Valley Metro Rail

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Valley Metro Rail
METRO Phoenix logo.png
Type Light rail
SystemValley Metro Rail
Locale Phoenix-Tempe-Mesa, Arizona, United States
Termini 19th Avenue/Dunlap
Gilbert Road/Main Street
Stations38 (List of stations)
Daily ridership50,009 (2017)
OpenedDecember 27, 2008;10 years ago (December 27, 2008)
Owner Valley Metro
Operator(s)Alternate Concepts, Inc.
Rolling stock Kinki Sharyo LF LRV
Line length28.2 mi (45 km) [1]
Number of tracks2
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification Overhead catenary 750 V
Route map


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19th Avenue/Dunlap
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Northern/19th Avenue
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Glendale/19th Avenue
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19th Avenue/Montebello
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19th Avenue/Camelback
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Campbell/Central Avenue
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Indian School/Central Avenue
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Osborn/Central Avenue
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Thomas/Central Avenue
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Veterans Way/College Avenue
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Valley Metro Rail (styled corporately as METRO) is a 28.2-mile (45 km) [2] 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 [3] , making it the 14th busiest light rail system in the country.

Light rail typically an urban form of public transport using steel-tracked fixed guideways

Light rail, light rail transit(LRT), tram or fast tram is a form of tramway or urban rail transit, using rolling stock, that constitutes a form of tram. They operate at a higher capacity than most historical tramways, and often on an exclusive right-of-way.

Arizona State in the United States

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the 6th largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; its other neighboring states are Nevada and California to the west and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest.

The Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority, more popularly known as Valley Metro, is the unified public brand of the regional transit system in and around the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area, responsible for public transit. Within the system, it is divided between Valley Metro Bus, which runs all bus operations, and Valley Metro Rail, which is responsible for light rail operations in the Valley.

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 into West Phoenix and South Phoenix to Baseline Road, all of which were expanded as a direct result of obtaining funding under the Proposition 104 sales tax increase.

Tempe Streetcar is a future streetcar extension of Phoenix's Valley Metro Rail light rail system. Construction began in 2017 with a projected opening for service in 2021. When completed, it will link various parts of the city's downtown, as well as the Tempe campus of Arizona State University.

Cost and infrastructure

Valley Metro, downtown Phoenix, 2008 Phoenix Exterior 7417.2008.jpg
Valley Metro, downtown Phoenix, 2008

The expected construction cost for the initial 20 miles (32 km) was $1.4 billion, or $70 million per mile. [4] 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. [5]

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 28 miles (45 km) route in just over 90 minutes, including station stops. [6] The system is powered by an overhead catenary that supplies power at 750 volts. [7]

Median strip the reserved area that separates opposing lanes of traffic on divided roadways

The median strip or central reservation is the reserved area that separates opposing lanes of traffic on divided roadways, such as divided highways, dual carriageways, freeways, and motorways. The term also applies to divided roadways other than highways, such as some major streets in urban or suburban areas. The reserved area may simply be paved, but commonly it is adapted to other functions; for example, it may accommodate decorative landscaping, trees, a median barrier or railway, rapid transit, light rail or streetcar lines.

Houston Largest city in Texas

Houston is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Texas, fourth most populous city in the United States, as well as the sixth most populous in North America, with an estimated 2018 population of 2,325,502. Located in Southeast Texas near Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, it is the seat of Harris County and the principal city of the Greater Houston metropolitan area, which is the fifth most populous metropolitan statistical area in the United States and the second most populous in Texas after the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, with a population of 6,997,384 in 2018.

Green Line (MBTA) Boston Massachusetts subway line

The Green Line is a light rail system run by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in the Boston, Massachusetts, metropolitan area. It is the oldest Boston rapid transit line, and with tunnel sections dating from 1897, the oldest in America. It runs as a deep-level subway through downtown Boston, and on the surface into inner suburbs via four branches on several radial boulevards. With an average daily weekday ridership of 160,000 in 2019, it is the second most heavily used light rail system in the country. The line was assigned the green color in 1967 during a systemwide rebranding because several branches pass through sections of the Emerald Necklace of Boston.


A driver waits for the light to turn green. Phoenix Valley Metro light rail car with driver.JPG
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 was turned down by voters in a referendum due to cost and feasibility concerns. [8] Subsequent initiatives during the 1990s failed over similar reasons.

Phoenix Street Railway

The Phoenix Street Railway provided streetcar service in Phoenix, Arizona, from 1887 to 1948. The motto was, "Ride a Mile and Smile the While."

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.[ 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 the CEO declaring the system to be on time and on budget. [11]

Plasma cutting

Plasma cutting is a process that cuts through electrically conductive materials by means of an accelerated jet of hot plasma. Typical materials cut with a plasma torch include steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass and copper, although other conductive metals may be cut as well. Plasma cutting is often used in fabrication shops, automotive repair and restoration, industrial construction, and salvage and scrapping operations. Due to the high speed and precision cuts combined with low cost, plasma cutting sees widespread use from large-scale industrial CNC applications down to small hobbyist shops.

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. [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 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. [16]

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. [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]

Northwest Phase I

Dunlap Avenue station 19th Avenue station.JPG
Dunlap Avenue station

An original part of the Transit 2000 plan, this extension was originally scheduled to open by 2012. [21] 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. [22]

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, [23] 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. [24] Construction began in January 2013, [25] with a celebration to mark the laying of the first track section being held in July 2014. [26] 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. [27] [28]

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.

