In the Fall of 2004, the voters of Maricopa County recognized the impending growth and transportation challenges that will come to the region over the next few decades and approved Proposition 400, a balanced regional transportation plan that included additional freeway construction, road improvements, additional buses and additional light rail service. The voters also recognized a future need for commuter rail and provided money to study the feasibility of this transportation mode for a continuously growing region.
Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) initiated a Commuter Rail Strategic Planning effort for the entire MAG Region in order to define the requirements and steps required for Maricopa and northern Pinal Counties to plan for and potentially implement commuter rail service. The one-year planning and stakeholder coordination process commenced in February 2007 and began with the formation of a Commuter Rail Stakeholders Group (CRSG), which provided comment on, and help shaped, major policy recommendations for implementing commuter rail in the study area. The CRSG consisted of public and private agencies and entities with interest in determining how to implement Commuter Rail services in the region.
From the Commuter Rail Strategic Plan in 2009 came a dedicated group of stakeholders from across the region that provided impetus to further develop efforts to bring commuter rail to the region. Accordingly, MAG commissioned three additional planning studies: Systems Study, Grand Avenue Corridor Study and Yuma West Corridor Study. These three studies were completed in Spring 2010.
In 2016-17, MAG is managing in the Regional Commuter Rail System Study Update. The purpose of the study is to revise the data included in the original MAG 2010 Commuter Rail System Study, specifically new regional socioeconomic forecasts, revised ridership, cost estimates, corridor rankings, and information from other relevant passenger rail studies and technical content. Governance and indemnity/liability issues related to passenger rail implementation will also be studied, as these elements must be addressed prior to any agreement between the owner railroads and the eventual commuter rail governing/operating agency. Increased mobility to jobs, housing alternatives, and connectivity to downtowns, airports and entertainment centers, travel and tourism options, and traffic mitigation will also be evaluated. The results of the study will inform long-range high-capacity transit investments to support mobility throughout the region.