Series documents light rail's impact on students, businesses

The Metro Light Rail has many stops, and the Life on the Light Rail’s journey has explored each one.

As the light rail weaves through the Valley, its impact on the businesses, people and students can be felt.

The first stop off Sycamore and Main Streets in Mesa is located near the pool-table haven Main Street Billiards, where major business was lost because of light rail construction in 2005.

Six years later, the light rail has redeemed itself and brings commuters through Main Street Billiards’ doors regularly.

“Business is coming back,” employee Lee Collins said.

The light rail has had a part in the success of student housing in Tempe, and apartments across from the light rail appeal to students interested in alternative transportation.

“It’s improved business a lot,” said Renae Momforte, a community assistant at Apache Station. “We will have a lot of students who will come to us and tell us they’ve looked into us specifically because of the light rail.”

Kinesiology sophomore and Apache Station resident Shannon Moore recently got a car, but still relies on the light rail as her primary mode of transportation.

“I still use it to go everywhere,” she said.

Rachelle Robinson, who graduated in December, sold her car in anticipation of moving to New York City and has relied on the light rail for getting across the Valley.

“It’s been a lot easier,” Robinson said. “Having access to the light rail has made everything easier.”

The light rail has even made a mark on the active bar life in Tempe, making bar hopping easier and safer.

Beau Hensel, general manager of Devil’s Advocate Bar and Grill, located off of Rural Road and University Drive, said traffic from the light rail is evident and it attracts baseball fans during spring training season.

The light rail is typically used by people who have somewhere to go. But some have found a home around it.

The Mill Avenue and Third Street stop offers a glance into the lives of drifters.

“It’s not all that bad. It’s a little rough. A little bit uncomfortable,” said drifter and Mill Avenue resident Adam Rule. “But the thing is the freedom.”

Rule found freedom walking the streets surrounding the light rail, and many music fanatics free their soul at the Marquee Theatre, located off the Center Parkway and Washington Street stop.

“When you leave, you feel like you’ve just had a party with old friends,” returning concert-goer Gabriel Guzman said.

If musical and personal freedom isn’t enough, the 44th and Washington Streets stop of the Metro Light Rail will soon guide passengers to international freedom.

The PHX Sky Train, accessible to light rail users, will carry passengers through Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport starting in 2013.

“It will definitely make a big impact,” airport spokeswoman Lexie Pierce said.

The train will accommodate the Valley’s growing population, she said.

“It’s one of those things we have to build now for the future,” she said.

Students looking for higher education while saving money may make the Gateway Community College stop off 36th and Washington streets a part of their academic and transit journey. Students can also take part in an internship at Arizona Democratic Party off of the Thomas and Central avenues stop.

Passengers can even find cultural experiences off of the light rail, with Bobby C’s Lounge and Grille, located off of the 12th and Washington streets stop.

Valley resident and performer at Bobby C’s said the restaurant’s preservation of African-American history keeps him coming back.

Another culture preserved in the Valley is that of Native Americans.

Centuries worth of Southwestern tribal culture can be found in the Heard Museum off of Encanto Boulevard and Central Avenue.

The light rail journey ended at English pub and restaurant George and Dragon, where many celebrated the beginning of a new one.

George and Dragon was the one place in the Valley where residents could gather and watch history in the making as Prince William and Kate Middleton became William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The Metro Light Rail for many is a journey to more journeys, and for 18-year-old “Lost,” a transient drifter, hopping trains is his way of seeing the world.

“You see cool views ... it’s about the only time I feel free,” Lost said.

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