Phoenix Residents Tell Council The Light Rail Is Too Dangerous

Phoenix Residents Tell Council The Light Rail Is Too Dangerous

By Corinne Murdock |

Phoenix residents are petitioning the Phoenix City Council to improve security on the city’s light rail, claiming the transportation remains far too dangerous.

The state of the light rail was once again the focus of the council in a Public Safety and Justice Subcommittee meeting last month. 

Dangers of the light rail contributed to the defeat of the city’s plan to landlock the State Capitol.

Jessica Mefford-Miller, Valley Metro CEO, reviewed their light rail security. Mefford-Miller reported that their private security does face limitations: only 75 percent of their scheduled shifts were filled, or 80-85 security officers out of the 110 needed; they only have 87 percent fare compliance; and they can’t issue citations to those riders who refuse to provide ID unless police are present. Each shift only has nine law enforcement members: one sergeant, four officers, and four police assistants. 

Mefford-Miller noted that they would be expanding their police presence on stations and trains in the future. However, challenges to Mefford-Miller’s presentation revealed that the actual presence of security was lower.

Councilman Jim Waring questioned how many security personnel a rider could expect to encounter on the light rail. Mefford-Miller said only “about a third” of trains have personnel on them at any given time. 

Waring further disclosed that multiple constituents had complained of seeing “vomit everywhere” and “people [that] were acting crazy.” 

“I got tired of hearing too many constituents call and say, ‘Wow, I rode that one time. Never doing that again.’ It’s too expensive and too ungodly inefficient to justify anything we’ve spent, but now that it exists, you know, at least we shouldn’t be chasing away our customers,” said Waring.

Waring said he was “curious” with Mefford-Miller’s reference to homeless riders that were, “presumably, not paying.” He said her messaging was “unsound.”

“Those aren’t actually customers. They’re chasing away people who might actually be customers,” said Waring. “You’re not a customer if you didn’t pay. Then you’re stealing services from the people who did pay, and I guess asking the rest of us to subsidize it. And, if you’re harassing people who did pay, and making them never use it again, leaving more cost to be picked up by taxpayers who never use it.” 

Mefford-Miller rejected Waring’s claim that riders were at significant risk of witnessing an incident or sustaining a personal attack. She said that “most” of the assaults on passengers in the Phoenix area were between two individuals known to each other, not strangers.

However, Waring rebutted that even the fact that so many fights were breaking out at all was cause for concern.

“To say, ‘Well, they’re attacking each other, so you’ll be perfectly fine.’ Well, okay, I’m not sure I’m going to be using that mode of transportation again,” said Waring. “The idea that this is great for everybody, this is not the feedback I’m getting.”

Valley Metro sustained over 575,100 incidents from January to July of this year across Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe. Those incidents consisted of nearly 24,600 removals, nearly 300 trespasses, over 100 assaults on passengers, over 30 assaults on security, and over 400 citations issued.

During that same time period, police reported over 3,500 criminal investigative reports, and over 1,100 transit unit arrests for drugs, criminal damage, and assaults. 

Waring further shared that his and other councilmembers’ constituents have endured waves of criminals obtaining transport to their areas, where before the light rail they couldn’t.

Councilman Kevin Robinson responded that the 12 Arizona State University (ASU) students in his class reported enjoying the light rail and felt safe. Robinson said he would try riding the light rail himself to gain his own perspective on it.

Public comment was overwhelmingly negative.

Jeff Spellman with the Violence Impact Project Coalition said that light rail security has been a “disaster” for years, despite consistent constituent complaints. 

Shannon McBride with North Mountain Village Planning Committee said that all but one from over 300 respondents to a survey of those living near the light rail described the light rail as very unsafe.

Darlene Vallo, with the 19th Avenue Community Safety Plan and Phoenix Block Watch Advisory Board, reported observing drug deals, individuals high on drugs, individuals drinking alcohol, fights taking place on the light rail, and individuals taking baths in the public water fountain daily along her neighborhood patrols near the light rail. 

Despite Mefford-Miller claiming that Valley Metro upholds a “See Something, Say Something” program, Vallo reported that Valley Metro employees have dismissed her reports of criminal activity on light rail property.

Councilwoman Betty Guardado expressed concerns with how much it would cost to add more police to Valley Metro. Guardado also expressed concerns with the impact that fully staffing the transit with law enforcement would have on the current police shortage. The councilwoman indicated that Valley Metro should make do with their current resources.

