Valley Metro Rail (styled corporately as METRO) is a 26.3-mile (42 km) 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 49,416 in 2016, making it the 14th busiest light rail system in the country.
In the years since it opened in 2008, the system has undergone two expansions, with at least five more scheduled, including the Tempe Streetcar. Furthermore, extensions are planned in Glendale and into South Phoenix to Baseline Road, all of which were expanded as a direct result of obtaining funding under the Proposition 104 sales tax increase.
- 1 Cost and infrastructure
- 2 History
- 3 Operations
- 4 Fares
- 5 Future extensions and improvements
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Cost and infrastructure
The expected construction cost for the initial 20 miles (32 km) was $1.4 billion, or $70 million per mile. In 2008, Valley Metro estimated the train would cost $184 million to operate over the following five years with fares covering $44 million of the operation costs and tax subsidies covering the remaining costs.
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 and TRAX in Salt Lake City. 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 58 miles per hour (93 km/h), and have to complete the 26 miles (42 km) route in 90 minutes, including station stops. The system is powered by an overhead catenary that supplies power at 750 volts.
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 was turned down by voters in a referendum due to cost and feasibility concerns. Subsequent initiatives during the 1990s failed over similar reasons.
Metro was created by the Transit 2000 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), also called the Transit 2000 plan, which involved a 0.5 per cent sales tax, and was approved by Phoenix voters 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 ValTrans plan.
Construction on the new light rail line began in March 2005. 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. 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. The last of the concrete and rail for the system was installed in the end of April, with the CEO declaring the system to be on time and on budget.
There are 28 stations on the initial twenty-mile starter segment. The line celebrated its grand opening on December 27, 2008, with official ribbon-cutting ceremonies and community celebrations throughout Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. The event was produced by Arizona's Entertainment Solutions, Inc. and was attended by thousands of local residents who waited as long as an hour or more to ride the vehicles. The stations have been designed to complement their immediate surroundings. 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 April 2017, with a total passenger count of 1,514,456 and an average weekday ridership of 52,910. On the weekend of March 31, 2017, through April 2, 2017, the light rail system saw 275,615 passengers board the train due to several large events including Final Four Fan Fest, March Madness Music Festival, Arizona Diamondbacks home opener, Phoenix Pride Festival, Phoenix Suns game, and Tempe Festival of the Arts. That Sunday, April 2, 2017, they saw 80,210 passengers board the train thanks to fans attending the Arizona Diamondbacks home opening game as well as the other large events occurring that weekend.
Central Mesa Extension
The Central Mesa Extension extended 3.1 miles (5.0 km) from Sycamore/Main St in the median of Main Street to Mesa Drive. 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. Construction began in July 2012 and passenger service began on August 22, 2015. Mesa held a summit in early 2012 to have urban developers give their ideas on how to revitalize Downtown Mesa. 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.
Northwest Phase I
An original part of the Transit 2000 plan, this extension was originally scheduled to open by 2012. However, a combination of lower than expected sales tax revenues, combined with uncertainty surrounding the availability of federal funds to support the project resulted in the opening date being pushed back initially to 2014, and then by 9 years, to fiscal year 2023, by the Phoenix City Council in June 2009.
In July 2012, a vote was held to reschedule this extension to open in 2016. Under this plan, the city of Phoenix advanced $60 million of local funds to Valley Metro Rail, who would then fund the remaining cost of the project (approximately $267 million) with both Transit 2000 and Proposition 400 funds, thereby allowing work on the project to begin.
The design-build contract was awarded to a joint venture of Sundt and Stacy and Witbeck, for the 3.2 mile extension. Construction began in January 2013, with a celebration to mark the laying of the first track section being held in July 2014. Construction work continued until December 2015, when it was announced the extension would open March 19, 2016 and that testing along the new stretch would continue.
This extension is the first to extend light rail within the city of Phoenix. The system continues north from the previous terminus at 19th Avenue and Montebello, along the median of 19th Avenue, to a new terminus and park and ride located on the southwest corner of 19th Ave/Dunlap. The extension features two additional stations, located at Northern and Glendale avenues and is predicted to serve 5,000 riders per day during its first full year of operation.
As of 2018[update], the Valley Metro Rail system consists of one single line serving all 35 stations total, and denoted with a gold-yellow color on Valley Metro publications. The line starts in Phoenix at the 19th Ave/Dunlap station on its own right-of-way south of Dunlap, before turning south on 19th Avenue for 4 miles (6.4 km). It then turns eastward on Camelback Road for 2.5 miles (4.0 km), then turns south onto Central Avenue where it continues all the way into Downtown Phoenix. At Roosevelt, the line splits into one-way segments: the Mesa bound portions line runs on First Avenue south before turning east on Jefferson Street; likewise, the Dunlap bound portion of the line starts at 26th Street on Washington Street before turning north on Central Avenue. (Between 5th and 26th Streets on the Washington/Jefferson corridors, the Valley Metro Rail has a distinction of running in the middle of one-way thoroughfares.) After both tracks rejoin east of 24th Street on Washington Street, it continues past Sky Harbor Airport (which is connected by the PHX Sky Train to the light rail), then turns southeast ward crossing into Tempe. The line leaves Washington Street and crosses Tempe Town Lake on its own bridge, turning east along Mill Avenue before going into its own right-of-way near ASU. Going southward, it joins Apache Boulevard headed eastward, with Apache being renamed to Main Street in Mesa where the light rail line ends at Gilbert Road.
