By: Drew Sexton
I vividly remember my first weekend as a new student at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus in 2008, and not just because of the 110-degree temperatures during move-in day. As proud as I was to be a Sun Devil at the brand new CronkiteSchool, the urban environment I was exploring paled in comparison to the vibrant downtown Seattle area I had grown up near.
The few shops and restaurants around were closed at 8pm, rundown buildings dotted the streets and any real places to gather seemed miles away. The exciting main campus of Tempe felt like it was a whole state away for a bunch of freshman without a car, leaving us to wonder if we’d get a “real” college experience on this isolated campus.
Fortunately, it was only a semester before the Valley Metro light rail opened up and things changed for our campus. With increased access for commuter students and a direct route to Tempe, slowly but surely, ASU Downtown evolved into the energetic community it is today. With the completion of CityScape and the future Sandra Day O’Conner Law School scheduled to open in the coming years, Downtown Phoenix has become a desirable place to go to school, eat, shop and hang out. It has turned into an anchor for the kind of urban environment that promotes and trains the Valley’s future workforce.
I was proud to live on the Downtown Phoenix campus for 3 years and share with new students how easy it was to get to a Diamondbacks game, tour the PhoenixArt Museum or HeardMuseum, or take the light rail for a trip to Target. My 3 years there were better than getting a “real” college experience; they were the foundation for creating a new, unique 21st century college experience that thousands of Arizonans are excited to be a part of every semester.
I bring this up because I know this wouldn’t have happened without Phoenix’s commitment to the light rail and its impact on Millennials, which is a key part of why Phoenix voters should vote Yes on Proposition 104. Robert Robb doesn’t agree – calling this concept the “Peter Pan theory of Millennials.” The problem is Mr. Robb doesn’t take into account one of the biggest factors impacting our future: education.
Our state has been in the midst of an important conversation on improving education and access to good schools and universities for Arizonans. We need to ensure that our students have access to quality education to become the trained workforce we need to attract businesses and economic opportunities. But access to education isn’t just about tuition costs; it can also include literal transit access to campuses.
When it comes to education, there is very little that our cities and towns can do to directly improve the system. However, transportation is one of the areas where they can have an impact. One-third of transit riders are students, which shows that a high quality public transit system is a must for our children’s future. Low-income, aspiring students shouldn’t be forced to decide between buying a car and parking pass to get to class or paying tuition.
One of the reasons I stayed in the Central Phoenix area after college is because of the commitment shown by our elected leaders to transportation, education, and a new urban experience. Instead of moving out to a distant suburb where housing prices are much cheaper per square foot, the idea of an exciting urban community was worth the extra dollars for me. Many Millennials feel the same way about transportation and access to education and the importance of investments in those areas. We’re not just a bunch of “Lost Boys.” We are a growing workforce that choose to live, work, and spend our time in the urban core.
The light rail is a great, cost-effective investment not just for Millennials and our public transportation system but for the future of education in our city. Prop. 104 builds on that investment and should have our support.