Metro Light Rail (Phoenix)

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Metro Light Rail
METRO Phoenix logo.png
Type Light rail
System Metro Light Rail
Locale Phoenix-Tempe-Mesa, Arizona, United States
Termini Christown Station (19th Ave./Montebello)
Mesa Drive (Main/Mesa)
Stations 37 (32 if eastbound- and westbound-only stations are combined)
Services 1
Daily ridership 43,827 (2014)
Opened December 27, 2008
Owner Valley Metro (Phoenix)
Operator(s) Valley Metro
Rolling stock Kinki Sharyo
Line length 23 mi (37 km)[1]
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification Overhead catenary 750 V
Route map
METRO Light Rail (Phoenix).svg
Metro System Diagram
Min Station
In Phoenix:
Metrocenter Parking 2026   planned
Dunlap Avenue Parking March 2016    Service begins
Northern Avenue March 2016    Service begins
Glendale Avenue March 2016    Service begins
0 Montebello–Christown Parking
2 19th Avenue Parking
5 7th Avenue–Melrose District
7 Central Avenue–Uptown Phoenix Parking
9 Campbell Avenue–Central High
11 Indian School Road–Steele Park
13 Osborn Road–Park Central
15 Thomas Road–Midtown Phoenix
17 Encanto Boulevard–Heard Museum
19 McDowell Road–Cultural District
21 Roosevelt Street–Arts District
23 Van Buren Street–Central Station
25 Washington–Jefferson–City Hall
27 3rd Street–Convention Center
30 12th Street–Eastlake Park
34 24th Street
38 38th Street–GateWay College Parking
Sky Harbor Airport(Sky Train) Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
40 44th Street–Sky Harbor Airport
SR 143
Operations & Maintenance Center
SR 202
44 Priest Drive–Papago Park
46 Center Parkway
SR 202
Tempe Town Lake
50 Mill Avenue–Downtown Tempe
52 Stadium–Transportation Center
55 Rural Road–ASU
58 Dorsey Lane Parking
60 McClintock Drive Parking
62 Smith–Martin
SR 101
64 Price Road Parking
66 Sycamore Drive Parking
Alma School
Country Club
Center Street
Mesa DriveParking
Stapley Drive planned
Gilbert RoadParking planned

Metro Light Rail (styled corporately as METRO) is a 23-mile (37 km)[1] light rail line operating in the U.S. state of Arizona. Part of the Valley Metro public transit system, it serves the cities of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. Construction began in March 2005; operation started December 27, 2008. The line had a weekday ridership of 43,827 in 2014, making it the 13th busiest light rail system in the country.[2]


Phoenix light rail, downtown – 2009

The expected construction cost for the initial 20 miles is $1.4 billion, or $70 million per mile.[3] Metro estimates the train will cost the city $184 million to operate over the next five years with fares covering $44 million of the operation costs and tax subsidies covering the remaining costs.[4]

Trains operate on city streets in a "center reservation", similar to the Red Line of the METRO light rail system in Houston, the surface sections of the Green Line in Boston, and some surface sections of the Muni Metro in San Francisco. Some parts of the line, such as the bridge over Tempe Town Lake (near State Route 202), have no contact with other traffic. The vehicles used are rated for a maximum speed of 55 mph, and have to complete the 20 mile route in 65 minutes, including station stops.[5] An equivalent section of the Red Line bus route that the rail line replaced was scheduled for 80 minutes, and was subject to traffic delays during rush hour.[6] The system is powered by an overhead catenary that supplies power at 750 V.[7]


A driver waits for the light to turn green.

Numerous plans have preceded the current implementation of light rail. The Phoenix Street Railway provided streetcar service from 1887 to 1948. Historic vehicles may be seen at the Arizona Street Railway Museum, with Car #116 celebrating her 80th birthday on December 25, 2008, just days before the opening of modern rail service. In 1989, the ValTrans elevated rail proposal,[8] was turned down by voters in a referendum due to cost and feasibility concerns. Other subsequent initiatives during the 1990s failed over similar reasons.

Metro was created by the Transit 2000 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), which involved a 0.5 per cent sales tax and was approved by voters in Phoenix in 2000. Transit 2000 aimed at improving the local bus service (considered unacceptably inadequate compared to other major US cities) and the formation of bus rapid transit and light rail, among other things, which was seen as a more affordable approach. It used the route placing and color designations from the 1989 plan.