Hours and headways
Service begins Monday through Friday at 4:30 a.m., while Saturday and Sunday service begins at 4:50 a.m. Service ends at approximately 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights, weekend service ends at 3:25 a.m. Friday and Saturday mornings, with Sunday service ending at approximately 12:30 a.m. Monday morning.
Due to the fact a complete light rail trip takes 83 minutes from end to end, trains departing at 11 p.m. for example end by 12:25a.m. Weekday frequencies consist of every 12 minutes, Saturday daytime service every 15 minutes and Sunday and evening service being every 20 minutes.
Valley Metro Rail currently 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 four bicycles, per vehicle. Up to three vehicles may operate together in a single train set. The vehicles have a maximum speed of 58 mph (93 km/h).
|Manufacturer||Model||Quantity Purchased||Road Numbers||Years in service|
|Kinki Sharyo||Low Floor Light Rail Vehicle||50||101–150||2008–present|
|Siemens||S70||11 (67 options)||TBA||2020-future|
Valley Metro Rail shares its fare system with the Valley Metro Bus system, but uses a proof-of-payment system to allow for simplified boarding and platform access. Tickets can be purchased from ticket vending machines at the entrance to all stations but must be validated before boarding the train.
Future extensions and improvements
Gilbert Road (2019)
An eastern extension, 1.9 miles (3.1 km) past the current terminus at Mesa Drive to Gilbert Road, began construction in October 2016, and began operating on May 18th. The line, budgeted at approximately $184 million, will travel in the median of Main Street and have two stations. The design-build contract for this project was awarded to Sundt/Stacy and Witbeck, with Jacobs Engineering providing design services for the project.
Tempe Streetcar (2021)
Tempe Streetcar will consist of 14 stations, running from Dorsey Lane west on Apache Boulevard, then north on Mill Avenue. From there, it will loop around Downtown Tempe along Mill and Ash avenues. The route continues along Rio Salado Parkway to Marina Heights, with a possible extension to Mesa to connect with the Chicago Cubs new spring training facility, as well as Tempe Marketplace.
Northwest Phase II (2023)
Upon completion of Northwest Phase I, focus now shifts to Phase II of the project. Estimated to be complete by 2023, this extension will continue west on Dunlap Avenue before turning to head north along 25th Avenue. From there, the system will head west on Mountain View Road, before crossing Interstate 17 and terminating on the east side of Metrocenter Mall. The extension is expected to include three new stations, one in the vicinity of 25th Avenue and Dunlap, another adjacent to the Rose Mofford Sports Complex and a relocated transit center on the east side of Metrocenter Mall.
South Central Extension (2023)
The South Central Extension will run from Downtown Phoenix, south along Central Avenue to Baseline Road, adding 4.9 miles (7.9 km) and seven stations, while connecting with two park and ride locations.
Additionally, this project will form a light rail hub in Downtown Phoenix, between Central and First avenues to the west and east, and Washington and Jefferson streets to the north and south. Also included are new tracks for turn-around / staging purposes at both Third Avenue and Fifth Street for enhanced flexibility during peak service.
After receiving environmental approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in January 2017, the project is now in the design phase. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2019, with operations expected in 2023.
Capitol/I-10 West extension (Phase I: 2023, Phase II: 2030)
Capitol / I-10 West
The Capitol/I-10 West extension will run from Downtown Phoenix from Central Station and 1st Avenue/Jefferson 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 11 stations to connect the West Valley and ease congestion on Interstate 10. 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.
Both Phase I and II are now in the final stages of the environmental assessment, Phase I of the project will begin operations in 2023. Phase II operations are currently scheduled to begin in 2030, however the project could be accelerated to open sooner.
West Phoenix/Glendale (2026)
Starting in 2013, Valley Metro along with the cities of Glendale and Phoenix approved a project to study the potential extension of light rail, bus rapid transit or streetcar to Glendale. Initially three different route options were proposed, all of which headed west from the current light rail system and featured a shared terminus in the Downtown Glendale area. Options included travel directly across Glendale Avenue, as well as routes which travel along Camelback Road and a combination of 43rd and 51st avenues, before entering the shared downtown terminus area.
In February 2016, a community working group recommend a route for this project, this route travels along Camelback Road until 43rd Avenue, at which point light rail would travel north along 43rd Avenue until Glendale Avenue, from there it would continue west until it reaches 56th Avenue, where the route is likely to shift approximately 500 feet (150 m) north to Glenn Drive, where it will continue to the downtown terminus. Light rail was selected as the preferred type of transit for the route, as opposed to bus rapid transit or streetcar.
Following the recommendation, the project now enters a technical definition phase, to better identify how the line would cross Interstate 17, in addition to defining how the route will transition from Glendale Avenue to Glenn Drive in downtown Glendale. Upon completion of this phase, the route will be presented for approval to both Glendale and Phoenix city councils.
Any project which occurs as a result of this study will have a budget of $543 million, with construction to begin in 2023 and operations to begin in 2026.
50th Street infill station (2019)
The 50th Street infill station project adds a new station to the existing alignment at 50th Street and Washington. The project aims to enable better connectivity with nearby businesses, and recent commercial and residential development projects in the area. 
- PHX Sky Train
- Phoenix Public Transportation
- Light rail in North America
- List of tram and light rail transit systems
- List of rail transit systems in the United States
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Valley Metro Rail.|
- Official website
- Article on Valley Metro Rail and preemptive urban revitalization
- Slideshow of photos on light rail construction and progress – from azcentral.com