Sunset Limited and Phoenix

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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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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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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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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
 

MARC Rider

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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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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.
 

fredmcain

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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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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".
 

justinslot

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Bumping this thread because I am not sure my question deserves a new thread but it does relate to the thread topic: has anyone been on the shuttle that takes you from Maricopa to Phoenix and vice versa? It appears to be Amtrak Thruways 8601 and 8602, operated by Stagecoach Express. I'm sure it's a perfectly fine shuttle/bus/van but it's always nice to know what to expect in these situations...I will be doing Phoenix to Maricopa in December, Thruway 8601. The Stagecoach Express Yelp reviews are not super great...

EDIT: I just realized what subforum this thread is in. I may need to start a thread in the main forum for this specific question (I only found this thread searching for "stagecoach" though the use of that word in this thread did not involve the shuttle company Amtrak is using for the Sunset.)
 
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fredmcain

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Bumping this thread because I am not sure my question deserves a new thread but it does relate to the thread topic: has anyone been on the shuttle that takes you from Maricopa to Phoenix and vice versa? It appears to be Amtrak Thruways 8601 and 8602, operated by Stagecoach Express. I'm sure it's a perfectly fine shuttle/bus/van but it's always nice to know what to expect in these situations...I will be doing Phoenix to Maricopa in December, Thruway 8601. The Stagecoach Express Yelp reviews are not super great...

EDIT: I just realized what subforum this thread is in. I may need to start a thread in the main forum for this specific question (I only found this thread searching for "stagecoach" though the use of that word in this thread did not involve the shuttle company Amtrak is using for the Sunset.)
Justin,

I wish I could provide you with more information on this but, unfortunately, I’ve never tried to do this. Last winter when we went out, we got off at Flagstaff and had a driver come up and fetch us at the depot. That worked pretty well.

From my perspective, since I would be coming from the Upper Midwest, that probably works better for me than going to Maricopa. However, if someone were to travel to Phoenix from Houston or Dallas, Flagstaff would not be much of an option.

From my point of view, Chicago to Maricopa takes nearly 24 hours longer than to just take the Southwest Chief to Flag. If the Sunset were to be returned to the Phoenix line, the extra day on the train would be worth it to me if the train would take me right into town.

Unfortunately, the resurrection of the West Phoenix line does not look like it’s gonna happen any time soon if it ever happens at all. I think it’s a darn shame. There is simply no reason to not revive the West Phoenix line other than politics. In my own personal, honest and humble opinion, all the State would have to do would be to offer the U.P. some desirable property tax abatements in exchange for reviving the line. That would seem like a no-brainer to me.

Unfortunately, if they were to do that, then a lot of other businesses in the state would complain as to, “Where is MY tax break?”. So, yeah, it’s partly political.

With the general direction that the Country is moving in and specifically with Amtrak’s direction in particular, I have become very pessimistic about huge improvements coming to Amtrak in spite of the money that Joe Biden and Congress has given them.

Bob Johnston had a good article on equipment issues in the most recent issue of TRAINS Magazine.

Regards,
Fred M. Cain,
Topeka, IN
 

GDRRiley

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Unfortunately, the resurrection of the West Phoenix line does not look like it’s gonna happen any time soon if it ever happens at all. I think it’s a darn shame. There is simply no reason to not revive the West Phoenix line other than politics. In my own personal, honest and humble opinion, all the State would have to do would be to offer the U.P. some desirable property tax abatements in exchange for reviving the line. That would seem like a no-brainer to me.
Its going to need to happen as part of the Connect US plan. There is 3-4RT planned between Phoenix and Tuscon with 1-2RT between LA and Phoenix (not sure if its daily sunset limited+local train or just the daily sunset limited)

With the general direction that the Country is moving in and specifically with Amtrak’s direction in particular, I have become very pessimistic about huge improvements coming to Amtrak in spite of the money that Joe Biden and Congress has given them.

Bob Johnston had a good article on equipment issues in the most recent issue of TRAINS Magazine.
UP wants a lot of investment in extra tracks which is why Amtrak has avoided doing it till now. with funds they could do it and the state of california is planning to invest itself in sections of it which would lower the federal cost.
 

texline

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I live in Maricopa. You probably won't find an uber or lyft if it is really late. If you are ticketed on shuttle to Phoenix, the van is there, I see it every time I go by. There is a taxi service here. There are a lot of private drivers here and will take you to Phoenix I think for $60 now. Part of the issue is our highway to Phoenix, the 347. Not too many people look forward to driving it, if there is a crash, which is frequent, no one moves. No way around it. The drivers I talk to say they don't mind doing local stuff but no 347 at night. And the drivers that are available or usually busy taking people from Ak Chin casino to wherever. Sorry not a guarantee of transportation but if you get in by 11 pm, you usually can find something. The morning train is not usually an issue as more drivers are willing to do that run. Happy travels.
 

NES28

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FRA's SW Regional Plan showed that LA-PHX would justify HSR. Obviously, UP would not allow it to be constructed adjacent to its tracks without a barrier wall. Between PHX and Coachella new construction would likely be in the I-10 corridor. This would bypass the old, out of service, line west of Phoenix.
 
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I live in Maricopa. You probably won't find an uber or lyft if it is really late. If you are ticketed on shuttle to Phoenix, the van is there, I see it every time I go by. There is a taxi service here. There are a lot of private drivers here and will take you to Phoenix I think for $60 now. Part of the issue is our highway to Phoenix, the 347. Not too many people look forward to driving it, if there is a crash, which is frequent, no one moves. No way around it. The drivers I talk to say they don't mind doing local stuff but no 347 at night. And the drivers that are available or usually busy taking people from Ak Chin casino to wherever. Sorry not a guarantee of transportation but if you get in by 11 pm, you usually can find something. The morning train is not usually an issue as more drivers are willing to do that run. Happy travels.
My sister lives in Chandler, but last time out I took the SWC to Flagstaff and took the shuttle to Phoenix. My brother in law was flying out on business, and I was taking his car, so shuttle to the airport was great. SWC was everyday instead of 3 days a week, calling times were better, and pricing for roomette was better. Maricopa would be way closer for them, but they don't like the drive either.
 

justinslot

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Thanks for the replies, everyone, especially since I asked my question in a thread in the wrong forum for general travel-related questions.

My plan is to go LAX --> MRC, scheduled for a 6:30 AM arrival, so there should be no issues related to a middle of the night arrival. Actually at this point I am thinking about just going to the casino for the day/night after I arrive as the Caesars corporation is generously offering me a free room, so I may not be on the official Amtrak shuttle at all.
 
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