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Phoenix is the 5th largest city in the U.S. Statistics carried out in 2007 estimate the Metropolitan Statistics Area to have a population of 4,179,400 making it the most populous U.S. state capital many years it was criticized for having buses as the only form of public transport. In December of 2008 the metro light rail system for Phoenix opened up its 20 mile starter line. The project was received well by commuters. Statistics indicate that initial ridership estimates were exceeded by 60%.The project was credited for sparking the rejuvenation of uptown business. It presented a cheap and convenient mode of transportation becoming the preferred form of transport for people living close to the rail, and those who were going to a destination near the line.

Plans on the Phoenix Light Rail project date back to 1985, when constituents of Maricopa County approved an increase in taxes that would see the development of the light rail project and establish a regional public transportation body. The objectives of the Phoenix Light Rail Project were:

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  • To diversify forms of  public transport in Phoenix
  • To reduce carbon emissions by cars.
  • To create greater densities
  • To encourage walk able neighborhoods
  • To connect the cities to each other using light rail
  • To decongest the city by encouraging ridership.

(Railfan, 30)

The Phoenix Light rail project has been blamed for being too linear, having too many stops and being too short.  Economists argue that it is economically unviable. It is also blamed for increased congestion in Phoenix.

Issue analysis

The construction of the Phoenix light rail project took up two lanes of the road. The construction of the project reduced the road capacity by 4000 trips per hour. Multiplying this with 1.2 (the average number of people in a car in the city) equates to 4800 people per hour. The light rail only handles a 1000 people per hour. Thus it results in more congestion on roads into and out of the city.

The project is argued to be very costly. Economists argue that it is economically unviable. The total cost of the construction sum up to around 1.4 billion dollars.  Extension of the rail would cost around $100 million dollars per mile. Fares collected are not enough to cover cost of operation of the rail project. It has to rely on government subsidies and hiked bus prices to cover operation costs.

The line is too short. There many populated areas of Phoenix where the Light rail system does not serve. People from these regions are forced to use their vehicles and public buses to commute to the city.The rail also serve places where there is seasonal traffic. The rail to the stadium


On the current 20 mile rail starter track, the project caters for a limited number of commuters. Making it inefficient and uneconomical .The project has   Expansion of the rail network to other areas would translate to higher ridership, increased revenues from fares and reduced carbon emissions and walk able neighborhoods.( Kidokoro ,300)

The management of metro Phoenix has started to delay train times from ten to twelve minutes during peak times and during weekends in an attempt to cut costs. Such adjustments have inconvenienced commuters.

The light rail project has been successful in reducing carbon emissions. Phoenix has an index of 1.2 people per car in the city .The twenty mile track has reduced the number of cars on the roads by an estimated 1500 cars a day.


The Phoenix light rail project cannot sustain itself; it is dependent on government subsidies and public transport bodies for funding. This is a problem experienced by nearly all light rail projects in the U.S. Just like Phoenix, Max and Metro light rail depend on federal funding to offset their operation costs (Kidokoro, 312)

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