The new Phoenix light rail system is emerging as one of the most successful new systems in the country. This is especially poignant for Tampa because in scale, project scope, and demographics, Phoenix represents the apogee of operating examples.
You Tube Video Collage of Phoenix Light Rail - by BrightonZach
Over the course of its first year the system has received high marks in community integration, stunning ridership figures, and respectful financial constraint (making tough decisions on long-term planning that do not inhibit the value of its starter-line status today). This is exactly what Hillsborough County is shooting for in its own implementation. A perfect balance of conservative control and benchmarking combined with progressive action and democratic freedom, the latter which may finally come to Hillsborough County in the form of a referendum. That all good stuff was achieved by such a strikingly similar auto-dependent culture is a great omen. A starter light rail system can be championed by civic conservatives (Mark Sharpe), and civic progressives (Ed Turanchik) to great outcome.
Of interesting note in the aforementioned link is a summary of how well the line did during a visit by Obama last May. The line held up to the tune of 50,000 passengers in one night - without issue. And things only got better from there. Overall the success of this line attracted ink from the New York Times which marveled over the system's ability to nearly succeed almost entirely based on weekend patronage. Our own precursor to light rail in Tampa, the Teco Line Streetcar, owes its success to these venues of service as well.
Both pieces I link to here embarrass anti-rail or anti-tax groups who are, as the Phoenix article notes, "muted" if not definitively silenced. Their arguments against community investment were loud, often intelligent (once one bought into the ideological premise that rail systems must 'pay for themselves' and that community investement is somehow inherently evil - points not firmly established by any means among rationale individuals), and grossly atypical. I will forever hype on how mechanical, unchanging, and how pre-web these attacks were formulated.