Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | March 18, 2009

Becky FengerDangers of rail

No one likes an "I-Told-You-So." But I didn't spend fourteen years studying why light rail transit (LRT) is a losing proposition not to indulge in a little schedenfraude when all my warnings turn into stark realities.

From inside the Phoenix Police Department comes word that they are spending a goodly portion of their force's time dealing with police reports on gang members who are tagging the new light rail cars with their gang's signs. This is done to mark their territory in the same manner as a dog lifts his leg and sprays. Aren't boys' clubs precious?

One Valley TV station reported that hapless commuters are getting their catalytic converters stolen right out from under their cars when they leave their vehicles at a Park 'n' Ride lot. Sure, there are supposed to be security cameras to catch the thieves in their predictable heists, but only the camera housings had been installed. No actual cameras. Nothing could delay the much touted opening of the line, don't you know, so officials could say it came in on time.

On average, the pilfered catalytic converters are sold on the street for $600. It will cost the unlucky victims close to $1,600 to get a new one from their dealers, however.

It's only a matter of time before the muggings begin. I have always said that I would never ride mass transit without packing heat. Whether or not one can carry a handgun for protection is up in the air at this time. It is legal to do so according to Arizona law, but a friend got differing answers when he decided to question the police on this score.

A Phoenix policeman told him that guns are not allowed on buses or light rail. A Tempe cop got it right when she said guns are legal on both light rail and buses. She even called Homeland Security to verify this. When questioned, however, she said that a citizen couldn't call a cop if he was refused boarding by the driver of a bus or rail car. Out in Mesa, the police stated that guns are allowed on buses and light rail trains, but that this right is negated if there is a posted sign warning that guns are not allowed. Say what?

As to carrying a gun on a bus or light rail car that traverses the ASU campus where guns are verboten, that's even dicier. The ASU cop thought a rider could be in possession while crossing the no-gun zone, but I wouldn't want to be the one to test this advice. And I don't know if the media will report on this.

One mugging that did get reported has me a little worried. A lady parked her car in the garage at the Esplanade Center at 24th Street and Camelback Road and was walking up the stairwell to go to the movie theatre. She was met by a well-dressed couple coming down the stairs. The man pulled a gun and demanded her purse. When she refused, he pistol whipped her and eventually got the purse. As she was struggling, the attacker's woman companion kept telling him, "Hit the b--ch!" Some dames just have a way with words, don't they? I wonder if they deducted the price of their fancy duds as a business expense.

Back to the business of light rail transit, I had to smile when Mesa Mayor Scott Smith announced that "Bladders matter in Mesa," and thereby brought Porta-Potties to his town. It seems the LRT planners failed to install toilets along the line in an attempt to save money so they could brag they brought the line in on budget. After fielding a number of complaints from constituents with crossed legs, he is giving the potties a trial run. (I have to think that the worst place to be on a weekend night would be in a portable toilet in Mesa's Transit Center, but that may be just me.) Mayor Smith has said that he would get rid of the Porta-Potties if they are vandalized. If? Does a bear go in the woods?

It gets to be silly season when LRT riders are complaining about all the "loud announcements" they are subjected to while on board. I say they are ingrates. Taxpayers are picking up all but $1.50 or so of the actual $13 it cost for them to board, and they can't pay for earplugs?