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June 08, 2016


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I totally agree that Union Station needs commuter and light rail service running by it daily, not just for the spiritual reawakening of that grand station, but also for transit-oriented development.

But what if we kept the South Central line along the current proposed route (which would take advantage of the existing Central/1st Ave tunnel beneath the UPRR) and instead we re-routed the Capitol/I-10 West line to run parallel to Union Station on its way west to the Capitol? That extension (well, to the Capitol building) has also been fast-tracked to 2023 and it would avoid having to build an underpass below the train tracks. Why not go Jefferson >> 3rd Ave >> Jackson and roll half a block in front of Union Station’s doors?

I agree that Union Station must be connected, but I also agree with Trevor that it doesn't need to be the south line; the west line could either swing down to Jackson or, more likely, the currently proposed station could move a block west to 4th avenue to provide a direct visual and pedestrian connection to Union Station. 4th could be closed to vehicles to create a linear pedestrian plaza with abundant shade trees and activity - reducing the psychological distance and providing a more integrated hub. Denver had to make a similar compromise by located a light rail alignment a couple blocks north of Union Station and it works fine. Civic leaders must demand for this integration with Union station however, as the current plan is to keep the station closer to City Hall and there is inertia resistance to changing it. Plus most don't "get" Union Station's opportunity to serve as a major transformative project. Like almost every other project in Phoenix, the focus is on bean counting, not long term vision.


Civic leaders? Do you actually know any?

phoenix to tucson---it's where the water flows and freight travels. now, today...


Bring back trains to Phoenix! We are the 6th largest city in the US..I want to be able to take a train to Flagstaff, Tucson, California...it's insane that we currently cannot.

Great post, Jon, and good comments, all!

I tend to agree that, provided it is feasible to use the existing Central/1st Ave tunnels under the UP for LRT, the South line should stay there. If the tunnels have to be substantially rebuilt, anyway, then Third Avenue should be looked at for the reason Jon mentions.

With regard to the Capital-I-10 LRT line, I agree that it should go near Union Station (even if the other LRT line does). I do not agree that this line should go along I-10. LRT serves people, not cars. The West LRT line should use McDowell or Thomas (the latter is the heaviest used bus line in the Valley) even though it would cost more to put it there.

Besides, we should plan on having the commuter rail in place at some point--as the Buckeye folks want--and the I-10 LRT would closely parallel that.

We need to be aware that some of the LRT folks are convinced that THEY are commuter rail, when in fact the two modes serve different purposes for different markets.

I know several of you feel you are thinking outside of the box. However, your thinking is still inside the box. You ASSUME transportation needs to get large amounts of people from outlying areas to downtown. Even travel within downtown still needing bus and light rail. Do you want to really step outside the box? Mandate through tax incentives and punitive tax penalties that every worker doing a job which can be done at home (telecommuting), MUST be done at home. There went a huge portion of the commuters in their reviled autos. Reduce the cars. Reduce the busses and yes reduce the trains.

Mumbo, U forgot, reduce the people.

I am totally unqualified to opine on the nuts-and-bolts of the topic; some might say that would be true about almost any topic.

But there is one thing I do have a little knowledge about is operations centers Union Station appears to be an operations center. If so it will be filled to the rafters with routers, switches and other communications equipment. Then there would be all the equipment needed to control and monitor the network. There might also be a lot of equipment and systems for billing purposes. The result of all this is that there are numerous fibers pulled into the facility from all directions. The equipment throws off a lot heat and a really good AC system is needed. A really fast and big back-up power supply is necessary also. I don’t know if telephone companies use microwave systems any more – but it appears there are at least two microwave towers on the property. Of course these could be converted for use by the local cellphone network.

What does all this mean? It’s going to be massively expensive to replace the facility with a new one somewhere else. Just like it would be massively expensive to build a new interstate train station somewhere else.

If you’re going to buy Union Station, doing it sooner rather than later is the way to go. A sale-lease back purchase with a five or a ten year rental agreement would probably be best.

But I think Phoenix Planner has the right idea. While you’d like to own Union Station, what you really need are the loading platforms and access to them. A new station nearby – like a block or two in any direction would work (as long as it’s a pleasant block or two). Provisions for baggage handling would also be needed.

Call me a skeptic – but I don’t see long distance trains to anywhere except maybe Tucson within the next couple of decades. Phoenix is uniquely unsuited to long distance passenger trains.

