The Three Phases of the PHX Sky Train Project
In April 2013 the PHX Sky Train welcomed the public on board for the first time. The first phase of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport automated transit system is only a five minute trip from end to end (less than 2 miles), but it represents a major step forward in servicing the millions of people who use Sky Harbor Airport each year.
PHX Sky Train operates 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. There is no charge to ride PHX Sky Train. No local tax dollars were used to fund this project, estimated to cost about $1.58 billion when it is completed. Here is an outline of the three phases of the project:
First phase, completed.
The PHX Sky Train terminal is a shiny, new facility at 44th Street and Washington. There is an elevated track for the electric-powered train PHX Sky Train, allowing it to travel between Terminal 4, East Economy Parking and 44th Street/Washington, where it connects passengers to the METRO Light Rail system.
Second phase, completed.
As of December 8, 2015 PHX Sky Train continues from Terminal 4 to Terminal 3, an additional 7/10th of a mile. A station at Terminal 2 is not planned. As a matter of fact, Terminal 2 will be eliminated in the future.
Final phase, possibly 2020.
PHX Sky Train will be extended an additional 2.5 miles to provide transportation to the Rental Car Center.
Where It Goes, and Where It Doesn't Go
Even though it's a short trip from Terminal 4 to the 44th Street station, it is not a dull ride! You'll get fascinating views of the city as well as a perspective of the gates and active runways that you might not have experienced before. PHX Sky Train is the first mass transit system in the world to cross over an active taxiway. A Boeing 747 can easily pass underneath since the train travels several stories above the ground.
Where It Goes
The PHX Sky Train route is:
Terminal 3 >> Terminal 4 >> East Economy Parking >> 44th Street and Washington METRO Light Rail Connection
It does not loop, it simply reverses, so if you start from the PHX Sky Train Station at 44th Street, the route is:
METRO Light Rail Connection 44th Street and Washington >> East Economy Parking >> Terminal 4 >> Terminal 3
Where It Doesn't Go
This phase of the PHX Sky Train does not go to Terminal 2, West Economy Park & Walk or the Rental Car Center.
This map will help you to visualize the transportation options within the airport, depending on which terminal you are arriving to or departing from.
Arriving in Phoenix
Here are some tips for passengers coming in on a flight that arrives at Sky Harbor Airport.
- Terminal 4 access to the PHX Sky Train is from the 3rd Level (gate level) of the terminal, in the center, toward the A and D Gates. To get to the 3rd level of Terminal 4 you can use escalators or, if you have a luggage cart, stroller or lots to carry, you can use the elevators on each end of Terminal 4 near the security gates.
- Terminal 3 Access to the PHX Sky Train is on the 2nd Level (gate level) of the terminal, on the end that is opposite the parking garage, near the restaurants.
- If you are being picked up by family or friends, you can still have them use the Cell Phone Lots. If it is more convenient for them to pick you up at 44th Street and Washington, you can take the PHX Sky Train to that station where your ride can wait in that parking lot. Unlike the Cell Phone Lots at the terminals, the one at 44th Street and Washington does not have a display board with flight information. You'll need to let your ride know by calling them on your cell phone to let them know that you are at the curb ready to be picked up.
- If you are going to take the PHX Sky Train to connect to METRO Light Rail at 44th Street and Washington, you may purchase your METRO ticket at kiosks on Level 2 just before exiting the PHX Sky Train facility. Follow the signs to exit to the METRO Light Rail Station.
- While the PHX Sky Train operates every day, all day long, METRO Light rail does not operate late nights/early mornings. If you will be arriving in the middle of the night, be aware that you can get to the METRO Light Rail station, but there might not be any train service. Generally, if you are interested in METRO Light Rail between midnight and 4 a.m., you might have to wait a while.
