Phoenix is a typical American car-centred city. Newcomers moving from places with sophisticated public transport systems, such as New York, Boston, Chicago or San Francisco might be shocked. Except for the light rail, which is only a viable option for those living in Tempe or along the downtown Phoenix corridor, public transport options in Phoenix are seriously lacking.

As the city’s population grows, there has been mounting pressure on local authorities to improve public transit. Local residents are not only concerned by rising petrol (gas) prices, but also by the impact that more cars on the road are having on the valley's air quality.

Despite the plans to expand public transport infrastructure and introduce streetcars, progress has been incredibly slow. New arrivals will likely find that having a car in Phoenix brings them greater freedom, making their lives infinitely easier.


Public transport in Phoenix

Valley Metro is the authority that oversees the public transport networks in Phoenix. Residents can consult the Valley Metro website to plan their journey and to check for any service disruptions.

Light rail in Phoenix by Jared Murray

Light rail

Phoenix’s light rail system is an affordable way of getting around the city centre. It is, however, mainly useful to visitors to the city as there is just a single route that runs through the downtown area and the stops are almost all located close to points of interest. 

Trains run every 10–12 minutes during rush hour and 15–20 minutes otherwise. Even though the light rail services aren’t extensive in terms of the area they cover, trains run till midnight on weekdays and till around 3am over the weekend.

Buses

While Phoenix's bus network is fairly extensive, most residents report that services rarely run to schedule and are generally unreliable. That said, fares are pretty cost-effective, and discounted daily, weekly and monthly passes are available for people who regularly use buses.

The bus network runs from 5am to 12am, but the frequency of services and operational hours vary from one route to the next, so we recommend newcomers consult the schedule when planning a journey.

Useful links


Taxis in Phoenix

There are a handful of reputable taxi companies operating in Phoenix. Prominent taxi operators include Phoenix Cab Company and Yellow Cab Arizona. Taxis are readily available in the downtown area close to major attractions and light rail stations. If one travels to or from the suburbs, it is best to call ahead and book a vehicle. Taxi fares are reasonable but considering the vast distances between places in Phoenix, costs can easily mount if taxis are used regularly.

E-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are fairly well established in Phoenix. Using these platforms is a more cost-effective and convenient way of getting around than using conventional taxis. Users need to download the app onto their smartphone and register for the service using their credit card.

Useful links


Driving in Phoenix

The vast majority of Phoenix residents use a car as their primary mode of transport. Anyone planning to relocate to Phoenix will find that having a car will give them more freedom and flexibility when it comes to getting around.

New arrivals can easily find their bearings in Phoenix, as the city streets are fairly easy to navigate. The area is designed around a grid system, where most roads are numbered according to distance from the city centre. Nearly all roads also have a compass direction added to clarify locations further. Areas outside the Phoenix city limits, such as Tempe, Avondale and Chandler, operate on their distinct grid systems.

A major downside associated with driving in Phoenix is that the city’s extensive network of freeways seems to be continually expanding. Constant roadworks and road closures mean that traffic congestion can sometimes be terrible.

Another fact to note is that Phoenix has some of the strictest drink-driving laws in the US. DUI laws are extremely strict, and police traps are in place all over the city. Mandatory jail and massive fines make it unwise to take a risk when it comes to driving. Therefore, if one is expecting to have a big night out, it is best to appoint a designated driver or arrange to use taxis or e-hailing services to get home.

Citizen of a select few countries are eligible to simply exchange their driving licences for a local one. Most foreigners moving to Phoenix will likely have to take written and practical driving tests, while some may also have to take vision tests.

Useful links


Cycling in Phoenix

Urban cycling by Eduardo Enrietti

Despite the great weather and flat terrain, Phoenix hasn't always been bicycle-friendly, but the city authorities have made a concerted effort to reinvent the metro area to be more conducive to cyclists. They have created a network of dedicated cycle lanes and easy-to-navigate paths and bridges so that cyclists can avoid busy roads, and safe bike storage facilities have been introduced on the streets and public transport.

Grid Bikes is the official bike-sharing scheme that operates through Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale. Users can sign up for an account using their credit card. Once registered, they can pick up a bike from one of the many docking stations using their pins. Those who plan on using the system regularly can look into signing up for a weekly, monthly or annual package which will allow them to make significant savings.

In addition to the urban cycle paths, there are also several scenic cycle routes and desert trails for leisure cyclists.

Useful links


Walking in Phoenix

Despite the city sprawl and soaring summer temperatures, new residents will find that many parts of Phoenix are best explored on foot. Even though walking may not be a viable form of commuting, taking a pleasant stroll around neighbourhoods such as Eastlake Park, Booker T Washington, Garfield and of course, downtown Phoenix is a great way to get acquainted with one’s new home.

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