The Proposed Arizona Rail System
Schematic map of proposed services (Wikipedia, May 2008)
In 1991, we issued “Arizona Rail,” a report detailing a regional passenger rail system for southern Arizona. Since then, we have been continually promoting the idea, and revising the plan. Today, with the growth of our cities, with improved city bus service, with Light Rail imminent in metro Phoenix, and with urban rail moving forward in Tucson, southern Arizona is more suited for Commuter Rail and Regional Rail than ever before.
Our State is blessed with beautiful scenery, a fine climate, and a growing population and economy. Phoenix is now the Nation’s sixth largest city; within the next two decades it may become the third largest, as the population in the Phoenix-Tucson area increases 50 percent. In that time, traffic on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson will increase 67 percent; that road is expected to reach full capacity within the next few years.
We could continue to build more roads. But doesn’t it seem like we’re already surrounded by roads? Isn’t every new road immediately choked with traffic? Wouldn’t it make sense to add capacity to the roads we already have? Wouldn’t it make sense to use our existing, under-utilized, rail lines?
We’re not proposing that Arizona stop building roads — rather, that we supplement our roads with a transportation system which benefits everyone, not just those who are able to drive automobiles. Have you been on a highway in rush hour lately? Driving isn’t fun anymore. Even in Los Angeles, more than a hundred thousand people every day choose the train over driving.
We can build on the examples of cities and counties across the nation who have turned to passenger rail service, operating on existing railroad tracks, to supplement existing roads. In Arizona, rail lines of the Union Pacific, and the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, are ideally suited for commuter and regional service. These rail lines pass through our cities and towns, usually within a few blocks of shopping, sports facilities, and government buildings. They pass adjacent to hospitals, airports, and major employment centers. They intersect major state and interstate highways â€” often near the edge of the city: the perfect location for development of “intermodal” transfer stations. At these stations will be parking, terminals for improved bus systems, bikeways, taxis, sidewalks and even “light rail” (streetcars). All these combined make it possible to get around without having to drive a car.
Incremental improvements to these existing tracks are especially attractive when you consider the capacity they would add to our State’s roads, and compare this cost to that of widening pavement. These improvements would also increase the speeds and capacity for freight trains, helping Arizona’s commerce and industry.
We believe the opportunity now exists to establish a fiscally sensible rail service in Arizona which would provide a useful and convenient transportation option through the most heavily populated portion of the state, and complement other transportation facilities. We are concerned that our State’s public policy for decades has resulted in the expenditure of millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars on highway projects. We believe it is time for far more cost-effective, efficient, and safe transportation options, acknowledging:
Trains are the
- most energy efficient,
- most environmentally benign
way of moving large numbers of people over medium intercity distances at a relatively high speed. Don’t you think the citizens of Arizona would benefit from regional rail supplementing their transportation system?
Please lend your support to Commuter and Regional Rail by writing to the Governor, your State Senator and Representative, and your County and City officials. Tell them you support Arizona regional rail and Phoenix commuter rail.