Tempe streetcar more popular than expected

Since it debuted in May of 2022, Valley Metro says more than 806,000 people have taken a ride on the Tempe streetcar.
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 8:38 PM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Since it debuted in May of 2022, Valley Metro says more than 806,000 people have taken a ride on the Tempe streetcar. That is more than double the number of people Valley Metro predicted would have used it since service started about a year and a half ago.

“We’re really happy it shows that there was demand in our community,” Tempe Sustainability and Resiliency Director Eric Iwersen said. “We’ve proven that if you offer these things in a convenient and comfortable way and that people will take them.”

Iwersen says there are four streetcar trains in Tempe. They are different from a typical Valley Metro train since they run on battery, not overhead wires. They also have four cars rotating through a three-mile loop around the Arizona State University Campus. Iwersen says it’s a mix of people using the trains. They have people living in the city, from business professionals to students at Arizona State University.

“I love them,” Tempe resident Matt Phillips said. “A lot of people are against them like it’s a waste of money, but it’s a way to cross town to get onto the light rail.”

Officials say the streetcar is safe because they have security on all trains. That’s another reason people use trains. Officials say they’re a great option during big events that shut down roads and create traffic and parking problems.

Below are the numbers Valley Metro sent us about the street car:

  • Streetcar ridership projections: 330K by FY24 (Oct 1, 2023).
  • Ridership FY23: 622,208 riders in FY23
  • Ridership since the opening of service in 2022: 806,143
  • Ridership in 2023 (so far): 484,361

This project was years in the making. Construction on the tracks began in 2018 and took $200 million of public and private funding to complete.

Right now, it’s free to ride, but the plan is to add a $1 fee per ride in the future. The city and Valley Metro are also studying to see if they could expand the tracks to other parts of Tempe and Mesa. To learn more about the schedule, click here.

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