City Council renews Valley Metro event day program, U.S. Airways Center partnership

Next time you’re headed to US Airways Center for an event, you won’t have to seek out a parking spot.

After the Phoenix City Council’s unanimous extension of a Valley Metro program and partnership with the US Airways Center, event ticket holders can continue to ride the light rail to and from the arena for free for the next three years.

The program began in 2009, shortly after Valley Metro first began operating light rail in December 2008.

Valley Metro spokeswoman Ann Glaser said the goal of the program was to “enhance downtown partnerships and relationships to provide a great customer experience both for light rail commuters and for those attending the venues.”

Councilwoman Kate Gallego said the program has received positive feedback among frequent concertgoers and is especially popular among Phoenix Suns season ticket holders. She said about 2,000 people take advantage of the free rides during event nights.

“Someone on the north side of downtown can hop on light rail and ride to the event for free, and ride home after it’s over,” Gallego said. “It’s been a real win-win for the community and the downtown area.”

Gallego said the city will continue to promote and raise awareness of the program to increase ridership on event days.

“We hope that this will generate more publicity, and we need to make sure we can draw more of the people who are only going to one concert or two,” she said.

Commuters can present their ticket to a US Airways Center concert or Suns game up to four hours before the event. Tickets are valid for light rail fare only.

“One of the benefits of having that kind of partnership is a one-stop shop,” said Matthew Heil, a Phoenix Public Transit Department spokesman. “Passengers can get their entertainment and transportation in one ticket.”

The city does not pay for the program. The US Airways Center, the Suns and other event sponsors cover the fares, which provide about $370,000 a year for Valley Metro, according to Valley Metro Chief Financial Officer John McCormack.

Stops at Washington Street/Central Avenue and Jefferson Street/First Avenue are frequented because of their proximity to the downtown entertainment district.

“If patrons know that they are attending an event at the arena and their transportation is taken care of, that kind of ease of use makes it much simpler for folks to plan their evenings,” Heil said.

The city’s transit department attempted to reach a similar agreement with Chase Field, and is exploring a partnership with nearby Comerica Theatre. For now, US Airways Center remains Valley Metro’s only such client.