Tempe Streetcar Expanding Before Being Built

Last night, the Tempe City Council heard a formal recommendation concerning the future of the proposed Tempe Streetcar line from Valley Metro’s CEO Steve Banta.

If you recall, there have been a lot of changes to the proposed routes over the last several years. The early choice was to have a loop around Mill and Ash and then head down Mill to Southern Avenue. That idea was short lived and we heard of additional choices.

1. There was an Apache-Rio Salado choice that had  the same loop with a short spur on Rio Salado and a jog down Mill to Apache where it went east to approximately Rural.

2. There was an Apache choice that had the same loop without the short spur on Rio Salado, but also had a jog down Mill to Apache where it went further east down towards the Dorsey light rail station.

After Apache and Apache-Rio Salado, we heard them called L and C routes. The advantages of one were similar to the others, but both had interesting ridership and economic development quirks. To make things more fun, the Feds seem to change their criteria once in a while, so even a slow moving train has a hard time hitting the jackpot that is the all-mighty federal dollars that are so necessary to make $ense out of the project.

Steve Banta and Wulf Grote from Valley Metro continue to educate people on what the holders of the purse strings look for. With the C route / Apache-Rio Salado route, the obvious thought is to take advantage of the future ridership from the Marina Heights / State Farm project and the huge expansion of the north side of Sun Devil Stadium. The only “problem” is the fact that Uncle Sam apparently doesn’t care about what will be on Rio Salado in the future, they want to know about density and traffic plans today. Um, not a lot…

With the L route / Apache route, the density and amount of residents already in place going further down Apache AND the fact that it would connect to a light rail station seem to be where the money could come from. This route appeared to be Metro’s choice.

Each of the two proposed routes were similar in length and cost as the first / old route that was heading down Mill to Southern. That route was approximately 2.7 miles. After much review and much thought about the best chance to land the additional “freebie” cash for construction, the latest recommendation is to combine the two routes and have the extension be approximately 3 miles in length to cover the density and transit connection on Apache and get the future ridership from the Rio Salado piece. They just want the best route with the most chance of moving forward and time is ticking.

Tempe Streetcar Vision

Tempe Streetcar Vision:

Forget L and C and forget the Apache or Rio Salado names of the routes. The new phrase is Vision. As in, a new vision for what they would like to see happen with the current and future streetcar lines.

At approximately 3 miles, the “extra” costs will need to come from somewhere.  There have been many concerns with finding the necessary funds for construction and for annual operations of the line. If you listen to people that know a lot about how all of this stuff is designed to work, you learn that funds come from several sources. Currently, Tempe has been awarded approximately $73 million that can only be used for this project. Metro and city officials are looking for more funding sources federally and locally. There have been several mentions of public / private partnerships to build and maintain the line, as well. Heck, there seems to be a Tempe trend towards digging up some serious cash for naming rights. We might as well slap someone’s name on the side of the streetcars to offset some city costs, right?


  1. C Vaughn says

    Just curious if the trees will be knocked out on Mill? My vote is for a double decker English bus – more fun, less money. Heck – buy 2. I’m not impressed with what I’ve read so far and hope the vote comes around to the people. How much will the trolly cost to ride and why is the Orbitz not expanding their routes? Will it soon cost to ride the blue bus?
    Anyway, thanks for reporting what you know. cv

  2. George Love says

    A great step forward in creating an increasingly walkable and livable point of destination near ASU. I think we are already seeing a big uptick in population density in the 85281 area code and this will only add to the attraction of what Richard Florida calls the creative class, to live in the area and thus will also draw companies to set up shop in this area to take advantage of the talent pool – viva la streetcar!:-)

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