Sunday, December 28, 2008

Grand Funky Railroad

Me and Shaw rode on the new light rail system in Phoenix yesterday. It was a bit of history. We rode our bikes on the new section of the 202 freeway a couple of months ago and shook the hand of Governor Napalitano at the grand opening festivities so a ride on a new mass transit system seemed in order. We waited in line for just over 2 hours to get on a train. They had buses shadowing the train all day to handle the overflow but we came to ride the train not a bus! They counted people out into little bins equalling the amount of seats per car and dispatched each group across the street to waiting trains. That was lovely, we got a seat were on our way. We got to the next stop and that was not the case, there were several hundred people more waiting to get on, and then at the next stop, and then at ASU, and then at the airport, and then... they were standing, kids on shoulders and laps, it was like we were in India! If those trains hadn't been as smooth as a baby's butt on the outside, I'm sure there would have been people hanging on the outside or riding on the top. Each stop along the way had food and live music and antique car shows and vendors and carnival type rides.

We intended to ride the entire length, but judging by our wait in Mesa, and knowing that we would have to disembark at the far end of Phoenix and perhaps get in a similar line to return, we exited the train at the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix. The train was supposed to take 60 minutes to get to the other end of the line but we had taken about 75 minutes to get just over half way.

You can always tell which food vendors are good because of the line. At the Heard Museum, there was a long line for some authentic Indian fried bread but we were hungry from the already long wait and opted for some pizza. As soon as we sat down with that, another couple sat down with some tamales that looked and smelled deeee-lish! Too late. We sat for some Indian dance and drumming and walked back to the train platform hoping against hope that we could get on. We waited for two trains and when the doors opened the people kind of oozed out and had to be pressed back in when the doors closed. We grabbed one of the special buses which was also standing only. It was a lot to balance for a 7 yr old. I had to teach him how to put one foot forward from the other to give some balance like on a skateboard. Shaw had to have his face on par with somebody else's... well... some things are unpleasant enough to think about without actually saying it. I just pulled the back of his head in as close to me as possible.

This bus got back out to Sky Harbor Airport and kicked us all out claiming that was the end of his line. So we walked over to the train platform and let three trains pass with a similar ooozing as described above. The platform attendant was making calls on his two-way radio as to why the bus driver dumped 200 people on the sidewalk to wait for full trains and loaded buses when he was supposed to continue to the end of the train line back in Mesa. The fourth train had just enough room to cram us in- Me and Shaw were the ones that ooozed when the doors opened and the disappointed people on the platform gave us a knowing glance.

We made it back without much more incident. Rock band, Grand Funk Railroad was playing at the festival at the end of the line in Mesa. I can't think of any other reason for their invitation than their name. The occasion was kinda grand, I guess-- that train will serve our city for many decades to come... the funky part however... I guess that all of the armpits that were exposed as passengers held on to straps for dear life... that was kinda funky. Poor Shaw was clearly a bit disheveled and frankly, a bit frightened. He was too tough to let anybody know. When the crowd finally thinned out a bit, he opted to sit on my lap rather than take an empty seat.

The sound system was great, Grand Funk Railroad is just a bit before my time, but being a DJ for nearly 30 years now, I know their music. They just seemed a bit "put out" to come to Mesa Arizona to play for the occasion. They just did their thing and got off the stage to bigger and better things.

We did have a really great hot dog after the show. Nothing like a good hot dog at a regional festival or carnival. In the time it took to eat it, the bouncy jumps were shutting down and Shaw missed out on that.

I couldn't complain, but I think the transit authority massively underestimated the crowds on a holiday weekend with the Fiesta Bowl visitors already in town. This is just a wild guess, but I'd estimate that there were probably 180 to 200,000 people out and about at each of those festvals and on the trains and the buses. I think there were nearly 10,000 throughout the day just at the depot in Mesa. Most people were quite pleasant in spite of the occasion to be cranky. I do hope that people consider thier lives and will use that train to improve travel and decrease pollution. I may go ride it again on Monday while it's still free.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

I heard about the grand opening day, but since we live so close to it, I thought we would wait a day or two before trying it out. Probably better for us, I'm not much for crowds and lines. I need to study the routes, I'm hoping I can get downtown easier, I go there for business purposes quite often.
Sounds like a great day. I guess Shaw ultimately survived.