As the City of Phoenix prepares to vote on a 30 year extension of their transit tax and the State of Arizona contemplates infrastructure investments, it’s important to consider what we could see in the future for development along the key transportation corridors of the Valley.
Recently, Valley Partnership hosted a panel that included DMB President, Charley Freericks, ADOT’s Michael Kies and Mesa Mayor John Giles, to discuss how transportation affects development in our region.
The Valley’s development pattern has grown from its core. Our region was fortunate to have planners who designed a grid system for roads that continues to work today. On top of that street system, the state built a comprehensive highway and freeway system to connect key areas of the Valley.
Today, ADOT is mindful of their role to support increasing demands on our existing infrastructure as our population grows. In addition, the state is concerned with connecting Phoenix to key shipping markets like Mexico, California and Canada for economic development purposes.
Freericks shared how smart developers look to their key customers when thinking about their growth in the Valley. For example, when new light rail or highway expansions are announced, there are development speculators who invest early and help drive development based on the long term planning of cities.
Tourists are another key transportation customer for our state. Visitors arrive at Sky Harbor, and take light rail or a cab to their hotel. Many visitors today are choosing more urban tourist destinations like downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale where they can rely on public transit to take them around the community.
Mayor John Giles discussed how the 202 freeway spurred the development of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport over the past few years. This airport’s reinvention stands as a success story and catalyst for the development in the East Valley. Thanks to the early investment in the 202 freeway, State Route 24 and other connections that link Pinal County and downtown Phoenix, millions of travelers can easily get in and out of this reliever airport.
Now that parts of Phoenix are re-urbanizing, the city center is gaining in population and vibrancy. This will also put a strain on transportation and parking in the downtown. The Light Rail has helped to alleviate and transform downtown Phoenix and METRO use continues to rise and drive further rail extensions as well as redevelopment. Giles pointed to the rail’s coming debut in downtown Mesa as another 20 year overnight success story.
Looking ahead, Phoenix may need to consider incentives to discourage single drivers and rely on mass transit that other cities have used to help manage growth.
And it isn’t only college students and young professionals that want to live more urban and connected lifestyles. More and more active adults want to age in place and are looking to more connected and sometimes more urban locations. The development community needs to create these lifestyles and housing opportunities for Boomers too.