You may not see Valley Metro’s light rail cleaning crews, but you see their daily efforts. Cleaning crews work two shifts per day along the 28-mile route from Dunlap and 19th avenues to Gilbert Road and Main Street. 

It’s standard for the stations to be cleaned two to three times per shift. 

“We strive to provide excellent, reliable service, said Derek Brodeur, Facilities Maintenance Manager for Valley Metro. The cleaners take care of the park-and-rides, security buildings, operator facilities, light rail power stations, and signal buildings. 

Cleaning crews have areas they focus on each day. Brodeur said the crews clean up spider webs, bird waste, graffiti inside the trains and the stations. If someone should become sick on a train, the cleaners are dispatched immediately. 

Manual Zabala has been cleaning Valley Metro stations and trains for six years. I asked him why he does it? 

“I love to see Phoenix clean. I don’t like to see cigarette butts. Cigarette butts bother me,” Zabala said. “I take pride in my work.”

The toughest thing that Zabala must clean is biohazardous waste.

“Bio is always tough,” Zabala said. “I can’t say you get used to it. But it’s a job. It pays the bills.” 

Valley Metro cleaning crews hard at work
Valley Metro cleaning crew member Manual Zabala hard at work at 24th Street/Washington station

If there’s a spill on a train, the cleaners are dispatched immediately. I was on a train with Valley Metro cleaning crew member Imelda Flores as she mopped the inside while it was moving across downtown Phoenix. Flores made quick work of it. 

Brodeur adds that Valley Metro cleaning crews are an important part of the mission to “provide our customers with a safe, comfortable and enjoyable riding experience.”

As a way to help keep train interiors clean, Valley Metro is testing new seats. “We are testing them to see how they hold up and if there are any comments that may come in from customers,” said Mark Mau, Valley Metro Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance Supervisor. 

Valley Metro cleaning crews hard at work
Valley Metro cleaning crew member Imelda Flores cleaning inside a light rail train

The seats are fiberglass material, not vinyl. According to Mau, there are many benefits with fiberglass seats.

“We are changing out many soiled, stained seats along with any that have damaged fabric. Along with changing them, we obviously have to clean and dry them and replace any with damaged hardware or fabric.”


New seats make clean up on light rail trains easier
New fiber glass seats added to Valley Metro light rail trains

Any spills or messes on the new seats will make it easier, quicker and less costly to get the train back into service.

“We would be able to just clean the seats and seat frames instead of having to replace affected fabric seats,” Mau said.

The new fiberglass seats will last longer.

“If there are any etchings in the seats, we can remove the seat, sand it down and repaint it. We currently have to send out any fabric seats and get them reupholstered if there is any damage to the fabric,” Mau said. 

According to the recent Valley Metro Origins and Destinations survey, when questioned, riders said the cleanliness of light rail stations has improved 44% while 47% said train station cleanliness has remained the same. 

Inside the trains, riders said cleanliness has improved 42% with 51% responding that train cleanliness has remained the same.

If I take anything away from my time with the Valley Metro cleaning crews is that they care about their work. It’s evident that they strive each day to welcome passengers by having clean trains and station platforms each day. Also, I found that they’re very upbeat about their work.

Mark Carlson
Mark Carlson
Operations Communications Specialist
Mark Carlson is an Operations Communications Specialist with Valley Metro. He brings 40 years of newsroom experience to his new 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. Mark attended Arizona State University majoring in sociology, communications and religion.