PHX Sky Train opens, will connect light rail and Sky Harbor International Airport

Caption! (Madeline/DD)
PHX Sky Train will connect the 44th Street and Washington Metro light rail stop and Sky Harbor International Airport. The Sky Train, which opens Monday, will be free and run 24 hours a day. (Madeline Pado/DD)

After nearly a decade of planning and test runs, the long-awaited PHX Sky Train will open its doors Monday.

The 1.7-mile track will transport passengers between the 44th Street and Washington Metro light rail stop, Sky Harbor International Airport Terminal 4 and the East Economy parking lot. PHX Sky Train is free for all users and will run 24 hours a day all year. The train is expected to arrive every three minutes.

The 44th Street and Washington light rail stop will also include a free cellphone lot to help relieve traffic from the roads. Flight times will be posted at the lot for those picking up travelers.

The waiting areas by the Metro light rail and terminal 4 will be air-conditioned, and the outside area by the East Economy Parking lot will provide shade and fans to cool passengers while they wait.

Sky Harbor spokesperson Julie Rodriguez said the Sky Train will provide a more efficient way for passengers to get to their destinations.

“It’s designed to clear up car and bus congestion on the road so passengers have a quicker trip to their terminal,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said Sky Harbor is expecting nearly 7,000 Sky Train passengers every day and 2.5 million passengers within the first year. The train will provide service to a wide range of riders, from leisure and business travelers to Sky Harbor employees and ASU students going home for vacation.

“Sky Train will be particularly convenient for ASU students who need to get to the airport,” Rodriguez said. “It is accessible from both the Tempe and Downtown campus by light rail.”

Arminda Marcial, a social work sophomore and out-of-state student, agrees that the amenity will be helpful.

“Just this school year alone I have used the airport five times,” Marcial said. “The shuttles weren’t bad, but I’m glad they are putting in the train. It will be faster and more convenient.”

Sky Train is also environmentally friendly and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. It is automatic, runs without a driver and is powered by electricity on a center-rail guideway. Nearly 10 percent of its building materials are recycled content, and it is estimated to reduce green house gas emissions by 5,913 tons per year. When fully completed, it is expected to remove 20,000 cars and buses from the airport roadways each day.

Monday’s grand opening is the first stage in a larger plan for the transportation system. Sky Train is expected to expand to terminal 3 with a walkway to terminal 2 in early 2015. This completed stage will create 8,000 jobs in construction. The third and final phase is expected to extend Sky Train an extra 2.5 miles to reach the car rental center.

The $1.58 billion project is funded by Sky Harbor revenue and passenger fees, with no local or state taxes going into the project. Sky Train’s cost of operating will also be funded by the airport revenue.

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