Construction on a new light rail line began in March 2005.[citation needed] In March 2008, cracks in the system's rails were discovered. The cause of the cracks was determined to be improper use of plasma cutting torches by contractors.[9] The affected track was repaired by May at a cost of $600,000 with still no word on which parties will be held financially responsible.[10] The last of the concrete and rail for the system was installed in the end of April, with CEO declaring the system to be on time and on budget.[11]

There are 28 stations on the initial twenty-mile starter segment. The line celebrated its grand opening December 27, 2008, with official ribbon-cutting ceremonies and community celebrations spread throughout Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. The event was produced by Arizona's Entertainment Solutions, Inc.[12] and was attended by thousands of local residents who waited as long as an hour or more to ride the vehicles.[13][14] The stations have been designed to complement their immediate surroundings.[15] Station platform areas are approximately 16 feet (4.9 m) wide by 300 feet (91 m) long.

As of early 2014, income has exceeded Metro's stated goal with 44.6% farebox recovery, partially due to the light rail ridership far exceeding original projections. The light rail has also led to rapid urban development in downtown Phoenix and Tempe, generating additional revenue through taxes.

Valley Metro had its busiest month in February 2014, with a weekday ridership of 48,924. On December 7, 2013, they saw 65,773 board the train thanks to fans attending Arizona State University Pac 12 Championship football game, Tempe Festival of the Arts, APS Electric Light Parade and the Beyoncé concert at US Airways Center.[16]

The Central Mesa Extension extended 3.1 miles (5.0 km) from Sycamore/Main St in the median of Main Street to Mesa Drive.[17] It added four stations at Alma School Road, Country Club Drive, Center Street, and Mesa Drive. In March 2012, Valley Metro selected a design-build joint venture between Kiewit Corporation and Mass. Electric to construct the extension.[18] Construction began in July 2012, and passenger service began on August 22, 2015.[19] Mesa held a summit in early 2012 to have urban developers give their ideas on how to revitalize Downtown Mesa.[20] The extension cost $200 million, paid for from a combination of Proposition 400 sales tax revenues and federal air quality and New Starts grants, and is estimated to have added 5,000 daily riders.[17]

Rolling stock[edit]

Metro operates a fleet of 50 light rail vehicles (LRV) manufactured by Kinki Sharyo. Each LRV seats 66, with a total capacity including standees of 200. The vehicles are accessible with space for four wheelchairs and also carry bicycle racks. Up to three vehicles may operate together in a single consist.[21] The vehicles have a maximum speed of 58 mph (93 km/h).[22]

Builder Model In service Road numbers Years of service
Kinki Sharyo Low Floor Light Rail Vehicle[23] 50 101–150 2008–present


Metro uses a proof-of-payment system. Tickets can be purchased at ticket vending machines at the entrance to all stations and must be validated before boarding the train. Fares are enforced with random checks. On March 1, 2013 3-day passes were discontinued and 15-day passes were made available. Metro Light Rail shares the same fares as those of the Valley Metro LINK, Bus, and Rapid/Express Transit. The current fare is as follows:

Transit 1-Ride All-day 7-day 15 day 31 day
Light Rail/local bus/LINK $2.00 $4.00 $20.00 $33.00 $64.00

Reduced fare is available for ages 6–18, seniors age 65 and older, and persons with disabilities and Medicare cardholder only.

ASU students and employees are eligible to receive a Valley-wide bus and light rail pass at deeply discounted rates. Students, faculty, and staff may obtain their U-Pass from any ASU campus Permit Sales office. For more information, contact ASU at 480-965-1074.

Children 5 years of age and under ride free. Weekly and monthly passes are also available in addition to the fares listed above.[24]

Future extensions and improvements[edit]

Northwest Extension (Phase I: 2016, Phase II: 2026)[edit]

Construction on the Northwest Phase I extension began in January 2013. Phase I will extend light rail 3.2 miles (5.1 km) from the current terminus at 19th Avenue/Montebello north to Dunlap Avenue, in the median of 19th Avenue.[25] It will have three stations, at Glendale, Northern and Dunlap avenues; service along Phase I of the extension begins on March 19, 2016.[26] Phase II, estimated to be complete by 2026, will extend west on Dunlap Avenue, then north to Metrocenter Mall.[27] Phase I, funded through $300 million from the Proposition 400 transit sales tax and funds from Transit 2000, is estimated to serve 5,000 riders per day.[25]

Gilbert Road extension (2018)[edit]

