Valley Metro Tempe streetcar begins service
TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - After years of construction, the wait to ride the new Valley Metro Tempe streetcar is finally over. The first ride kicked off at 10 a.m. on Friday and rides will continue every day until midnight. The new route covers most of the ASU Tempe campus and has two connections to Valley Metro’s existing light rail line.
“It’s going to be like before streetcar and after streetcar,” ASU student Max Groeger said. “It’s not going to be the same.”
Like many ASU students, Groeger doesn’t have a car. But even if he did, Groeger sees this free transportation option that cuts through the heart of downtown Tempe as a game-changer for the area. “Here on Mill Avenue, kids can take the light rail to and from their apartments off-campus rather than driving towards their dorms off-campus,” he said. “That’s pretty sweet.”
Construction for the Tempe streetcar line began in 2018. Four years and about $200 million of public and private funding later, the three-mile, 14-stop route that goes from Apache Boulevard to Marina Heights is finally open to the public. “It’s new; it looks nice and neat,” streetcar operator Sami Haddad said. “And just to be around the Tempe area, it’s exciting.”
Nearby businesses like Rosebuds Bath Boutique are already seeing an uptick in foot traffic. “I walked down to go get some food, and there just seemed to be a lot more people around,” employee Heaven Blaker said. “And you can see people directly across the street, like right outside the door. So it’s a very good viewpoint for us.”
Some of the busier areas that the streetcar goes directly to or near include Sun Devil Stadium, Gammage auditorium, and Tempe City Hall.
For Tempe resident Bill Yeager, it is easier for him and his wife to get to places they frequent in the city. But he’s not sure how many riders will get on the streetcar that aren’t from Tempe. “It’s very helpful for the merchants and things on Mill Avenue,” Yeager said. “But spreading to the whole Valley and the expense that we paid for this? I don’t really think it’s economical.”
Valley Metro says eventually, this streetcar could extend further into Tempe and even into Mesa. Count Groeger as someone who’s on board with that. “I just think we should have more cheap public options for transportation,” he said. “And I think this is a step in the right direction. I’m happy to see more projects like this in the future.”
This streetcar is free for the next year, and after that, it’ll cost $1. Rides start at 6 a.m. most days (8 AM on Sunday) and end at midnight. The streetcars come every 15 to 20 minutes.
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