A region’s success depends, to a significant degree, upon the fluid movement of people within metro areas and the ambitions, skills, insights, and creativity they bring with them. This is the hallmark of the well-established innovation hubs of Austin, Denver, Boston, and San Francisco. The proximity of students, researchers, entrepreneurs, capital markets, and livable urban settings creates a virtuous ecosystem, which is well documented. We are, collectively, building such an environment in Phoenix, but it requires commitment and consistency.
Probably nothing better signals the intent of a city or region to be a serious player in the future economy than a robust public transportation network, one that stitches together a variety of modes as well as the complete array of assets of the community. In a young, diverse, rapidly growing, and geographically dispersed metro such as Phoenix, this is especially important, if not essential. Connectivity matters. Phoenix has made significant strides but we need to keep expanding opportunity via the passage of Proposition 104 in order to realize our full potential as a vibrant and attractive destination for future generations.
In the course of elections, it is easy to become too focused on the infrastructural issues of transportation and the merits of various vehicular options. This is understandable as transportation infrastructure requires a significant capital outlay and is a complex undertaking. But the public is investing in much more than roads, buses, and light rail when it votes favorably for these expenditures. Transportation is but the means to the very important ends our citizens rightly expect.
Establishing a reliable, efficient, and well-thought out transportation system produces highly desirable outcomes including a diversity of housing options, increased mixed-use development, business relocations, and ease of access to employment. In the case of the institution where I work, this means the creation of new educational opportunities that are attracting students locally, nationally and internationally. For example, the promise of light rail allowed Arizona State University to imagine an urban option in downtown Phoenix. The resulting campus has been transformative for both the university and the city and is consistent with the high expectations of our investors- the taxpayers of Phoenix.
As Elizabeth Moss Kanter says in her recent book, Move: “Let’s take the idea that mobility is opportunity, and that we are in a mobility race, as an impetus to find common purpose.” I believe an investment in quality public transportation is a declaration of optimism in our future as an integrated, inclusive and ambitious community. It sets the stage for invention.
— Wellington Reiter is senior sustainability scientist at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University and past chair of the Urban Land Institute in Arizona.