Rendition of Phoenix light rail


click photos to enlarge

click photos to enlarge



PHOENIX -- VALLEY METRO received regional approval Wednesday from the Maricopa Association of Governments to build 2.6-miles of modern streetcar lanes that will run in the Mill Avenue corridor between Rio Salado Parkway and Southern Avenue in Tempe.

The streetcar project is a result of a three-year study that evaluated high-capacity transit improvements to support Tempe and Chandler and improve the regional transit network.

"Recently built streetcar projects in Portland and Seattle have demonstrated that empty storefronts and retail centers are reinvigorated, bringing new and desired amenities to neighborhoods and creating a thriving pedestrian environment." said Tempe Councilmember and METRO Board member Shana Ellis

Several study recommendations were made and approved by the Tempe City Council and Metro's board in November and the government association's Regional Council at Wednesday's meeting. In addition to the streetcar, the study calls for a bus rapid transit (BRT) line on Rural Road, connecting the cities of Tempe and Chandler.

The streetcar will advance first as local funding is available from Proposition 400, a countywide, half-cent transportation sales tax renewed by voters in 2004. Metro will also apply for a federal grant to support about half of the $160 million capital cost.

The green light adds the project to the long-range transportation plan and transportation improvement program, which will undergo an air quality conformity analysis in January. Also in 2011, Metro, working closely with the city of Tempe, will set up a community working group to help technical staff define the vehicle, stop locations and street configuration of the future streetcar project. At the same time, Metro will begin its application to the Federal Transit Administration for grant money. Construction is slated to begin in 2013 and operations in 2016.

For more information, including maps, collateral material and frequently asked questions, on the Tempe Streetcar, visit

Light Rail Rendition

Tempe South Streetcar – Partially Funded – 2016
2.6-mile corridor heads south from Downtown Tempe to Southern Avenue along Mill Avenue.

Construction expected to begin 2013.
A future phase, currently unfunded, could be extended east along Southern Avenue to Rural Road; other extensions could extend south along Rural Road or east/west along Rio Salado Parkway from Mill Avenue.

An associated bus rapid transit line is planned for Rural Road from LRT to Chandler Boulevard

METRO received local and regional approval in 2010 to move forward with 2.6-miles of modern streetcar in central Tempe.

The Tempe Streetcar will run in a one-way loop between Rio Salado Parkway and University Drive, going north on Mill Avenue and south on Ash Avenue. It will continue to travel north/south on Mill Avenue between University Drive and Southern Avenue.

Streetcar is a critical addition to developing a total transit network in this region. It supports the existing transit system and community with its ability to attract new riders, increase mobility, strengthen existing neighborhoods and create sustainable development.

Modern streetcar vehicles operate on tracks, typically mixed with automobile traffic, and are powered by overhead power lines. They differ from light rail vehicles in their smaller vehicle size and single-car operation. Stops are also more simple and frequent than light rail.

The project will be built by 2016 using a mix of regional Proposition 400 funds and federal grant dollars. City of Tempe is responsible for the operating funds.

Next Steps

In 2011, METRO, working closely with the city of Tempe, will convene a community working group to help technical staff define the vehicle, stop locations and street configuration of the Tempe Streetcar. In addition to the working group, staff will regularly provide opportunities for the public share their input on the project’s development.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) and preparation for a federal grant application will also begin in 2011. The EA will evaluate the project’s potential impacts on a variety of factors including noise and vibration, air and water quality, traffic and parking and historic and archaeological resources.



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Future Extensions

The Phoenix West extension will travel westbound from the METRO starter line in downtown Phoenix to the 79th Avenue park-and-ride area (to see larger map, click here or on map below). Planning is underway and the extension is scheduled to open in 2021 (click on the map to enlarge).

Purpose and Need of the Project:

Through consideration of existing conditions and public and agency input, METRO has defined the purpose of the Phoenix West AA/EIS project as follows:

To provide a dependable and efficient high capacity transit option between central Phoenix and the West Valley and outlying communities in support of regional plans and policies contained in the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) Regional Transportation Plan.
The Phoenix West AA/EIS study would recommend a high capacity transit alternative that addresses regional growth, increased congestion, changes in land use, lack of access to local destinations, inadequate transit service, and regional planning goals. The selected alternative would:

• Provide improved travel capacity during morning and evening rush hours;
• Support regional transit systems connectivity;
• Improve access to local destinations;
• Implement a cost-effective transit option; and
• Reinforce economic development opportunities in the Downtown Phoenix and State Capitol areas.

METRO is considering three separate high capacity transit modes for the Phoenix West Corridor; 1) Expanding Bus Rapid Transit service in HOV lanes shared with buses, carpoolers, vanpoolers, and permitted fuel-efficient vehicles, 2) Creating a separate guideway that would be exclusively reserved for Bus Rapid Transit, and 3) Light Rail Transit.

METRO is actively exploring a joint highway and transit improvement project.

Next Steps:

Throughout the study process METRO and the city of Phoenix will continue to solicit community input as the project is further defined. Please check back with this webpage for meeting dates, online comment form and updated materials.

The Northwest Extension will take light rail service farther north on 19th Avenue to eventually end at the area near Interstate 17 freeway and Dunlap Avenue. The project is split into two phases, both of which are experiencing unfortunate delays as a result of the slow economy.

Phase 1 is a 3.2-mile extension north from the current end-of-line at Montebello to Dunlap Avenue. Design is complete and includes three stations, one park-and-ride and convenient bus connections at Bethany Home Road, Glendale and Northern avenues. The extension will serve nearly 20,000 residents, more than 20,000 employees and nearly 10,000 housing units. In addition, 14 percent of neighboring households are without an automobile compared to seven percent countywide.

Phase 2 will eventually take light rail service west towards I-17.

Funding primarily comes from a 4/10 of cent sales tax extension approved by city of Phoenix voters in 2000 with additional monies coming from regional sources. With the economic downturn and a drastic reduction in sales tax collections, project funding and, subsequently, the timeline have been impacted.

The city of Phoenix and METRO will continue to move ahead with Phase 1 items in 2010 including completion of right-of-way real estate acquisition and installation of landscaping and barrier walls to support the neighboring community. These new features will not need to be relocated or impacted during eventual construction of the line. Concurrently, the city and METRO continue to research alternative funding sources and/or options to quicken the project’s timeline. The current schedule for completion is 2023 for Phase 1 and 2026 for Phase 2.

The Northeast extension will travel generally along the SR-51 corridor north to Paradise Valley Mall area and is scheduled to open in 2030.

Planning for METRO extensions begins nine to 10 years prior to the opening date.

When Valley voters approved Proposition 400 in November 2004, they approved an additional 27 miles of extensions. These 27 miles along with 10 miles of previously-approved extensions at the local level, will result in a total of 57 miles of light rail by 2031. see map

The corridors for the extensions are part of a regionally-approved transportation plan that includes the federal, regional and local funding necessary to construct them.

Any additional extensions, or any changes to the extensions already included in the Regional Transportation Plan must go through a process outlined in state statute (ARS 28-6353) .

The process calls for proposals to be considered by local, county, regional and state agencies and will include representation from elected officials, business interests and citizen groups. Any changes to the Regional Transportation Plan must also be approved by the Maricopa Association of Governments.