Departing from Phoenix
Here are some tips for passengers departing on flights out of Sky Harbor Airport:
- If you are taking METRO Light rail to the airport, or you are parking in the East Economy Parking lot, you can take the PHX Sky Train to Terminal 4. At 44th Street (and at East Economy Parking), you can take advantage of Early Bag Check for flights on Southwest and US Airways. There must be at least 90 minutes before your flight leaves to use the service. There is no extra charge for this service, but airline baggage fees still apply. It's just like checking your bags curbside. And, just like curbside, tips for good service are appropriate here. It is not a 24-hour service.
- Certain airlines (but not all) have Boarding Pass kiosks at the 44th Street PHX Sky Train station. US Airways participates, Southwest does not.
- Follow the signs to PHX Sky Train. Trains run every three to four minutes, so you won't wait long.
- From 44th Street there's only one direction in which you can travel, so don't worry about which train to enter. Just take the first one that comes along!
- The next stop will be East Economy Parking. If you are familiar with that parking area, it is huge, with both uncovered and garage parking areas. Trams will circulate to bring passengers to the PHX Sky Train Station. For closest parking to the PHX Sky Train station either use the East Economy garages or the north end of the uncovered parking area. When you drive into East Economy, you'll turn to the left - you can see the train station from the entrance to East Economy Parking. On the platform for the East Economy Station of PHX Sky Train, trains will be arriving from both directions, so make sure you get on the one going toward Terminal 4.
- You will be entering Terminal 4 on the 3rd Floor, where security/gates are located, as well as some excellent restaurants and shops. If you need to go to ticketing or check bags once you are at Terminal 4, take the elevators or escalators down to the second level. If all you need is a boarding pass, you can do that at kiosks at Level 3 before you check through security, assuming you don't need a ticket agent for anything else. Now you're on your way.
- If Terminal 3 is your PHX Sky Train destination, you will enter the terminal on the gate level. There are shops and restaurants there. If you need to go to ticketing, you'll go down one level. Escalators are in the middle of the terminal, elevators are on the end closest to the parking garage.
- Finally, if you are departing on a flight from Phoenix leaving out of Terminal 2, I highly recommend that you skip the PHX Sky Train altogether and park in the Terminal 2 garages. Save yourself the time and distance running around the airport. Again, checking this map will help.
PHX Sky Train Tidbits and Factoids
- The US Green Building Council has recognized this project by awarding it Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.
- Trains will be either two or three cars in length, each one holding a maximum of 53 passengers. The PHX Sky Train travels back and forth; it doesn't loop.
- There is no Wi-Fi at any of the PHX Sky Train Stations.
- There are few seats on the train cars. The ones that are there should be relinquished for those who need them the most. No one should be on the train for more than a few minutes, so standing up should not be a problem for most.
- You can't move from one car to the next while the train is in motion like you might on an actual railroad or on some subway systems. Once you are in a PHX Sky Train car, that's where you'll stay!
- It goes faster than you might expect! On the straightaway, the train will travel at 38 mph, which seems rather speedy when you are suspended several stories above the ground! The speed does vary and is automatically controlled. The average speed on the train is 23 mph.
- When you get on the train, hold on. There are curves and dips.
- If you travel with Fido and Fluffy, you can bring them on the PHX Sky Train. There is a pet park at the 44th Street Sky Train facility, just outside the northwest doors on Level 1. There is also a pet park between the East Economy Garages.
Impressions and Helpful Info About the PHX Sky Train
Here are some of our thoughts about the PHX Sky Train service.
- The station facility at 44th Street and Washington is sleek and silver, giving it a very futuristic feel. There are no claustrophobic hallways or low ceilings here. It's all very open with natural light bathing all areas of the stations. The walkway connecting the PHX Sky Train to Terminal 4, pictured here, is bright and artistically appealing.
- The PHX Sky Train is very convenient for people utilizing Terminals 3 and 4 but not so much for Terminal 2. The walk from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 is not bad if you aren't hauling a lot of luggage.
