Phoenix Sky Train to airport ushers in new era for Valley METRO light rail

April 12, 2013


Phoenix Sky Train to airport ushers in new era for Valley METRO light rail

PHX Sky Train


By Amy B Wang and Dustin Gardiner
The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX- Amid great gusts of wind and fanfare, PHX Sky Train, the $1.58 billion automated, interterminal train system at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, opened Monday.

The free driverless train connects Terminal 4, the East Economy Parking Lot and the Metro light-rail station at 44th and Washington streets.

About 300 elected officials, business leaders and other guests turned out for the opening festivities, kicking off the inaugural run with flutes of apple cider and a barbershop quartet that serenaded the crowd with songs such as “Sentimental Journey” and “Is There Anybody Here From Out of Town?” Several people clutched silver tickets commemorating the event.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was expansive as he held on to a pole during Sky Train’s debut ride shortly after 9:30 a.m.

“This is one short ride for man, but one giant leap for Phoenix!” Stanton shouted above the din of guests and news cameras as the train sped from the 44th Street station.

Nearby, Vice Mayor Bill Gates and Councilman Tom Simplot laughed as the train climbed to its highest point, 125 feet above the ground. Sky Train is the only system in the world to have a bridge that goes over an active airport taxiway.

The train made a brief stop at the airport’s East Economy Lot. When the doors opened, a crowd of waiting airport employees clapped and cheered.

At noon, Sky Train opened to the public. Phoenix resident Glenn Diller, 86, lined up at the 44th Street station at noon to be among the first to board. Diller said that his father took him to watch an aerial circus as part of the airport’s dedication in 1935.

On Monday, Diller marveled at how much Sky Harbor has grown in the past nearly 80 years. He complimented the train’s swift-yet-smooth ride and the ornate public artwork adorning its stations.

“First of all, I had to come out here and see what we spent a billion dollars to build,” Diller said. “I think it’s going to impress anyone that comes into this city. Nothing compares to this.”

Ron Bimrose, a Tempe resident, said the train’s opening will allow him to more easily travel from his doorstep to the airport using mass transit. He can catch a circulator bus in his neighborhood, transfer to Metro light rail and use Sky Train to quickly get to his terminal.

“It’s beautiful,” Bimrose said. “It’s quick. It’s smooth. It’s nice and cool, which will be a major factor in the near future. I had actually high expectations, and they’ve been met so far.”

Larry and Dana Eichenlaub of east Mesa rode the train Monday afternoon after returning from a trip to Dallas. The couple were relieved that they didn’t have to wait at the curb outside baggage claim to catch a bus to their car in economy parking.

“I just want it to be faster than the buses,” Dana said. “Saves waiting in the heat outside.”

This is the first phase of Sky Train construction. By early 2015, the train is scheduled to extend to Terminal 3 with a walkway to Terminal 2.

Monday also marked the start of free early-bag-check service at the 44th Street Sky Train station for travelers on Southwest Airlines and US Airways.

Early bag check has been available at the East Economy Lot since December.

“I thought it was perfect,” Phoenix Aviation Director Danny Murphy said after the hubbub of Sky Train’s opening had settled a bit. “This is just going to transform the way passengers interact with (the airport). … It’s a great day.”


PHX Sky Train map

PHX Sky Train

PHX Sky Train

PHX Sky Train
Video: Sky Train opens at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport -April 8, 2013


What is the PHX Sky Train™?
The PHX Sky Train™ is an automated train that transports travelers between the 44th Street and Washington METRO light rail, the East Economy parking area and Terminal 4 in its first stage.
Opening Stages:

  • Stage one, between METRO light rail, East Economy parking, and Terminal 4 opened in the spring of 2013 and is 1.7 miles long
  • Stage 1a will open in early 2015, continuing from Terminal 4 to Terminal 3 for .7 miles, with a short walkway to Terminal 2
  • In the future, Stage 2 will extend the PHX Sky Train™ an additional 2.5 miles to the Rental Car Center

Train Information:

  • It takes 3 minutes to travel from the 44th Street station to East Economy Parking and another 2 minutes to Terminal 4
  • Trains run continuously in both directions and arrive as frequently as every 3 minutes at an average speed of 23 mph, but up to 38 mph
  • 18 train cars are assembled into 2 or 3 car trains
  • Each car holds 53 passengers

The driverless train runs on an electrically powered, center-rail guideway and facilities are Gold LEED certified

How much will it cost to ride?
The PHX Sky Train™ is free to the public.

What hours does it run?
The PHX Sky Train™ runs 24-hours a day with predictable travel times – arriving at stations about every three minutes during peak periods and delivering passengers to their destinations within five minutes of boarding.

Source: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Video:Light Rail Train Tempe Arizona

Video: Phoenix Update- Light Rail Extension




Phoenix Skyline

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