Phoenix, Artizona/Central Phoenix/East Valley Corridor

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Central Phoenix/ East Valley Corridor

Phoenix, Arizona

(November 1998)


The Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) is planning a 22-mile at-grade light rail system to connect the cities of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. A 13-mile minimum operating segment (MOS) from downtown Phoenix to the east side of Tempe including a 1.75-mile spur to serve the Rio Salado development along the Salt River in Tempe is proposed to be built first. The Locally Preferred Alternative also includes an expanded bus and park-and-ride system. The MOS LRT is estimated to cost approximately $390 million (escalated) and serve 18,600 daily riders. The improved regional bus system portion of the project includes a doubling of the RPTAís current bus revenue miles and is estimated to cost approximately $480 million ($1998).

Summary Description

Proposed Project:

Light rail transit

13- mile MOS, 19 stations

Total Capital Cost ($YOE):

Section 5309 Share ($YOE):

$390.0 million

$195 million

Annual Operating Cost ($YOE):

$15.0 million

Ridership Forecast (2020):

18,600 daily boardings

FY 2000 Finance Rating:

FY 2000 Project Justification Rating:

FY 2000 Overall Project Rating:



Not Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


The Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) completed the Central Phoenix/East Valley (CP/EV) Major Investment Study (MIS) in the Spring of 1998. In September 1998, FTA granted RPTA permission to enter the Preliminary Engineering/Environmental Impact Statement (PE/EIS) phase on 20 miles of the corridor. Approval to enter PE on the remainder of the corridor is anticipated in December 1998. It is anticipated that PE/EIS will be completed in November 2000.

The Maricopa Association of Governments (local MPO) adopted the CP/EV Corridor as a fixed guideway corridor and included the CP/EV LRT project in the Long Range Transportation Plan and the current Regional Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). Section 3030(a)(62) of TEA-21 authorizes the Phoenix Fixed Guideway project for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $8.9 million for the project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Information reflects the 13-mile Minimum Operable Segment.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low

The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) estimates the following travel time savings.


Mobility Improvements

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours)

15.6 million

1.0 million

Based on the 1990 census data, there are 4,734 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed LRT stations, roughly 22 percent of total households within ½ mile of proposed stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

The Phoenix Metropolitan region is a serious non-attainment area for ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulates (PM10). RPTA projects the following emission reductions for the Central Phoenix/East Valley LRT.


Criteria Pollutant

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Carbon Monoxide (CO)


No change

Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)

No change

No change

Hydrocarbons (HC)



Particulate Matter (PM10)

No change

No change

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)



Values reflect annual tons of emissions reductions.

RPTA estimates the following increases in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units - BTU).


Annual Energy Savings

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

BTU (million)



Values reflect annual BTU reductions.

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Low

RPTA estimates an increase in systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in year 2020 for the 13-mile CP/EV LRT project compared to the No-Build and TSM alternatives.




New Start

System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2020)




Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1998 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: High

RPTA estimates the following cost effectiveness indices.



New Start vs.


New Start vs.


Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger



Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1998 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium Land Use rating reflects the diversity of land uses along the proposed alignment and evidence of local efforts to facilitate transit-supportive land uses in the corridor. The corridor passes through moderate to high density central business districts in Phoenix and Tempe as well as low density residential, industrial, commercial, and recreational/cultural centers, ending at the City of Mesa. The corridor serves several major trip generators. Local land use plans in Phoenix and Tempe support the LRT and there exists potential to provide economic and joint development opportunities. Transit-oriented design plans are underway in Tempe to integrate LRT with Downtown and the 7 million square foot Rio Salado development. The City of Phoenix has a downtown overlay district that allows new office and retail with no parking requirements. The City of Tempe has eliminated free public parking in the downtown area. The State of Arizona recently passed a Smart Growth initiative that provides $20 million each year for 11 years to preserve land from development. The Governor of Arizona has appointed a Growing Smarter Committee to study the establishment of urban growth boundaries among other issues.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 50%

The financial plan for the 13-mile Minimum Operable Segment for the Central Phoenix/East Valley LRT includes $195 million (50 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds, and $195 million (50 percent) in state and local funds from the Cities of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium capital plan rating reflects uncertainties associated with local funding for the project at this time. The 20-year finance plan is reliant on local sales tax to cover the local share of project costs. Tempe and Mesa have ½ cent sales taxes that can be used for transit; however Phoenix --- which would contribute 54 percent of local funding for the project --- has no local sales tax for public transportation at this time. Phoenix plans to return to the voters with a new sales tax proposal in the near future. The financing plan identifies a contribution of state sources such as the state funded Local Transportation Assistance Fund (LTAF) but does specify a dollar amount committed to the project. Capital funding form the City of Phoenix must be secured for this project to move forward. It is unclear whether the participating jurisdictions have the financial capacity to address shortfalls and cost overruns.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium operating plan rating reflects the need for a new revenue source to operate the proposed project. Local support for transit operations is provided through the City of Phoenix general fund and the City of Tempe's ½ cent sales tax dedicated to transit. Tempe's sales tax currently generates approximately $23 million per year for transit operations. Funds equal to a ½ cent sales tax are required for the City of Phoenix to pay for its share of the proposed systemís operating costs. Operating revenues are based on the assumption that a referendum extending a Maricopa County sales tax of ½ cent beyond 2006 will pass and that future revenues would be split 50-50 between transit and highways. Farebox recovery is projected to be 40 percent of operating costs for the LRT and 25 percent of operating costs for the enhanced bus system.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)


Proposed Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)


Appropriations to Date

  Section 5309 New Starts


($8.9 million appropriated through FY í99)
  City of Phoenix

City of Tempe






NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.