The waiting room in Union Station, restored in the 1990s, is still there.

Poor Birmingham tore down its beautiful Terminal Station. What a loss:


I certainly hope restoration comes to the train station. I once fantasized having a PI office upstairs. I think the desire to do light rail as indicated above is a far stretch given the political control of ADOT and their desire to build more freeways thus keeping the brethren employed.
Tonite I cruised central "downtown" after a bite to eat at The Phoenix Market. there were almost no people (except homeless) on the sidewalks. In the early 50's I recall "downtown" bustling with folks after sunset?
Maybe after June 15th things will pickup.


The Downtown DASH bus could be re-routed to Jackson St and stop at 3rd Ave to provide nearby connectivity to Union Station.

The Dash bus...that's inspiring. "Imagine a great city."

@RC: Funny that you should bring up Birmingham Terminal Station. A recent book “Great Temple of Travel…1909-1969” was recently released (author = Marvin Clemons) tells its history. It’s what we call here a “coffee table book” with oversized pages, lots of photos and glossy paper). I’d heard about the station, but I really didn’t know much about it; it was torn down in 1969 and I didn’t even move here until 1990. Even to this day, old timers still bitch about the tear down. It’s only been, what, 47 years since the event. In its hay-day it truly was a gem. It was falling apart when it way torn down. This is a Phoenix focused site so I won’t go into lots of interesting trivial about the station – other than this: Terminal Station was built in 1909 due to gridlock at the L&N/Union Station downtown. Six long-haul lines and misc. short haul lines with 74 daily arrivals (except on Sunday when there were “only” 66).

With the rise of online commerce the need to travel "downtown" will be reduced in the future. Having a train that brings people into a downtown area would accommodate civic events, concerts and sports events. However, it is not nearly as imperative as it was in the past.

When autonomously driven cars are dispatched through a system similar to Uber, trains will be impediments to city travel. I think within the next twenty years or so this will be the reality we encounter.

Uber and Google are working on,
"Beam me up Scottie."
Or only your hologram will attend the large arena football game. After 75 years I still fail to understand the game crowd mentality. Lemmings screaming and crushing and rushing over the cliff.
But for the future and the day I give up my car, I am building AMTRACK points with my credit card use.

It may make more sense to have a "Union Station" at Sky Harbor Airport than in Downtown Phoenix.

The light rail station at 44th and Washington Streets connects to the Airport Sky Train. There are freight railroad tracks just south of that property and an inter-city rail station could be built at that location thereby integrating it with the light rail and the sky train.

The Airport is located in close proximity to Downtown Phoenix and in between Downtown Phoenix and Downtown Tempe, both of which are the urban cores of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Moreover, intercity travelers tend to carry luggage and the airport station provides passengers from Tucson and Los Angeles direct airport connectivity while offering a choice of travel between Downtown Phoenix and Downtown Tempe.

It makes more sense to centralize things downtown. Any city that wants to compete for talent and capital needs a real downtown. This is not brain surgery.

it's not either/or, it's both. There should be a commuter/intercity rail station at 44th st. and Downtown Phx. While 44th will be an important intermodal station for air/rail, Union Station will be the rail hub, as Downtown is the nexus of the north/south/east/west LRT lines, as well as local bus lines (plus it's Downtown and should be the hub for that reason alone)

There are no brain surgeons downtown. Only drones working on kornputers. Joe, you are thinking outside the box. It must be lonely.

Joe does not live in a high rise box and Mombo sees reality. The future is the fire next time as Climate Change turns the ashalt into boiling cauldrons.

Ex Phx Planner, what is your email address? I want to send you a light rail plan that I had sent out to Phoenix and Valley Metro.

I believe that going forward things will become more decentralized, or suburban if you will.

Automation, technology and innovation will provide the means to decentralize. It's inevitable.

I'm able to visit many downtown areas as an airline pilot. I'm currently in downtown Tampa, and tomorrow I'll be downtown Albuquerque. I'm often in downtown Seattle. It's fun to walk around the downtowns, I've ventured around all the major ones in the US.

If I ever go shopping in a downtown area and find something I'm interested in purchasing I use "red laser" on my phone, purchase the product online for cheaper and it's waiting for me upon my arrival home in Phoenix.

Technology is going to change cities and I agree, it's not brain surgery.

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