15 Years Later Phx Passengers Still Waiting For Train

April 4, 2011 | 6:48 AM | Local | By Staff

Attention everybody. Remember that whole Global Warming dealio? Yeah, it’s been solved. According to KTAR, AZ’s transportation board has approved a plan to connect Phoenix and Tucson via a high-speed train. Which is awesome, taking all those cars and trucks off the jam-packed I-10, and letting commuters stop wasting their lives away in stop-and-go traffic and focus on important things, like catching up on their DLT fix.

Sure it will be years before it goes online, but all that’s standing between us and high-tech, eco-friendly mass transit system is a little thing called reality.

Truth is, Greater Phoenix has been off-the-rails since 1996 when Amtrak’s final train left the station, making us the largest metropolitan area in the nation without true passenger rail. (Unless you count Light Rail, which we don’t.) Leaving rail lovers having to hitch a ride down to Maricopa (say hi to Bristol Palin), or up to Flagstaff, just so they can hop on a train. (Speaking of Maricopa, if you do decide to catch a train here, be sure to check out the old passenger depot, the historic California Zephyr train pictured above.)

A passenger train arriving in Maricopa

So why did passenger train chug out of town in the first place? Well is a long (and mostly boring) story, which the AZ Republic did a nice job of breaking down here. In short, Amtrak, the government-run passenger rail has been losing money since it was founded in 1971 (although defenders will ague that it’s been mismanaged and underfunded, especially compared to all the tax dollars poured into highways and air travel). Either way, as gas prices (and air pollution) continue to climb, there’s been a renewed interest in train travel.

Back here in the Valley, the sad truth is the AZ Dept of Transportation doesn’t have the $50M to $200M needed to restore the old passenger lines, while the existing freight lines are already packed to the gills. So now Amtrak is thinking about bringing back a bus service that would take passengers from Phoenix or Tempe to Maricopa, where they could then jump aboard a train to points nationwide. So all you’d have to do is drive to a bus station, take a bus to Maricopa, and then jump on a train. Sounds very practical.

The proposed rail line would feature high-speed trains similar to this one in China

As for that high-speed rail plan, which could eventually be expanded to create a transit triangle including Las Vegas and LA, it’s still decades (and billions of dollars) away at best.

But hey, at least you can now go check out that restored Santa Fe Depot in Downtown Phoenix. Best of all, there’s always plenty of parking in the adjacent eight-story car garage built with our tax dollars.

Images via WunderBlog & AZ Central




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