We are getting ever closer to the opening of the Valley Metro Streetcar. The first of the six streetcar vehicles arrived recently to our Operations and Maintenance Center. Each streetcar is 72 feet long and can carry up to 120 passengers. They will soon be riding along with traffic in downtown Tempe.
I got a chance to hop aboard the streetcar and go on a short ride as our workers tested it out. The first thing I noticed was the color. Our streetcars are green, while our light rail trains that are primarily purple or silver. As I approached the streetcar, I was greeted by the familiar bells passengers hear as the light rail arrives. However, when I climbed onto the car, I immediately noticed some big differences.
A convenient addition to the streetcar is an LED screen that shows riders exactly where the streetcar is and its next stops. It’s still in development and only shows one stop right now but will be useful when it’s ready to service passengers.
The streetcar also has a feature normally found in buses. There’s a blue button on handrails and near seats. Pressing this button alerts the operator that you are ready to get off at the next stop. Valley Metro is still considering whether to use the feature or to instead have the streetcar stop at every platform so look out for more information in the future.
The streetcar also has straps you can use to hold onto, similar to buses if you’d like to stand during your ride. I took a short trip around the Operations Maintenance Center and I can say it was a smooth and pleasant ride.
You can also get a sneak peek at part of the streetcar experience by checking out our new platforms. The streetcar has 14 stops adorned with art around the downtown Tempe area. The streetcar will primarily travel on Rio Salado Pkwy, Mill Ave. and Apache Blvd.
The Tempe Streetcar is expected to be in operation later this year. I can’t wait to ride it and zip around downtown Tempe to shop and grab some ice cream on a hot day. If you want to learn more about the streetcar check out our project page.