Phoenix light rail outside the Phoenix Convention Center – 2009

An eastern extension, 1.9 miles (3.1 km) past Mesa to Gilbert Road, is in the planning and design phase, with construction scheduled to begin in early 2016,[needs update] and operations starting in summer 2018. The line, budgeted at $1.6 million, will travel in the median of Main Street and have two stations.[28]

Phoenix light rail at night on the Tempe Town Lake – 2008

Capitol/I-10 West extension (2023)[edit]

The Capitol/I-10 West extension will run from Downtown Phoenix from Central Avenue/1st Avenue and Washington/Jefferson Streets west to Interstate 17 and turn north to the interchange of Interstate 10 and I-17 ("The Stack"). Then the line will turn west and continue down I-10 in the median past 43rd Avenue. It will then go over the westbound lanes of I-10 to continue alongside the highway to the 79th Avenue park and ride, adding 11 miles (18 km) and 10 stations to connect the West Valley and ease congestion on Interstate 10.[29] The line will transfer over I-10 from the median to the shoulder to accommodate the proposed extension of Loop 202, which will connect with I-10 around 51st Avenue.[30] The extension, currently[when?] in the environmental assessment phase, is scheduled to be in operation by 2023 and cost $1 billion.[31]

South Central Extension (2034)[edit]

The South Central Extension[32] will run from Downtown Phoenix south along Central Avenue to Baseline Road, adding 4.9 miles (7.9 km) and seven stations. The extension received Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) approval into the Capital Investment Grant program in December 2015.[33] After having received approval, the extension will now enter a further environmental assessment and preliminary engineering phase, and remains scheduled to be in operation by 2034.

Tempe Streetcar (2018)[edit]

Construction on the initial light rail segment in 2007

The Tempe Streetcar will consist of 13 stations, running from Dorsey Lane east on Apache Boulevard, then north on Mill Avenue.[34] From there, it will loop around Downtown Tempe along Mill and Ash avenues.[35] The route continues along Rio Salado Parkway to Marina Heights, with a possible extension to Mesa to connect with the Cubs' new spring training facility, as well as Tempe Marketplace and future development along Rio Salado.[36][37] Once completed, a transfer from light rail to the streetcar at the Mill Avenue station will permit travel to ASU Gammage, Tempe's St. Luke Hospital, and Tempe High School. Construction will cost between $175 and 190 million and will be funded using the Proposition 400 sales tax and federal grant dollars.[34] Valley Metro is considering streetcars powered by either batteries or overhead wires.[38]

Map of Metro Light Rail system, showing starter line and future expansion corridors

West Phoenix/Central Glendale study[edit]

Valley Metro is in the process[when?] of studying an extension of light rail, bus rapid transit, or streetcar to Glendale. Three different route options, heading west from the existing line, are under consideration.[39] Any project, budgeted at $543 million, would begin construction in 2022 and open in 2026.[40]

Proposed commuter rail[edit]

The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and the Arizona Department of Transportation are studying suburban commuter rail as a complement to light rail.[41] The MAG Commuter Rail Strategic Plan was released in March 2008.[42][43] In April 2008, a coalition of Arizona business and political leaders, including Governor Janet Napolitano, proposed a $42 billion state transit plan which would include commuter rail.[44] Commuter rail generally uses upgraded existing freight rail lines, with stations every three to five miles (8 km). In Phoenix, as in other areas that have implemented commuter rail, track speeds would be increased, signals updated, and additional sidings and double-track added. Proposals for constructing entirely new rail rights-of-way in the middle of urban highways have largely been eliminated due to their expense and their location far beyond walking distance from downtowns and activity centers.

Contemporary discussion of commuter rail in Phoenix began with the "Hattie B." flood relief train of 1980,[45][46] and was first widely promoted in 1991 by the Arizona Rail Passenger Association.[47]

