A light rail train rounds a corner

Valley Metro light rail runs 18-plus hours a day, seven days a week. I wondered what happens when they aren’t in service and why don’t they operate 24-hours a day?  I asked the person at the helm of light rail service, Chief Operations Officer Ray Abraham. He told me that rail managers have never seen a demand for it. “Obviously, without the demand, it would be hard to justify costs to run service 24/7,” Abraham said. “If that day would ever come and the demand is there, and the funds are there, then we have to figure out how we’re going to do maintenance (on light rail trains),” Abraham said.

Rob Rosenberg, Valley Metro’s Deputy Director of Maintenance, said there’s a small window of about three or four hours as the trains pull in at night for maintenance crews to provide a couple of really important functions.  

That includes cleaning the trains. “The trains are out there all day, so they need to be cleaned,” Rosenberg said. Not only are trains cleaned, but crews also disinfect the high-touch surface areas.  

Another aspect is safety. “We provide a safety inspection on every vehicle that’s in revenue service every single day,” Rosenberg said. Rosenberg adds inspectors check critical safety functions of a train including making sure the emergency brakes work.   

I also wanted to find out if other rail agencies run their trains 24/7.  

The Regional Transportation District in Denver said its trains do not operate around the clock.

Light rail trains are serviced at the Operations and Maintenance Center

Seattle’s Sound Transit operates its light rail 20 hours a day and pauses nightly for system and train maintenance between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Sound Transit said it uses the downtime to deep clean trains, inspect tracks, and perform dozens of critical maintenance routines. 

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit said that depending on the light rail line, it operates from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. weekdays.    

And what about the future here? Will light rail in the Phoenix-area ever run 24/7? I asked Ray Abraham.  

“I would love to see our system grow to that level,” Abraham said. However, Abraham said he doesn’t see a 24/7 rail service soon. “I don’t see it anytime in the near future, at least for right now.” 

What I learned is around the clock light rail service won’t happen soon, but there’s plenty going on when trains are parked overnight. 

Mark Carlson
Mark Carlson
Rail Operations Communications Specialist
Mark Carlson is an Operations Communications Specialist with Valley Metro. He brings 40 years of newsroom experience to his position including working as a newsroom supervisor for 23 years with The Associated Press in Washington, D.C., and Phoenix. In addition to serving as a writer, editor, anchor, and reporter for radio stations in Phoenix and Los Angeles, he also worked as a television assignment editor and digital news writer and editor in Phoenix and Baltimore. A Phoenix native, Mark attended Maryvale High.