Sunset Limited and Phoenix

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Joined
Sep 10, 2021
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Phoenix, AZ
I like this idea, but I'm afraid it won't happen for a long time. Boise is neither on a densely populated corridor nor is it part of Amtrak's expansion plans. New service to the beautiful Boise union station would be nice indeed.

For the Phoenix service, chances seem to be better for various reasons being mentioned. In addition to Phoenix, relatively large suburban communities like Tempe and Mesa could see passenger railway again. As mentioned by others, I think makes sense to start with a shorter distance, between Phoenix and Tucson, if possible.

Does somebody know who possesses Phoenix union station? I would use it again as a the major train station. It is centrally located, around a bustling downtown. A new station building wouldn't have to be built, this saves holy tax dollars :p. A station in the suburban nowhere should be avoided, it should be in proper downtown Phoenix.
The Phoenix Union Station is currently owned as a storage for a certain company; However, they're looking into selling it. It could get re-acquired by Amtrak again with it being sold again. Considering the city is starting to densify and commuter rail is in the making, new platforms would have to be done underground to reduce space and grade separate it from the busy streets. Tempe's new station* is already being constructed with space underground for future station plans and on top will be the preserved original station and new mixed-use buildings. Queen Creek has defined the spot for the station when it gets built although plans are foggy.

So in general, re-acquiring the station is possible and would be great. Just costs regarding new platforms and remodeling the areas within and without the station are still in the way and since we'd need to tunnel for new platforms, it would be just as expensive or only slightly less expensive than building a brand new station. New pathways and other walkable areas would also have to be made as the station does not have any direct transit connections until the commuter rail gets built. The closest line would be the South Central Light Rail scheduled to open in 2023 along 1st and Central Avenues (outside of downtown, it'll run on just Central Avenue) which is looking to be a 4-6 minute out of station connection from Union.

An idea would be to shift Union 2 blocks east onto the parking lots between 1st Avenue and 2nd Street. It would still need to be underground but gives it direct access to the South Central line, and actually makes the station a 3-minute walk from the existing Valley Metro LRT Line, along with CityScape where mixed-use buildings and hotels are. In the same distance, you can even walk to the Footprint Center. This would give it much higher ridership as when the commuter rail gets built you can easily get to and from downtown, and people from the suburbs and even Tucson not having to take their cars before and after events in Footprint Center furthers this. The ease of access simply by shifting it just a little is big, and although unlikely and expensive, this would be very beneficial to downtown!

*EDIT: The station by the way is in the middle of Downtown Tempe
 
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fredmcain

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Sep 20, 2017
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An interesting side note on Maricopa here, Phoenix's very FIRST railroad ran directly from the mainline at Maricopa northward to Tempe then on to Phoenix. The UP's current West Chandler branch is actually a cut-back from that first line.

After the Picacho-Phoenix-Wellton line was opened in 1927, I think it was, the line to Maricopa south of West Chandler was abandoned. David Myrick has an interesting account on the Phoenix lines in his book The Railroads of Arizona Volume II. There was for a very short time actually TWO railroads between Phoenix and Mesa.

Sometimes history can repeat itself in strange ways - or at least it can rhyme. Today, Phoenix is once again at the end of a stub-end branch just as it was before 1927. And once again there are TWO rail lines between Phoenix and Mesa (The UP and the light rail transit line!).

Regards,
Fred M. Cain
 

neroden

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Ithaca, NY
Basically either the Phoenix city government or the Maricopa county government or the Arizona state government has to put money behind restoring intercity service to Phoenix. One of them does it, it happens. None of them do, it doesn't.
 

zephyr17

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Basically either the Phoenix city government or the Maricopa county government or the Arizona state government has to put money behind restoring intercity service to Phoenix. One of them does it, it happens. None of them do, it doesn't.
Nicely put. The issues preventing restoration to service to Phoenix are political, not the physical.
 