- There is quite a bit of walking involved in getting from Terminals 3 and 4 to the PHX Sky Train platform, and even more, if you have to go to baggage claim first. You can pay for a luggage cart, and you can take that cart all the way, on the PHX Sky Train and to your destination station.
- Passengers will find unique artistic expression in the floor design at each PHX Sky Train station.
- On the first floor at 44th Street, in the main area where you will wait for your ride to pick you up curbside, make sure you look up at the ceiling, at an artistic art installation entitled "Blue Stratus" with panels in different shades of blue that move and create a changing atmosphere. Mesmerizing!
- The cell phone lot at 44th Street and Washington is true to its name -- you'd better have a cell phone if you want to know anything about incoming flights, for there is no flight arrival or departure information either in the parking area or even in the PHX Sky Train stations. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport does have a mobile-friendly website at skyharbor.com, where tapping an icon allows you to inquire about current flights. Your smartphone may even allow you to place an icon for that page on your phone's home screen. There's no Wi-Fi here, so you'll need to access the airport's mobile website using your phone service.
- The intention of the 44th Street facility is presumably that people will not spend much time there. When it opened, there was a vending machine for bottled water. That's it, as far as concession are concerned. It would be nice if you could buy a newspaper or some mints.
- The entire facility, from Terminals 3 and 4 through the exit just steps away from the METRO Light Rail Station, allows you to be in air-conditioned comfort. There is a large waiting area on the main floor in the center (under that blue ceiling) where you are protected from rain but still get open air flow, if you prefer that to air conditioning. After you exit the 44th Street facility, if you are connecting to METRO Light Rail, you don't even have to cross any streets; the station is just a few steps away. All METRO Light Rail Stations are outdoors.
- There are some very nice restaurants and shopping opportunities at Terminal 4, but don't think you can park at 44th Street for free and take the train to the terminal. Likewise, don't think that you can park there for a quick same day trip. You must remain in your car. Once the passenger for whom you are waiting has arrived at 44th Street and Washington, has made his/her way to the first floor, and is out in front of the building, you can drive your car around to the front of the building to pick him/her up. There are a handful of parking spots in the lot with meters that accept only credit cards and have a four-hour maximum. The cost is the same as if you drive into the T4 garage. If you leave your car in unattended at any time -- either in an unmetered spot or at a meter that runs out -- it will be towed. Believe me, it will be monitored.
- The PHX Sky Train is reliable, fast and free. It was actually fun to ride and, being an elevated train, affords pleasant views of the area. It improves convenience for people traveling to and from Terminals 3 and 4, East Economy Parking and METRO Light Rail. It actually is less convenient than before for those passengers utilizing Terminal 2 or West Economy parking, if their goal is to get to the METRO Light Rail Station.
Resources for Phoenix Travelers
What else do you want to know about the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport or how to get around from there? Hopefully, the answers to all your questions can be found at the following pages.
- More About Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: Learn about the airport (like where is Terminal 1?!), how to get there by car, cell phone lots, lost and found, rental cars and more. Did you know that our airport even has a mascot?
- Holiday Travel Tips: The busiest times at one of the busiest airports in the country requires a little extra planning.
- How to Ride METRO Light Rail: A photo tutorial, so you can feel comfortable riding the train. If you are heading to downtown Phoenix or downtown Tempe, this is a very convenient and reasonably priced way to go.
- Interactive METRO Light Rail Map: You'll see where the Park 'n' Ride lots are for METRO Light Rail, as well as places of interest along the way.
- Valley Metro Trip Planner: Maybe Light Rail is the best way to go, but maybe you really need to take a bus from the airport. Use the trip planner to figure out how to get from here to there using public transportation.
- How Does the Rental Car Center Work? The car rental companies in Phoenix are off-airport at a separate facility. This photo tutorial will help you navigate the process.
- Sky Harbor Airport Official Website: Find details about airlines, flight info, ground transportation, food, services, and more.