History of the Department

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​​Public Transit has existed in the Phoenix since the first mule- and horse-drawn streetcars plied the city streets.  Through many incarnations, both public and private, Phoenix residents have depended on public transit to make their way to various destinations, including work, shopping, and school.

Two books are valuable in chronicling the history of Phoenix' public transportation: Ride a Mile and Smile the While: A History of the Phoenix Street Railway, 1887-1948 by Lawrence J. Fleming and History of Transit in the Valley of the Sun by Jerry W. Abbit.

November 1887 - Soon after Phoenix granted a business franchise to M. E. Collins and General Moses Hazeltine Sherman, mule- and horse-cars began operating on the town's streets, primarily to boost Sherman's real estate business.  

1925 - Because of failing as a private business, the now electric street car system was sold to the city.

1935 -  Phoenix expanded its bus service offerings because the rubber-tired vehicles were considered more flexible and able to traverse all the newly-paved roads in the city.  The streetcar system began its decline.

1941 - World War II highlighted the importance of public transportation as owning and operating a private car uses badly needed resources.  The diminished streetcar system is used to transport people within the city while buses are used to transport workers to their factory jobs.

1947 -  The barn where the city housed its fleet of street cars burned, leaving only 6 vehicles operable.  The fire prompted a wholesale and final transition to buses in city transportation.  

1959 -  The bus system was sold to a private company then called Valley Transit Lines.

1971 -  Again due to failing as a private business, the City of Phoenix regained control of the public transit system. Under the new organizational structure, the private company, using its own buses and facilities, operated the system while the city controlled the service level and  budget.  Within 17 years, the city owned its own fleet of buses, facilities, and bus stops.

1984 -  The Public Transit administration was transitioned as a function of the City Manager’s Office to a separate Public Transit Department.

1993 - Phoenix Public Transit joined with regional interests to adopt the brand name Valley Metro for the transit system.

2000 - Citizens of Phoenix successfully passed Transit 2000, a 20-year plan to enhance public transportation within Phoenix.

Historic Transit Tokens
In 2012, the City of Phoenix Public Transit Department recognized its 125-year anniversary with a celebration that coincided with Arizona's Centennial Year.  As part of the celebration, the department sold off its stash of transit tokens minted in 1930.