Daily rail service had existed until the 1960s between Phoenix, Glendale, and Wickenburg as well as Tempe and Mesa. A single short commuter rail line was also part of the ValTrans proposal.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Go Discover Mesa! Three New Miles of Light Rail Service Begins" (Press release). Valley Metro. August 22, 2015. Retrieved September 9, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Ridership Reports". Valley Metro. Retrieved May 9, 2015. 
  3. ^ "FAQs and Fast Facts" (pdf). - Archived December 17, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Valley Metro | Bus Routes". July 22, 2013. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  6. ^ R-route. - Glendale at 19th Ave. is near the Christown Spectrum Mall, the rail's starting point and Main at Dobson is very close to Sycamore. Bus schedule allots 1 hour 20 minutes travel at rush hour
  7. ^ "Fast facts" (pdf). September 14, 2011. p. 6. Retrieved August 10, 2014. 
  8. ^ Phoenix Transit Elections. - Arizona Rail Passenger Association. Archived August 12, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Light-rail cracks: Who is at fault?. - Arizona Republic. -
  10. ^ "30 light-rail sections fixed at cost of $600K". - Arizona Republic. - - May 16, 2008.
  11. ^ "Light-rail construction: The end is near?". - Arizona Republic. - - April 29, 2008.
  12. ^ "Entertainment Solutions Inc". Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Phoenix Light Rail Grand Opening 12/27/08 08:00 AM". Valley Metro. December 27, 2008. Retrieved December 25, 2008. [dead link]
  15. ^ "Light Rail Station Design". Valley Metro. Retrieved February 20, 2008. 
  16. ^ "Record Ridership on December 7" (Press release). Valley Metro. December 11, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "Central Mesa Light Rail Extension" (PDF). Valley Metro. December 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Design-Build Contractor Selected for Central Mesa Extension" (Press release). Valley Metro. March 22, 2012. Retrieved May 9, 2015. 
  19. ^ Mitchell, Garrett (August 22, 2015). "Mesa light rail expansion debuts to thousands of riders". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved August 25, 2015. 
  20. ^ Groff, Garin (February 16, 2012). "Downtown Mesa summit to tackle urban development along light rail - East Valley Tribune: Mesa". East Valley Tribune. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  21. ^ Holle, Gina. "Phoenix Light Rail: On Track" (PDF). Community Transportation Association of America. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Phoenix - Valley Metro Rail: Technical Data" (PDF). Kinki Sharyo. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Valley Metro Rail, USA Low Floor Light Rail Vehicle". Kinki Sharyo. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  24. ^ Valley Metro - Fares & Passes - Rates & Options Retrieved October 6, 2009
  25. ^ a b "Northwest Phase I: Light Rail Extension to Dunlap Avenue" (PDF). Valley Metro. December 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2015. 
  26. ^ "PHX Public Transit on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2015-12-10. 
  27. ^ "Northwest Phase II". Valley Metro. Retrieved May 9, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Gilbert Road Light Rail Extension" (PDF). Valley Metro. April 2015. Retrieved June 5, 2015. 
  29. ^ "Providing Public Transportation Alternatives for the Greater Phoenix Metro Area | Valley Metro | METRO I-10 West Extension". Valley Metro. May 3, 2012. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Projects". September 30, 2013. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Capitol/I-10 West Light Rail Extension" (PDF). Valley Metro. March 2015. Retrieved May 9, 2015. 
  32. ^ "Valley Metro" (PDF). 
  33. ^ "Significant Step for South Central Project - Valley Metro". Retrieved 2015-12-10. 
  34. ^ a b "Tempe Streetcar" (PDF). Valley Metro. December 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2015. 
  35. ^ "Text Only Options". Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  36. ^ "South Bank - Mixed Use Urban Community Development - Tempe Town Lake, Tempe, AZ". Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Downtown Tempe - Hayden Ferry Lakeside". Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  38. ^ Olgin, Alexandra (December 8, 2014). "Tempe Streetcar Is The Latest Development In County Public Transit". KJZZ. Retrieved May 10, 2015. 
  39. ^ "West Phoenix/Central Glendale Transit Corridor Study" (PDF). Valley Metro. March 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2015. 
  40. ^ Corbett, Peter (April 21, 2015). "Glendale will consider light rail, transit route options". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved May 10, 2015. 
  41. ^ "All aboard for centennial". Arizona Republic. February 11, 2007. Retrieved February 20, 2008. 
  42. ^ MAG Commuter Rail Strategic Plan. - Maricopa Association of Governments.
  43. ^ Creno, Glen (February 29, 2008). "Phoenix, AZ: MAG Commuter Rail Study draft released". Arizona Republic. Retrieved April 9, 2008. 
  44. ^ Creno, Glen; Matthew Benson (April 8, 2008). "$42 billion proposed for state transit plan". Arizona Republic. Retrieved April 9, 2008. 
  45. ^ Niner, Verne; William A. Ordway (June 20, 1980). ""Hattie B" Commuter Train Helps 1980 Flood Situation". Arizona Rail Passenger Association. Retrieved February 20, 2008. 
  46. ^ "Phoenix commuters loved the Hattie B., now it's time to consider more rail options". Phoenix Business Journal. December 30, 2005. Retrieved February 20, 2008. 
  47. ^ Regional Rail. - Arizona Rail Passenger Association.

External links[edit]