Anyone from the Phoenix-Metro area knows that high heat in the summertime can be extremely limiting. Soaring temperatures prevent people from spending time outdoors, and the high heat even creates health risks for many residents. Arizona businesses and organizations must all address the reality of heat in order to keep their customers safe and happy.

In the spring semester of 2020, GreenLight Solutions partnered with Valley Metro as they assessed how better to reduce high heat on and around light rail stops. To do this, the GreenLight Valley Metro project team created a thermal impact assessment and report to be used by Valley Metro as they evaluate future usage of heat mitigation strategies in the Phoenix area. Their goal was to create a 2-3 page report that assessed the effect of heat on ridership and the future of climate in the Phoenix area. This much-needed investigation highlighted the impact of heat on ridership for users of the Valley Metro light rail. Local light rail users are subject to extreme heat as they wait for their train to arrive in summer months, and these harsh weather conditions are expected to increase with global climate change, and the Urban Heat Island Effect (UHI). Rapid development and the urban sprawl of the Phoenix area have created a recipe for disaster for heat-prone pedestrians. This study is the first step of many in creating a more accessible, enjoyable light rail experience for these riders.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the solution building process, requiring all research to be  completely virtual format for the second half of the project. Despite this obstacle, the GreenLight Valley Metro team was able to complete their research and deliver an exceptional final report in a timely manner. The team credits their success to their flexibility, collaboration, and close communication with the Project Partner in a tumultuous time. 

This GreenLight Solutions project team aligned their project goals with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #9, #11, and #13. These goals also directly align with Valley Metro’s mission of “creating a socially, environmentally, and economically responsible multi-modal transit system.”

At the culmination of the project, they were able to share their findings with local stakeholders in a showcase presentation with 89 attendees. The Valley Metro team is expected to continue this project through the summer and the Fall 2020 semester, to gather more evidence and solutions for heat and transit ridership issues. They are excited to continue this work and contribute to a more sustainable and transit-friendly future for the Valley of the Sun.

A recording of the showcase presentation is available here.

 

Written by Mia Czarnecki

Valley Metro Spring 2020 Project Team: Mia Czarnecki (Project Lead), Saterra Gibbon, Sydney Millerwise, and Noah Pozefsky.