Consultants’ Study Released October 27th, 1993
– TIMETABLE Staff
Tucson, Oct. 27 – The Joint Legislative Study Committee on Rail Passenger Service convened today and received the consultant’s report. This report was prepared by Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. in association with Gannett Fleming, Inc.; LTK Engineering Services; and NuStats, Inc.
Notes From The Consultant’s Report
Project goals were to increase statewide mobility; contribute to the conservation of Arizona’s environment, natural resources, and historic heritage; stimulate Arizona’s economy and tourism; and ensure the cost-effectiveness of a statewide rail passenger system.
“It is the general finding of this study that, in a limited number of locations in the state, new rail passenger service is feasible. …Although other projects in other locations show promise…,” the report suggests first implementing a service plan with four integrated projects. These are:
- Phoenix-Tucson Intercity;
- Tucson-Nogales Intercity Extension;
- Glendale-Mesa Commuter;
- Phoenix-Grand Canyon Tourist.
The Phoenix-Tucson intercity service ranks first among all considered options in overall ridership. While this is the most costlyof the intercity options studied — among other reasons, “significant new trackage” would have to be constructed to minimize effect on existing SP freight operations — the report also states it is the most cost-effective.
An extension of intercity services to Nogales “is relatively inexpensive and generates a reasonable level of additional ridership.”
The report includes two preliminary timetables for intercity trains. The first requires two trainsets to make 5 Phoenix-Tucson round trips per day. The second timetable uses three trainsets to cover the same 5 trips, but extending four of them to Nogales.
As to commuter rail, “the most cost-effective option is connecting Glendale and Mesa” with benefits relative to congestion relief and air quality.
Though commuter rail is “less cost-effective” than intercity rail, combining both projects decreases the individual cost of either.
Comparisons are also made to existing commuter systems (such as Los Angeles, Washington DC, Miami, San Francisco, Boston) — the important point being that offering midday service can result in large increases in ridership. On the Glendale-Mesa line, an increase from 2,500 to 4,000 would occur with even limited base service added to rush-hour trips.
Weekend excursion service could be extended from Phoenix to Wickenburg initially, with possible extension to Grand Canyon. “The use of comfortable yet historically accurate trains would enhance the train’s ability to attract riders.” As an example, a photo titled “Candidate Tourist Rail Vehicles” shows a steam engine and an F-unit. However, the report cautions that this new tourist service “will need to be closely coordinated with the existing historic service between Williams and the Grand Canyon.”
Benefits of Plan
The report then goes on to rate how the proposed rail passenger system would accomplish the project goals and objectives.
As to increasing mobility (reducing dependence on the automobile, provision of transportation alternatives, provision of convenient transportation throughout the state), grades of Fair to Good are given to all four proposed projects.
The commuter services are given a Good probability of reducing energy consumption, improving air quality, and encouraging beneficial land use near stations. The Intercity services are all given a Good grade as to helping to promote tourism.
Authority and Operation
Options regarding the authority to implement the plan are discussed. These include using an existing authority (e.g., ADOT, RPTA); a coalition of counties; or creating a new rail passenger authority.
Also discussed are choice of a Service Operator (either direct operations or contracted out); and coordination with existing railroads (Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, Grand Canyon, Amtrak.)
Several possible options are listed for capital funding and operating costs, including: Sales and uuse taxes; Motor fuel taxes; Vehicle license tax; Federal funds; Local Funds; Private sector fees; Railroad cost-sharing; Volunteer labor; and Fares.
At The JSLC Meeting
Gene Caywood submitted a motion to accept the report as presented with the exception that the commuter route be extended to Sun City West. However, after a comment and some discussion, it was voted to accept the report in its present form. The Committee will continue to review this and other points.
An additional motion was passed as to the forming of a Finance Committee. Members are to include Jay Myers of ARPA, and representatives from ADOT, MAG (Maricopa Ass’n of Governments), PAG (Pinal), the cities of Tucson and Phoenix, and Pinal County.
Other issues raised concerned the consideration of legislative authorization for a permanent rail authority; and the continuation of a consultant’s contract for additional studies (engineering, cost, equipment, and operation analyses).
[Interview, Sam Morse, Nov. 20, 1993]
ARPA continues to maintain the position that to gain maximum benefit from the Regional Rail system, the Phoenix–Tucson service should run through to Sun City West.
While there are several issues involved in extending the rail services through Phoenix (having to deal with more than one railroad — both Southern Pacific and Santa Fe would be invoved; the Grand Avenue crossings; etc.), these issues should be discussed early in the planning stages.
Eliminating the need for downtown transfers makes for a simpler system, easier for passengers to understand and use. Congestion from passengers transferring from train to train, or train to bus, would be reduced. Additionally, fewer capital improvements — platforms and other passenger-handling facilities — would be required in the downtown stations.