Bring Streetcar Service Back to Phoenix

Historic streetcar lines at the height of their development superimposed over today's urban infrastucture

Many are surprised to learn that Phoenix, like most other cities of any size, once had a streetcar system.

Beginning in 1887 with mule-drawn cars, the system developed through the 1920s. Many different car styles were in use over the years.

The system extended east and west from about 23rd Avenue to 24th Street, and served much of the city north of the railroad tracks. Lines were extended as far as the Phoenix Indian School (Indian School Road at 3rd Street) and for a time even ran to downtown Glendale.

One of the earliest extensions of the system was along Grand Avenue. The line was established as a mule drawn line in 1895, connecting the townsite to the then-rural fairgrounds. The Grand Avenue line served until 1937, falling victim to the Depression and deteriorating conditions of the rails. During the time it was in service, it cemented Grand Avenue as an important boulevard and spawned several streetcar suburbs, including the Oakland and Story neighborhoods.

After World War II the streetcar system fell into decline. The "last ride" was in 1948, following a catastrophic fire at the car barn, destroying most of the rolling stock. A fleet of buses was thought to better serve the sprawling metropolis of the 1950s and they became the major mode of mass transit. The streetcar rails remained for years thereafter, and are still found on occasion during street improvements.

GARP would bring back streetcar service as a component of urban life in Phoenix. The first phase of development would restore the historic streetcar to occasional use along the old Grand Avenue line, tying into the future light rail station at 7th Avenue and Washington/Jefferson Streets and connecting once again up to the fairgrounds. The historic streetcar would be augmented by a modern streetcar that could provide regular service and accommodate the needs of the disabled.

Proposed comprehensive streetcar system for downtown Phoenix


Eventually, GARP will be extended to serve the entire downtown area. Instead of following the historic streetcar alignments, our plan recognizes that the city of today has different needs. The proposal would connect all of the downtown neighborhoods and other destinations within a convenient 5 minute walk (about 1/4 mile) of the streetcar line. A system with 4 modern streetcars would provide service at 10-minute intervals in both directions. The modern cars would probably be the same as those proposed for Tempe, for consistency within the metro area.

The Grand Avenue Rail Project - Phoenix, Arizona

(c) 2013 Motley Design Group LLCC