The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is fast approaching the one-year anniversary of its automated train system, the PHX Sky Train, a free automated train that connects travellers from the main terminal to parking and light rail. After nearly two decades worth of planning and over 200 community events, Stage 1 of the PHX Sky Train opened for business in April 2013. Other airports have operated this type of transit connection for years, such as the Airport Transit System at O’Hare International Airport and the AirTrain at JFK International Airport. However, the PHX Sky Train’s innovative design and unique features may have made the system worth the wait.
In its first stage, the PHX Sky Train replaced a frustrating, inefficient inter-terminal bus system comprised of twenty-nine compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. Now, trains running continuously in both directions arrive every three minutes. The total estimated project (Stages 1 and 2) will cost $1.58 billion, funded through airport revenues and passenger fees that are added on to airline tickets.
The PHX Sky Train boasts a number of green design features that earned the project a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification from the US Green Building Council. Over 50% of construction demolition waste was recycled and the project’s building materials contain at least 10% recycled content. The all-electric train reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 30% through the elimination of twenty-nine CNG inter-terminal buses. The Sky Train’s convenient connection to public transportation system reduces emissions indirectly by travelers who choose to use light rail.
The economic and environmental benefits of the system are clear; however, aesthetic and social considerations are just as evident in the PHX Sky Train’s sustainable design. Each station was built as a palette for local artists to transform sterile platforms into places that represent Phoenix’s diverse culture, while providing exposure for local artists.
The full vision for the PHX Sky Train is to link all key airport facilities, connect to the Greater Phoenix region, and facilitate smart land use by supporting potential future private development and accommodating future stations.
The PHX Sky Train is a great example of how private investment can contribute to the public good. What are examples of large-scale private public-partnerships in your community?
Credits: Images by Lynn Coppedge. Data linked to sources.