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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Arizona rail: A longer trip to a much shorter commute

    Trying to make the drive from Tucson to Phoenix is rough. Going in a passenger vehicle on the freeway with thousands of other cars takes forever and makes the trip much less enjoyable. With the price of gas, and the massive number of vehicles spewing emissions into the air, the drive takes a toll both environmentally and financially. By the time I get to Phoenix, I feel like the journey has made the actual destination less fun.

    According to the “Passenger Rail for Arizona factsheet” by the Arizona Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, preparations are being made on a passenger rail that would connect Phoenix and Tucson. This means there could be a mass transit system going from Tucson to one of the most populated capitals in the country.

    According to the factsheet, “the drive on the I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson (105 miles) is expected to increase 241 percent from 2010 to 2050, going from 95 minutes to 324 minutes.” That is almost five and a half hours. I could spend more time driving to Phoenix than I do being in class on my busiest days. Using the passenger rail would be more efficient by avoiding traffic.

    Environmentally, the passenger rail would be a great way to help decrease Tucson’s carbon footprint from fossil fuel emissions. Serena Unrein of Arizona PIRG said that if this plan goes through, fewer cars on the road would have a “hugely positive impact on air quality.” One of the many allures of Tucson is the clean air not present in urban areas. By improving the environment in the state, both Tucson and Phoenix can take advantage of helping their own tourism.

    Along the same lines, this sort of rail system could help give Arizona an economic boost. Jobs would be created during its construction, and the rail would have a lasting impact. For example, according to a 2010 press release by Arizona PIRG, there was a 2.7 percent increase in gross domestic product in the German counties surrounding the towns of Limburg and Montabauer as a result of the increased access to markets provided by the Frankfurt-Cologne high-speed rail line. Despite the fact that this system is still in the planning stages, any sign of economic assistance in the future is wonderful news. The wait is worth it with the sincere possibility for more help to the local economy.

    Lastly, the economic benefits indirectly point to the idea of political strength for Tucson in the capital. With more commerce and economic opportunities woven into this plan, Unrein said the passenger rail would help business between Tucson and Phoenix because it would allow users “to meet face-to-face with people.” If this can apply to businesses, why can it not work with constituents getting to voice their opinions to their state legislators? If Phoenix becomes more accessible via passenger rail, Tucsonans might be more inclined to go to the capital. A larger presence of Tucsonans could draw more attention to the concerns and issues of Southern Arizona, and Tucson would become more of a priority of the Arizona Legislature.

    Ultimately, even though it’s only in the planning stages, the rail is still great news for Tucson. The environment could get a break from the air pollution caused by the ever-present cars clogging up I-10. Tucson’s economy could thrive from jobs created by building infrastructure and the aftermath of a direct connection to the capital. Politically, Tucson would have an easier way to connect with the state government without the arduous drive. A passenger rail system is an idea for the future of Tucson that can definitely make the reality of today less troubling.

    — Megan Hurley is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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