PHOENIX (April 26, 2013) — Thanks to the debut of the PHX Sky Train, visitors arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport can now travel to downtown Phoenix for $2, in about 20 minutes, without burning an ounce of gasoline.

The Sky Train, which began operation April 8, is an automated train that transports travelers between the airport’s busiest terminal and the nearest light-rail station. Sky Train is free and operates 24 hours a day, arriving at stations about every three minutes.

Passengers flying Southwest and US Airways, the two highest-volume carriers at Sky Harbor, can check their bags in early, for free, before boarding the Sky Train at either the 44th Street light rail station or the East Economy parking lot. According to an Arizona Republic report, Sky Harbor is the first airport in the country to offer free remote curbside early bag check.

“Because of Sky Harbor’s proximity to Phoenix’s city center, it’s always been easy to get from the airport from downtown hotels, attractions and the convention center,” said Steve Moore, president and CEO of Visit Phoenix. “This streamlines the trip even further. Phoenix is the sixth-largest city in the U.S., and Sky Harbor is one of the country’s 10 busiest airports; but no other destination among our peers has an airport-to-downtown experience that rivals ours for convenience and affordability.”

It takes the Sky Train about five minutes to travel from Terminal 4 to the light rail station at 44th Street. From there it’s a 15-minute ride to downtown. A one-way ticket aboard light rail costs just $2.

“Two dollars from the airport to downtown — a lot of business travelers won’t even bother to expense that,” Moore said.

All of Sky Train’s convenience and efficiency does not come without a dose of flair: Because its tracks arc high above one of Sky Harbor’s taxiways, passengers experience the only span in the world where a mass-transit train passes over an airplane.   

Sky Train’s tracks will be extended to Terminal 3 in spring 2015, and it will eventually serve Sky Harbor’s rental-car center. For now, it provides easy access to the airport’s bustling Terminal 4, which, in addition to Southwest and US Airways, is served by Air Canada, WestJet, Aeromexico and British Airways. Trains arrive on the same level as the airlines’ gates, making it easy for travelers to access the system from their flights.

Terminal 4 is also home to several new restaurants, almost all of which are independently owned local favorites as opposed to national chains. The new eateries include Blanco T & T, Barrio Café, Chelsea’s Kitchen, Cowboy Ciao, La Grande Orange and Olive & Ivy.

The Sky Train runs on an electrically powered, center-rail guideway, and its facilities are Gold LEED certified. The project’s projected cost of $1.58 billion was paid for with airport revenues and passenger fees, with no funding from local tax dollars.

According to the City of Phoenix Aviation Department, the completed phase cost $644 million, and the extension to Terminal 3 will cost an estimated $240 million. About 2.5 million passengers are expected to ride the Sky Train during its first year of operation.

Phoenix’s 20-mile light rail system, which debuted in December 2008, cost $1.4 billion to build. According to Valley Metro, light rail has an estimated daily ridership of more than 43,000 passengers, making it the 12th-busiest light-rail system in the nation.  

About 40 miles of additional line will be added to Phoenix’s light-rail network between now and 2025, including a 3.1-mile extension into downtown Mesa that is scheduled for completion in 2015.

The Federal Transit Administration will help fund that extension to downtown Mesa with a contribution of $75 million. The total cost of the extension is approximately $200 million, and will be funded from federal sources and the half-cent countywide sales tax dedicated to regional transit in Maricopa County.