Studies and Programs

Passenger Rail Study: Tucson to Phoenix

Types of Rail

The Passenger Rail Study between Tucson and Phoenix is looking to connect the two largest metropolitan areas in Arizona and provide intercity/commuter rail transit. Rail in Arizona is growing. The light rail system in Maricopa County started operating in 2008 and the Modern Street Car in Tucson is set to open in 2014. Arizona continues to study and develop future rail in Arizona.

What is the difference between different types of rail?


Sun Link in Tucson, AZ

  • Characteristics: Typically serves short trips and operates in mixed traffic on city streets; generally circulates through urban centers; is powered by overhead electrical wires
  • System Extent: 1 to 8 miles
  • Station Spacing: 2 to 4 blocks

Light Rail

Light Rail in Phoenix, AZ

  • Characteristics: Typically serves trips to and within central business districts and other activity centers; generally operates at-grade in an exclusive lane on city streets, but may include grade-separated guideways; is powered by overhead electrical wires
  • System Extent: 15 to 20 miles
  • Station Spacing: ½ to 1 mile

Commuter Rail

Commuter Rail

Sounder in Seattle, WA

  • Characteristics: Typically serves daily work trips between primary employment centers and outlying suburban areas using railroad passenger cars; can operate in freight railroad corridors and is usually powered by diesel locomotives
  • System Extent: 20 to 75 miles
  • Station Spacing: 5 to 7 miles

Intercity Rail

Intercity Rail

New Mexico Rail Runner

  • Characteristics: Typically serves longer-distance travel between metropolitan areas; can operate in freight railroad corridors and is usually powered by diesel locomotives
  • System Extent: 50 to 300 miles
  • Station Spacing: 20 to 30 miles

High-Speed Rail

High Speed Rail

Fly California in Mission Beach, CA

  • Characteristics: Serves markets similar to air travel for regional or interstate trips; operates electric locomotives in an exclusive rail right-of-way
  • System Extent: 200+ miles
  • Station Spacing: Major cities
Shaping Communities

Passenger rail can shape a community. The studies below help answer a few questions: How can we better design various transportation modes to function together, creating a fully integrated and more intelligent system of transportation? Is it important that we find alternative fuel courses and reduce energy consumption for transportation?

Additionally, how can passenger rail shape communities, enhance economic vitality and improve the quality of life? What kind of systems are operating in the Western United States? Part of this study includes the development of station area planning guidelines that would be made available to surrounding communities.

Civil RightsTitle VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)