“Is it worth it at the end of the day?” asked Guardado. “Is it going to be cost efficient?”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Valley Metro Board Might Spend Taxpayer Money In Hopes Of Getting More Taxpayer Money

Valley Metro Board Might Spend Taxpayer Money In Hopes Of Getting More Taxpayer Money

By Terri Jo Neff |

Should Arizona’s largest public transportation entity be allowed to use taxpayer funds to pay lobbyists to obtain even more taxpayer funds? And if so, can Maricopa County taxpayers be assured their money isn’t used to influence a possible vote to extend a transportation tax set to expire in 2025?

On Thursday, the joint board of Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) and Valley Metro Rail will meet in Phoenix to vote on several matters, including two agenda items involving “legislative consulting services” which includes lobbying of federal and state lawmakers.

The meeting starts at 11:15 a.m. at the Valley Metro boardroom at 101 North 1st Avenue on the 10th Floor.

However, there will be no discussion of either item, as they are listed under the meeting’s Consent Agenda instead of the Regular Agenda. That is of concern due to the fact one of the agenda descriptions refers to Prop 400, a half-cent tax many state lawmakers want voters to extend for yet another 20 years

The prospect of Valley Metro using taxpayer dollars to lobby for more money from taxpayers -whether via Congress, the Legislature, or with Prop 400 voters- has raised the question of why the joint board meeting has the two lobbying items on the Consent Agenda where there can be no discussion and where individual board members do not have to publicly state their position.

According to the June 16 agenda, Item 4G is listed as “Authorization to Issue a Request for Proposals for Federal Legislative Consulting Services” for a two-year period with three one-year options. The estimated cost is listed as between $180,000 and $240,000 per year. 

Valley Metro is currently contracted with Cardinal Infrastructure for federal lobbying activities through Dec. 31. Staff recommends continuing with some sort of contract to assist Valley Metro in achieving “specific federal legislative, lobbying and funding objectives” with Congress, the Executive Branch, and various federal agencies.

This is especially timely, according to the agenda item, in light of “opportunities in the federal passage of the infrastructure bill.” Those opportunities include federal taxpayer funds which Valley Metro staff wants to ensure the region “is not missing out on.”

Meanwhile, Item 4H on the agenda seeks authorization for Valley Metro’s CEO to issue an RFP for state consultant services in dealing with the Arizona State Legislature, the Governor’s Office, and other state agencies. The cost would likely run $60,000 to $90,000 per year.

The current contract issued in 2018 is a joint venture between Highground Public Affairs Consultants and The Kruse Group, described in the agenda as “a well-known Republican and Democrat lobbyist to access bipartisan relationships.”

Among the services the contract would cover is Governmental Relations -monitoring and lobbying public transit issues- at the state level along with Strategic Planning.

“Due to the ongoing dialogue with respect to the possible extension of Proposition 400, staff supports this request,” the agenda states.  

The Prop 400 extension is a longshot to get on the ballot this year given that the tax does not expire until 2025. However, many voters are wary of the prospect that public entities such as Valley Metro and the Maricopa Association of Governments will use taxpayer funds behind the scenes to sway voters to approve the extension when it does get on the ballot.  

Whether any of Valley Metro’s board members will acknowledge those concerns and remove the two items from the Consent Agenda to the Regular Agenda remains to be seen.

Valley Metro RPTA’s board members are:

Veronica Malone, Avondale Vice Mayor;

Clay Goodman, City of Buckeye;

Kevin Hartke, Chandler Mayor;

Monica Dorcey , Vice Mayor of El Mirage;

Mike Scharnow, Fountain Hills Town Council,

Brigette Peterson, Gilbert Mayor;

Lauren Tolmachoff, City of Glendale;

Bill Stipp, Goodyear City Council;

Francisco Heredia (Chair), Mesa City Council;

Jon Edwards, Peoria Councilman;

Laura Pastor (Vice Chair), Vice Mayor for City of Phoenix;

Leah Martineau, Town of Queen Creek;

Betty Janik, Scottsdale Councilwoman;

Chris Judd, City of Surprise;

Robin Arredondo-Savage, Tempe Councilmember;

Adolfo Gamez, City of Tolleson;

Rui Pereira, Wickenburg Mayor; and

Michael LeVault, Youngstown Mayor.

Four of Valley Metro RPTA’s board members also serve as the board of Valley Metro Rail: Arrendondo-Savage (Tempe), Hartke (Chandler), Heredia (Mesa), and Pastor (Phoenix).