METRO Light Rail in Phoenix and Tempe

Phoenix Adds Trains to Public Transportation System

Light Rail Train at Station
Brian Stablyk / Getty Images

The Greater Phoenix area has long been criticized for being one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country that has only bus service for public transportation. Over the past 30 years, many highways have been added, widened and improved, encouraging more cars, more traffic, and more problems with pollution and ozone layer destruction.

The history of the light rail project goes back to 1985 when voters in Maricopa County approved an increase in taxes to fund seed money for the project and the creation of the Regional Public Transportation Authority. We know that entity today as Valley Metro. Additional funding proposals by citizens of various of the cities participating occurred in the years following.

In December 2008, the first 20-mile starter line of the METRO light rail system for Phoenix started accepting passengers. Another 3.1 miles was added in 2015, and more additions will follow. The METRO light rail system uses state-of-the-art light rail vehicles with a modern, streamlined design.

Kinkisharyo International in Japan manufactures METRO light rail vehicles. More than 50 percent of the parts on the vehicles are American made. The final assembly of the vehicles occurred in Arizona.

Features of Phoenix Light Rail

  • Oversized a/c units
  • Tinted windows to block glare and heat
  • Four hanging bike racks in each vehicle
  • Exceeds Americans with Disabilities Act requirements; can accommodate four wheelchairs on each vehicle
  • Door entries at the same height as the vehicle platform (no steps or lifts)
  • Closed-circuit security cameras on inside and outside of each vehicle
  • Passenger-to-operator emergency intercom
  • A quiet, smooth ride
  • Audible and visual passenger announcements

The METRO light rail stations have platforms that are 16 feet wide by 300 feet long for passengers boarding or exiting trains in either direction. Stations are located in the center of the street, and passengers use lighted intersections and crosswalks to access the trains.

The station entry area has ticket vending machines. Stations have plenty of shaded areas, seating, route maps, timetables, drinking fountains, public telephones, garbage containers, and landscaping. They are well lit. Stations are designed for accessibility in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The artwork is also integrated into the design of all the stations.

Light Rail Park-And-Ride

METRO has nine park-and-ride locations on the 23-mile light rail alignment (2015). Park-and-rides have closed-circuit security cameras and emergency telephones. Parking is free.

Park-And-Ride Locations

  1. 19th Avenue/Montebello Avenue
  2. 19th Avenue/Camelback Road
  3. Central Avenue/Camelback Road
  4. 38th Street/Washington Street
  5. Dorsey Lane/Apache Boulevard
  6. McClintock Road/Apache Boulevard
  7. Price Freeway/Apache Boulevard
  8. Sycamore Street/Main Street
  9. Mesa Drive/Main Street

Light Rail Safety

Light rail stations and trains represent a significant change in the Phoenix area, so it is essential to educate yourself and your children about safe behavior in and around trains and stations.

  • Obey traffic and pedestrian crosswalk signals.
  • Never stop your car on the tracks.
  • Look and listen for trains at intersections. Light rail trains are quiet, so listen for the train bell and look for the train’s flashing headlights.
  • Overhead power lines are high voltage, so exercise the same caution you would around electric company power lines.

The 20-mile METRO starter line opened for passenger service in December 2008. The additional 3.1-mile mesa extension opened in August 2015. During peak times, a train stops at a station every ten minutes. At night and on weekends, trains stop every 20 to 30 minutes. Trains run between 18 and 20 hours per day. Rail fares are the same fare as the local bus fare.

In August 2007, Valley Metro eliminated transfers on buses and offered one-trip passes, or 3-day, 7-day, or monthly passes that are good for all local buses or rail. In March 2013, fares were increased, and options were changed to one-trip passes, 7-day passes, 15-day passes, or 31-day passes. One trip passes are only good for a single trip, and if purchased on a bus must be used on a bus, if purchased at a light rail station must be used on light rail. Multiple day passes may be used on either form of transportation.

Light Rail Stations

Section 1: Bethany Home Road and 19th Avenue, south on 19th Avenue to Camelback Road, east on Camelback to Central Avenue.

