Passengers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will have a faster, more efficient way to travel between terminals starting April 8 when the airport introduces the first stage of the PHX Sky Train.
The PHX Sky Train is driverless and electric-powered. The fleet consists of 18 cars assembled into trains with two to three cars. Each car can hold about 53 passengers. The train is LEED certified and encourages alternative transportation to the airport.
Stage one of the PHX Sky Train project includes a 1.7-mile track connecting the 44th Street and Washington Metro Light Rail station to the East Economy parking lot and Terminal 4. The whole trip is estimated to take about five minutes. The trains will be free of charge and will run 24 hours a day.
Heather Lissner, spokeswoman for the city of Phoenix Aviation Department, said the initial construction and development of the PHX Sky Train began in October 2007.
“It was a long time in the planning,” she said. “It is a great seamless connection to the city.”
Phoenix City manager David Cavazos said Sky Harbor International Airport, known as "America’s friendliest airport," lacked an automatic train in connection with the light rail.
“We knew we needed to do (build the Sky Train),” he said. “It makes better use of the roadways, rather than using the shuttle buses.”
Cavazos said the train is more efficient than buses, and will be using a route that won’t be competing with roadway traffic. He said the trains will also add better predictability and cut costs to the airport.
The project, which costs $1.58 billion, was funded through airport revenues derived from passenger fees, rental car companies, restaurants, retailers and taxis instead of local tax dollars.
It includes a bridge that crosses over an active taxiway and is high enough to allow a Boeing 757 jet to pass underneath.
Lissner said there are two more phases in the project; the second phase will be completed in 2015 and will run trains from Terminal 4 to Terminal 3, with an addedwalkway to Terminal 2. She said, the last phase of the project will add 2.5 miles of tracks connecting to the rental car center.
Sky Harbor is one of the top 10 busiest airports in the nation for passenger traffic and the PHX Sky Train is expected to accommodate more than 2.5 million passengers in the first year of operation, according to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport website.
Cavazos said the city worked closely with Valley Metro on planning the connection at the 44th Street and Washington light rail stop.
“The airport front door has been extended to 44th Street and Washington,” he said.
At the 44th Street and Washington light rail station, passengers will be able to print off their boarding passes from kiosks and can check their bags for free at the station if they are flying with Southwest Airlines or US Airways.
The station will feature a cell phone parking lot to wait for passenger pickup. For passengers' convenience, the 44th Street and Terminal 4 stations will be air-conditioned, according to the website.
Public administration graduate student Preston Swan said he supports the airport expansion project and is looking forward to the new PHX Sky Train, because it will allow him to utilize public transportation completely to get to the airport.
“Fixed transportation means people can count on it being there,” he said. “Buses can break down, but we know exactly where the Sky Train is going, so we can focus on that route."
Swan said he has traveled to other airports in the U.S. and has seen cities with efficient running airport trains, which he looks forward to seeing in Phoenix.
“It’s expensive, but I hope it is worth it,” he said. "Plus, it looks nice."
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