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Tempe - April 2011

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Tempe, AZ — Tempe Streetcar Could Be Wireless

Rail Transit Online, April 2011

Officials in Tempe are seriously considering adopting Kinkisharyo International's LFX-300 ameriTRAM for a proposed 2.6-mi. (4.2 km) streetcar line along Mill Avenue because it can operate up to five miles (8 km) without catenary. However, major stumbling blocks could be the need for extra heavy-duty air-conditioning and the car's price; the latter is an unknown factor because the company has not disclosed the cost of production vehicles. The 100-percent low-floor prototype was developed in Japan specifically for the North American market and is now touring the U.S.

Theoretically, the Tempe line could be built without any overhead wiring except at the terminals, where the LFX-300's lithium-ion batteries would be recharged. "From the aesthetic standpoint, it's a lovely concept to have a vehicle that has the ability to run without power lines for some distance," Tempe deputy public works director Jyme Sue McLaren told the East Valley Tribune. "It allows us a level of flexibility downtown."

According to Rainer Hombach, vice president and general manager of Kinkisharyo International, the batteries could be recharged in 6 to 8 min. and Valley Metro Rail would save around $6 million per mile ($3.72 million per km) in construction costs by eliminating wires. Operating costs would also be reduced because maintenance of the catenary would be eliminated.

The initial cost of the five streetcars needed by Tempe would probably be higher than that of vehicles employing conventional traction power but Hombach said the higher-capacity air-conditioning would not be an issue.

Local officials have asked that the prototype LFX-300 be brought to Phoenix for a demonstration, something that might be made easier because Metro's LRV fleet was supplied by Kinkisharyo.


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