Location of rail stops:

19th Avenue and Montebello
19th Avenue and Camelback Road
7th Avenue and Camelback Road
Central Avenue and Camelback Road

Section 2: Central Avenue, between Camelback Road and McDowell Road

Location of rail stops:

Central Avenue and Camelback Road
Central Avenue and Campbell Avenue
Central Avenue and Indian School Road
Central Avenue and Osborn Road
Central Avenue and Thomas Road
Central Avenue and Encanto Blvd
Central Avenue and McDowell Road

Section 3: Central Avenue north/south between McDowell Road and Washington Street; Washington Street east/west between Central Avenue and 24th Street. 1st Avenue north/south between Roosevelt Street and Jefferson Street; Jefferson Street east/west between 1st Avenue and 24th Street.

The parallel areas of this downtown section on Central and 1st Avenues are designed to provide better support for transportation during major downtown events.

Location of rail stops:

Central Avenue and McDowell Road
Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street
Van Buren Street and 1st Avenue (Central Station)
Washington Street and Central Avenue
1st Avenue and Jefferson Street
3rd Street and Washington Street
3rd Street and Jefferson Street
Washington Street/Jefferson Street and 12th Street
Washington Street/Jefferson Street and 24th Street

Section 4: Washington Street/Jefferson Street east/west to Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) at Rio Salado.

Location of rail stops:

Washington Street and 38th Street
Washington Street and 44th Street (connects to future Sky Harbor Airport People Mover)
Washington Street and Priest Drive
Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) at Tempe Beach Park/Tempe Town Lake/Rio Salado

Section 5: Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) at Tempe Beach Park/Tempe Town Lake to Mill Avenue/ASU Sun Devil Stadium, then to First Street and Ash Avenue to Terrace Road and Rural Road. Rural Road southwest to Apache Blvd. (Main Street) running east/west on Main Street past Dobson Blvd. to Sycamore Road.

Location of rail stops:

Mill Avenue and Third Street
Fifth Street and College
Rural Road and University Drive
Apache Blvd. and Dorsey Lane
Apache Blvd. and McClintock Drive
Apache Blvd. and Loop 101 Price Freeway
Main Street and Sycamore Road

Mesa Extension: from west Mesa to Downtown Mesa

Location of rail stops:

Main Street and Alma School Rd.
Main Street and Country Club Drive
Main Street and Center Street
Main Street and Mesa Drive

Northwest Extension: from 19th Ave. and Montebello to 19th Avenue and Dunlap in west Phoenix

Glendale and 19th Ave.
Northern and 19th Ave.
Dunlap and 19th Ave.

Here are some basic facts that you might not know about the METRO light rail system implemented in the Phoenix area.

Learn About Phoenix Light Rail

  • Light rail cars are powered by electricity from overhead wires.
  • Each rail car can handle about 200 passengers, 66 of which can sit.
  • Rail cars will be air-conditioned to 74-78 degrees.
  • A station is designed to fit up to three rail cars at a time.
  • The METRO fleet numbers 50 vehicles altogether.
  • The initial line is about 20 miles long with 3.1 miles added for the Mesa Extension, which opened in August 2015.
  • Trains will travel at the posted speed limit for that road. They will travel up to 55 mph in future freeway corridors.
  • If you take the light rail system from end-to-end, the trip is expected to take about 75 minutes.
  • The expected "dwell time" at stations -- the amount of time that a train will "dwell" in a station while passengers board -- is 20 seconds.
  • Trains will operate 18-20 hours per day, seven days a week.
  • Passengers are able to catch the train every 12 minutes during peak hours and every 20 minutes off-peak.
  • The fare for light rail is the same as the bus.
  • The nine park-n-ride locations have a total of 3,824 parking spaces.
  • Each rail car has racks for eight bicycles.
  • There are locking bike lockers at each park-n-ride.
  • Service to Sky Harbor International Airport will be provided through a transfer from the light rail station at 44th and Washington streets to PHX SkyTrain.
  • The federal government is paying for about 41% of the cost of the 20-mile starter line: $587 million. The rest is funded with local sales taxes in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, with a small portion of the 20-mile starter line funded by Prop 400 monies. The Mesa extension was built with $200 million from a combination of Proposition 400 countywide sales tax revenues and federal air quality and grant dollars.
  • Several future extensions, including to the State Capitol area, West Phoenix and Gilbert, are included in the Regional Transportation Plan.
  • The METRO system is expected to reduce airborne emissions (pollution) by more than 12 tons each day compared to emissions associated with the same amount of passengers in cars.