Jessica Swarner/The Copper Courier The City of Tempe unveiled a fleet of new streetcars on March 22, 2021. They're expected to roll out later this spring.
Jessica Swarner/The Copper Courier

The streetcar will travel three miles with 14 stops along the southwest edges of ASU’s Tempe campus. 

Tempe’s gearing up to release a new fleet of streetcars—but this new addition to the city’s transit system resembles the light rail more than old-fashioned trolleys.

Valley Metro on Monday unveiled the first streetcar vehicle to arrive from Brookville, Pennsylvania, where it was manufactured. 

The car can seat 40 and transport 120 people total. There will be six cars total, and they will all run separately, not in trains. 

The streetcar’s planned route passes many points of interest for those moving around Tempe, including ASU’s Gammage Auditorium, the Hayden Flour Mill, and Marina Heights. And for those needing to travel further, the streetcar route connects to two light-rail stops: Dorsey/Apache, and Mill Avenue and Third Street. 

Under the Hood

The cars have two power sources — an overhead electrification system and a lithium-ion battery for parts of the route that don’t have overhead power. 

The vehicles and system will undergo testing this spring with operations expected to begin by the end of this year. 

The cars will travel three miles from Dorsey Lane and Apache Boulevard to Rio Salado Parkway just north of Sun Devil Stadium, with a total of 14 stops.  

The streetcar also won’t just move back and forth on one line as the light rail does. When going north, it will travel along Mill Avenue. Coming back south, it will extend further west and come down Ash Avenue before returning to Mill Avenue at University Drive. 

Larger Transit Plans

The streetcar is part of Tempe’s larger plan to increase accessibility to public transportation across the city. 

“We are really looking forward to doing everything we can to make sure that all of our residents … can get anywhere they want throughout the Valley without the use of a car if they choose to,” Mayor Corey Woods said at the Valley Metro press conference unveiling the car Monday. 

Tempe is working toward becoming a “20-minute city,” meaning residents can bike, walk, or use public transit to meet their daily needs, except for commuting. 

Woods mentioned that the streetcar would not only improve the lives of people without cars, but it offers everyone a more environmentally friendly choice for traveling. 

Going Green

The Tempe City Council has set a goal to reach 100% renewable energy for municipal operations by 2035 and carbon neutrality by 2050. 

Expanding public transportation plays a significant role in President Joe Biden’s goals for sustainability across the US. 

Biden campaigned on a promise to reach net-zero emissions for the country by 2050 and put $2 trillion into improving infrastructure and fighting climate change. 

He has committed to making sure every US city with 100,000 or more residents has access to “high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options” by 2030 through federal funding. 

The Biden administration is expected to release a more detailed infrastructure plan in the coming days. 
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said the plan is a “once in a century” opportunity to reshape the US reliance on cars.