seen it in print before:
While the much larger bus system reaches most corners of the Valley, light rail connects specific destinations along a single line. Nearly half of light-rail riders are enrolled in college.
I must have missed this in the original sales pitch for the light rail line: "Let's pay $1.4 billion so ASU students can get to more distant bars." Note that by these numbers, students likely outnumber commuters 10:1. Doesn't bode well for light rail extensions that don't plow right through the middle of the most populous college campus in the country.
Postscript: They don't break out people riding to get to sporting events downtown, but sporting events make up most of the largest traffic days on the system. From my personal acquaintances, many people use light rail as a substitute for expensive downtown parking at sporting events, parking (often semi-illegally) near light rail stops and taking the train the rest of the way in. On the whole, its not very compelling as a taxpayer to be helping to subsidize someone else's parking. And from a municipal fiscal standpoint, it means that light rail fares may be cannibalizing (on a much greater ratio than 1:1 given the price differential) parking fees at municipal parking lots.