87YJ

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Aug 12, 2021
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Casa Grande AZ
Not a liberal state @ the state level. Some hope that a line into Phoenix would increase ridership to a level that was cost effective. At this time 1 or 2 state reps even think about passenger rail and that is both D's & R's. But they will give you lip service for rail. :rolleyes: Just thinking is a state with over 6 million people is going to spend millions for 25 people getting off & on a train 6 times a week in Maricopa AZ. That could move up to 100 or more if in Phoenix, but no one can say if it is truly cost effective for a train that stops @ 5;30 AM and after 9:30 at night. Lots of think so's. JMHO
 
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Baltimore. MD
Not a liberal state @ the state level. Some hope that a line into Phoenix would increase ridership to a level that was cost effective. At this time 1 or 2 state reps even think about passenger rail and that is both D's & R's. But they will give you lip service for rail. :rolleyes: Just thinking is a state with over 6 million people is going to spend millions for 25 people getting off & on a train 6 times a week in Maricopa AZ. That could move up to 100 or more if in Phoenix, but no one can say if it is truly cost effective for a train that stops @ 5;30 AM and after 9:30 at night. Lots of think so's. JMHO
But putting in the infrastructure to allow the Sunset to go through Phoenix would also enable corridor service between Phoenix and Tucson, and between Phoenix and Los Angele, and that would serve way more passengers and get more cars off the road than the Sunset alone would ever do.
 

neroden

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Not a liberal state @ the state level.
If you check the population numbers, it's more liberal-voting than you might think. This is relatively new. It is largely because the Phoenix and Tucson populations have grown, nothing else has, and those two metro areas now *dominate* the state population. It's like Nevada, where the Vegas metro area is, IIRC, now a majority of the state population. To a first approximation, Nevada politics is Vegas politics, and to a first approximation, Arizona politics is Phoenix politics -- but that's new for Arizona.

Just thinking is a state with over 6 million people is going to spend millions for 25 people getting off & on a train 6 times a week in Maricopa AZ.
Needs to be daily, at minimum, of course...
 

87YJ

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Casa Grande AZ
If you check the population numbers, it's more liberal-voting than you might think.
To a degree. State has always stayed balanced even with the media being one sided. That is changing slowly as people here have been "turning off the news".

To get rail to PHX it must be done with little to no state money. If they get a service from Phoenix to Tucson that would be the best start. Add on from there.

The new Amtrak CEO will spend the 22b on the NEC.

I see some LD paint but the rest is just DC talk saying what you want to hear and doing little to nothing.
 

west point

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SW ATL airport
Maybe as a start there would be a train that followed the Sunset times on the days it is not scheduled now just from Tucson <> PHX <> LAX ? Or better different times. The Hoosier did not work well on the Cardinal times.
 

fredmcain

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Sep 20, 2017
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Northeastern Indiana
It’s happening. Slowly but surely. There will be movement in the New Year.
Well, now that the big infrastructure legislation has passed, the money will surely be there from the feds to restore the Phoenix-Wellton line to full operation. And it is, in fact, in Amtrak’s long-term plans. Amtrak planned to have the line back by 2035, I think, but that was about a year before the infrastructure bill passed so that might get moved up.

The rub is going to be that matching funds will be needed to attract the federal funds. Those could come from the State or from Union Pacific if it’s worth it to them.

I guess it just depends upon how important this project is to the people of Arizona and their elected state representatives.

YIKES! They just spent a staggering sum on a new 1.6 mile extension of the light rail transit line. Perhaps that money could’ve been better spent restoring the Phoenix-Wellton rail line but that’s only an opinion. Some would agree – others not.
 

George Harris

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finally! Back in Mississippi
Wasn't that a wishlist more than a "what we actually can and will try to get done"? Or am I in the wrong here?
Yes, it is a wish list. Any time you see far distant dates, 2035 in this case, the report should be put on the fiction shelf.

As to the passenger count, if I remember correctly, when the Sunset went through Phoenix, the passenger count was about 100 per train. After the shift to Maricopa, it dropped immediately to around 30 per train. It may not bounce all the way back, as a lot of the people involved in the 100 train have lost the habit, not even counting those that are no longer among the living having been replaced by those who don't even think "train".
 
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