TEMPE, AZ — It was a big day for the City of Tempe Friday, finally cutting the ribbon on the long-awaited Tempe streetcar.
The morning began with remarks from Tempe Mayor Corey Woods and Valley Metro staff. The Tempe City Council, former mayors, and city dignitaries were all in attendance.
After a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony, the streetcars were open to the public.
"I think it's great!" said rider and Tempe resident, Jodee Siff "Wonderful!" added her husband, Barry Siff. "We've been waiting for today," he said.
"That's why we're riding today, to see where it goes. We know it goes to Whole Foods which is good," Siff said, giving a thumbs up.
Tempe streetcar service has been a long time coming, officially approved by voters back in 2004.
According to Valley Metro there are four streetcars running now, with two more to come.
The winter start date was delayed by COVID and cars behind scheduled delivery due to supply chain issues.
"It's nice and cool inside, great place to be in the summer," said rider Tim McKinstry with a laugh.
According to Valley Metro, there are three miles of track and 14 station stops, with artwork along the way.
The streetcars are hybrids, that can easily switch to battery power.
The first riders Friday were treated with commemorative buttons and other cool swag. It was a welcome reward for residents who've had to deal with all the dust.
"Oh yeah, for a couple of years," said rider Demetri Papakosts from Tempe.
"There was a lot of it, and so it's nice to actually have it be done and have it be cleared out," said rider Samantha Brozak. Riding comfortably now, Brozak said she's looking forward to the convenience.
"Definitely to get to campus. I'm a student and so it's nice to be in air conditioning and not walking around in the heat," she said.
Total cost of the streetcar project was $200 million.
Valley Metro broke down the funding numbers:
$103M in federal funds ($17.4M from American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, $75 million from the federal Capital Investment Grant, $11M from Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program)
$75M from regional Prop. 400 funds
$13 million from an unprecedented public/private partnership that includes the city of Tempe, Arizona State University and more than a dozen major employers and property owners along the route.
Despite a few first-day delays, overall streetcar passengers said it was a smooth ride.
"It was so great! It goes right by my house and I don't have to walk in this blistering heat," said Tempe resident Erica Johnson.
"I enjoyed it! I am very happy we actually have public transit in Arizona!" said Errin Khav.
Learn more about the streetcar at valleymetro.org/streetcar.