Valley Metro opens Tempe Streetcar line

May 23, 2022
The 14-stop, three-mile line is the region’s first modern streetcar line and provides a link to employment centers, entertainment destinations and connects to the regional transit network.

Valley Metro welcomed the region’s first modern streetcar line on May 20 with the start of service on the three-mile Tempe Streetcar route. The line provides connections to major employment centers, entertainment and event destinations, historic neighborhoods and the regional transit network.

“With Tempe having the highest transit ridership per capita in the state, as well as the highest density, a multi-modal transportation network is essential,” said Tempe Mayor Corey Woods. “We are building for our future and the streetcar is a great example of that.”

The six Liberty® NXT Streetcar vehicles were built by BROOKVILLE Equipment Corporation. The hybrid streetcars will operate off-wire through downtown Tempe, Ariz., on Mill Ave and feature a three-section car body with more than 70 percent low-floor standing area. The vehicles will operate as single cars with a capacity for 125 people. Current service is anticipated every 20 minutes, with frequency improving later this year with the addition of the final two streetcar vehicles. Valley Metro will not charge fares for the Tempe Streetcar service during its first year of operation.

Valley Metro also notes public art, created by five Arizona artists, is incorporated at all stops and reflects the culture, architecture and natural beauty of the surrounding area.

“Streetcar adds another sustainable option for transit riders to move around the Valley and enhances our comprehensive, regional transit network,” said Valley Metro CEO Jessica Mefford-Miller. “It’s also the start of a streetcar system that we hope to extend into Mesa in the coming years.”

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the 14-stop line in 2017 with significant construction beginning on the project in 2018. The $200-million project was funded through a mix of federal and state funds, as well as a public-private partnership with the city of Tempe, Arizona State University and more than a dozen employers and property owners along the route.

“Modern streetcar would absolutely not exist without the partnership of several creative and bold leaders, including Valley Metro, the city of Tempe and the local business community,” said John Graham, president and CEO of Sunbelt Holdings, and one of the business members to raise $13 million for the streetcar project. “We rallied together to help fund this first-of-its-kind public-private partnership because we recognize streetcar’s benefit to downtown Tempe and to us as employers and developers along this and future corridors.”

The project was awarded a $75-million grant through the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants Program in September 2019. The timing of the federal grant made the project eligible for additional funds provided in the American Rescue Plan. The additional $17.4 million awarded through the American Rescue Plan will help enhance the long-term safety and efficiency of the streetcar.

“We are so pleased to help support the Tempe Streetcar, which will provide a fast, convenient, car-free option connecting downtown Tempe and Arizona State University,” said FTA Regional Administrator Ray Tellis. “With connections to Valley Metro’s light rail system, destinations like Phoenix, Mesa and Sky Harbor Airport are now just a train ride away.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.