I guess the quality of mass transit in Phoenix is up to the individual. I used it for years, one can get around the city of Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs fairly easily, albeit, it is time-consuming. For an American city, the bus system isn't bad, but it's not like Europe, or even larger Canadian cities.
Yes, it is limited in hours of operation. Most busses quit running about 9-10 pm until about 5 am. On Saturday and Sunday the schedule is very limited. It is not nice to wait an hour in the 100+F (40+C) degree heat in summer for a bus. But that does happen, especially on weekends. One good thing, if you plan to be there more than a week, I would suggest you buy a one-month pass for $34 or, if you plan to be there the last half of the month, they are only $17 on or after the 15th, subject to availability! If you ride the bus alot, one could spend $5 a day on busfare, which would be $35 in one week, so having the pass would save some money for you if you rode the busses a lot during your stay. If you have the pass, you don't have to worry about having enough change, as the drivers don't give any, and the other passengers may not, either. All the driver will do, if you don't have correct fare, and no one will break your five, ten or twenty, is give you a credit voucher and you have to go to an authorized Valley Transit location to get your change! Buying tokens or tickets are alright, but you won't save much-if anything, by doing that. It's just that you will have the correct fare to enter the bus and not worry about your money.
If you are planning to go to ASU as an exchange student, Valley Transit offers semester bus passes that are a great deal. They are good for four and a half months and you can ride anywhere, anytime.
I also see that they finally are going to build the light rail system from Phoenix to Tempe they have been arguing about for the past 10 years! Good Luck with that!
They have metro buses that will carry you to most places around the valley, but cost is 1.75 per ride, or $3.50 for all day. We looked into taking this out to Mesa area, but chose the rail instead. TAxi was costly. By the baggage claim outside are various spots to take shuttles to parking lots, buses, or rail transport. Read the signs.
Info on bus travel is attached for your convenience.
It's also easy to get around Phoenix by bus. There are local bus and express bus.
Phoenix local bus cost $1.25 per ride with no transfer or $2.5 for a full day pass. That means if you also need to ride back home then you better to get a full day pass. There are also multiple days pass, but they are not cheaper than one day pass except monthly pass. For the detail price please see the photo.
You can buy ticket on bus, it takes quarter and dollar bill. On some buses, there is free bus book for you to take. There are very nice bus map including both local bus and express bus, it also has schedule information for all buses. It also available to download online at:
Here are bus maps for Phoenix:
local bus: http://www.valleymetro.org/Bus/Bus_Book_Online/108local.pdf
express bus: http://www.valleymetro.org/Bus/Bus_Book_Online/108express.pdf
If you are visiting from another country or another state be advised that the busses in some areas do not run very often, so if you are not planning on getting a car I would stick to staying in central Phoenix or in Tempe near Arizona State University where there are more frequent busses and free dash busses. This is especially important if you are traveling during the summertime because you do not want to wait for a bus for 30 minutes when it is 100 degrees (40C) . Dont expect to be able to cover the entire city in a day on the bus because Phoenix is very spread out. In the suburbs of Phoenix some of the busses only run once an hour and many rountes only run once every 30 minutes outside of rush hour, so if you are planning on staying in the suburban cities in Phoenix you will need a car.
It's easy to get around Phoenix by bus. Get the Valley Metro book at the Central Station or on the bus itself and use it to plan your route.
I purchased a daypass for $3.60 and used it from morning til night to see the sights.
If you are visiting Phoenix, and do not have a car available please review the bus system here. The schedule on holidays and weekends is significantly reduced, and if you do not plan ahead of time, you can waste a ton of time waiting for the bus. You can check out the Valley Metro website at the link below