50th Street infill station

The 50th Street infill station project adds a new station to the existing alignment at 50th Street and Washington. The project aimed to enable better connectivity with nearby businesses, and recent commercial and residential development projects in the area. [29]

The project, funded entirely by the City of Phoenix, began construction in June 2017; service to the new station started on April 25, 2019. [30]

Gilbert Road

An eastern extension, 1.9 miles (3.1 km) past the current terminus at Mesa Drive to Gilbert Road, began construction in October 2016 [31] , and began operating on May 18, 2019. [32] [33] The line, budgeted at approximately $184 million, travels in the median of Main Street and has 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. [34] [35] Service to the new stations started on May 18, 2019.

Proposition 105 and South Extension

After voters approved a tax measure in August 2015 to fund transportation, the City of Phoenix moved the timeline of the light rail extension to South Phoenix up by a decade. [36] Outreach to the residents and business owners of South Phoenix became strained when the extension called for the reduction of lanes from four to two along Central Avenue. [37] In February 2019, opponents were able to gather enough signatures to end light rail expansion in Phoenix. [38] The referendum to stop light rail expansion, known as Proposition 105, failed to pass in a special election on August 27, 2019. [39] Construction on the South Central extension began in October 2019. [40]


Route description

The Valley Metro light rail system map. Map Valley Metro Rail Phoenix Arizona.svg
The Valley Metro light rail system map.

As of 2018, 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. [41] 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.

Rolling stock

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. [42] The vehicles have a maximum speed of 58 mph (93 km/h). [43]

ManufacturerModelQuantity PurchasedRoad NumbersYears in service
Kinki Sharyo Low Floor Light Rail Vehicle [44] 50101–1502008–present
Brookville Liberty Streetcar [45] 6TBA2019-future
Siemens S70 [46] 11 (67 options)TBA2020-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. [47]

Fare inspections are conducted throughout the system at random to ensure compliance. As of 2015, the system has a fare-compliance rate of 94%. [48]

Future extensions and improvements

Phoenix light rail outside the Phoenix Convention Center, 2009 Phoenix Exterior Convention.2009.jpg
Phoenix light rail outside the Phoenix Convention Center, 2009

Tempe Streetcar (2021)

Phoenix light rail at night on Tempe Town Lake, 2008 Phoenix Exterior Bridge.2008.jpg
Phoenix light rail at night on Tempe Town Lake, 2008
Construction on the initial light rail segment, 2007 Phoenix Light Rail, Jan 1st 2007 (3145224808).jpg
Construction on the initial light rail segment, 2007

Tempe Streetcar will consist of 14 stations, running from Dorsey Lane west on Apache Boulevard, then north on Mill Avenue. [49] From there, it will loop around Downtown Tempe along Mill and Ash avenues. [50] 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. [51] [52]

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. [53]

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. [54]

After receiving environmental approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in January 2017, [55] the project is now in the design phase. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2019, with operations expected in 2023.

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. [34]

As of October 2017, the project is in the environmental assessment (EA) phase, with a public comment opportunity on the Draft EA expected in the Fall of 2017. [56] [57]

Capitol/I-10 West extension (Phase I: 2023, Phase II: 2030)

Capitol / I-10 West
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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. [58]

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. [59]

West Phoenix/Glendale

Map of Metro Light Rail system, showing starter line and future expansion corridors Maricopa County METRO Light Rail Map.svg
Map of Metro Light Rail system, showing starter line and future expansion corridors

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. [60]

On October 17, 2017, Glendale City Council directed staff against moving forward on a route into downtown Glendale, effectively killing the plans for the Glendale portion of the extension. [61] At the beginning of 2019, Phoenix City Council voted to indefinitely delay the remaining Phoenix portion of the project. [62]

Future extensions

Currently, an extension is planned to occur to Arizona State University's West campus in 2044. [34] A previous study into a Northeast light rail corridor has been suspended indefinitely, with Phoenix City Council directing funds towards street maintenance instead. [63]

Extensions of streetcar and light rail in Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler are currently being studied, with no specific completion dates in sight. [64] [65] [66]

See also

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The Seattle Streetcar is a system of two modern streetcar lines operating in the city of Seattle, Washington. The South Lake Union line opened first in 2007 and was followed by the First Hill line in 2016. The two lines are unconnected, but share similar characteristics: frequent service, station amenities, and vehicles. Streetcars typically arrive every 10–15 minutes most of the day, except late at night. The streetcar lines are owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation and operated by King County Metro.

Valley Metro Bus

Valley Metro Bus is a transit bus system for public transport in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States. Buses are operated by private companies contracted by Valley Metro and the City of Phoenix. Service currently operates throughout the broader Phoenix Metropolitan Area. All buses have wheelchair ramps or lifts, and with the exception of paratransit vehicles all buses have bike racks.

Metro (Minnesota) light rail and bus rapid transit system in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota

Metro is a high-capacity transport network serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. As of 2016, the system consists of two light rail lines operated by Metro Transit, along with three bus rapid transit lines: the Red Line, an extension of the Blue Line operated by the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, and the A Line and C Line, two arterial bus rapid transit lines operated by Metro Transit. The five lines connect Downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul with Bloomington, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Roseville, and Brooklyn Center, with several extensions in the planning stages.

3rd Street station or Third Street station may refer to:

Gilbert Rd/Main Street is a light rail station in Mesa, Arizona, on the Valley Metro system serving Phoenix and surrounding areas. It opened to revenue service on May 18, 2019, becoming the new terminus of the light rail line. The station has a park-and-ride facility and a bus station that is served by local routes. The two-station, 1.9-mile (3.1 km)


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