Light Rail Travel Times – A work in progress

A 20 mile light rail trip should eventually take about an hour. A while back, we posted some information from Metro concerning travel times between a few destinations along the route.

This morning, I was reading some "Twitter" updates and saw that my good friend Calie was going to take a "quick trip" via light rail and head to Lux Coffee Bar to kick off her Friday. This reminded me of Monday the 29th which was the first full day of operation (following Grand Opening weekend) for our light rail cars. On that morning, I happened to run in to Rick Simonetta while riding the trains. I thought it was cool to see the CEO of Metro riding the trains and personally answering questions from people.

Rick mentioned that the travel times were taking a little longer than originally planned and that they are working hard to get them down to "normal" times.

To me, it makes perfect sense for them to be taking longer in the beginning. The lines have been long and the cars have been jam packed full of people.

Yesterday, I decided to do a little experiment with travel times. I boarded a train at the McClintock and Apache station and headed toward Phoenix. Once on the train I thought of writing down the time it took me to arrive at a few different stops.

It went as follows:

Train Left Dorsey and Apache at 4:50 p.m heading West bound. (this station has a Park and Ride.)

Train left the station at Priest Drive and Washington station at 5:06 p.m

Train left the station at 38th St and Washington station at 5:12 p.m (this station has a Park and Ride)

Arrived at Campbell and Central station at 5:39 p.m (just happens to be where Lux is located)

So, it took me 49 minutes from Dorsey and Apache to get to Campbell and Central.

The travel times need some tweaking but I bet they will come down a bit in the near future. We will try to do some updates of travel times from other stops in the future as well.

For now, I hope you enjoy the ride!


  1. Jackie Dishner says

    Thanks for posting your travel times. Good to know. I like following your tweets on Twitter. It’s interesting to read all the developments.


  2. Adam says

    I rode both ways between Camelback/Central and Mill Ave yesterday. On both trips, we were stopped for 2+ minutes waiting for a train to cross the tracks; once to enter “the yard”, the second time just switching tracks somewhere along Central.

    Not a big deal but the trips did feel really long.

    During the second wait, the operator told us it’d be about two minutes. Some guy across the way from me threw a magazine on the ground in the door to the rail and stepped outside… he wasn’t happy when the train unceremoniously chomped the magazine and refused to open for him.

  3. Will says

    That’s pretty funny, Adam. Takes a bit more than a magazine to activate those door sensors.

    Between working out kinks and dealing with a huge number of passengers, I think the Metro is doing pretty well. I’d like to see more efficient procedures at stations, and better train-bus linking (i.e. improved nearby service and improved advertising of that service.)

  4. David SB says

    Some of this has to do with inexperienced riders, lots of strollers, etc. These are all issues associated with the amazing turnout for the free ride days. As METRO begins the transition to serving the needs of regular commuters, it is important to bring the travel times down. I’ve spoken to a few people who enjoyed the smooth ride and camaraderie with other passengers, but found the ride a little too long, especially if coupled with a bus transfer. Improved travel times will be crucial in making these occasional riders into regulars.

  5. Gridman says

    I’ve taken the train a couple times and in both instances we waited for long times (that’s an opinion, and obviously relative) at red lights.

    Of course, the train can’t plow through red lights, but this should be handled better and felt like it was adding an appreciable amount of time to the overall trip.

    At a couple points, we stopped at “nothing” streets. Almost alleyways that barely warranted a crossing, which had absolutely no traffic and no pedestrians and yet the train still got a red light.

    I can’t find any evidence of it on the current Valley Metro website, but less than a year ago, this was part of the FAQ (courtesy of the Wayback Machine at

    “Will light rail change the way traffic is regulated? ”

    “A computerized traffic control system will adjust the timing of traffic signals so that most of the time
    the train will arrive at a green light. The adjustments made to the timing of the signals will be so minor
    that they will not be noticed by most drivers.”

    This doesn’t seem to be happening.

  6. calwatch says

    My outsider’s observations were that the train was definitely creeping along very slowly on Saturday and Sunday, but seemed to do OK on Monday. I did notice an excessive dwell time at some of the curves though. On the curve coming from 1st Avenue to Jefferson, for instance, I was standing at the corner waiting for the train to make the turn so I could take a picture. It ended up taking four or five minutes to make that turn (from when the doors opened to when it cleared the intersection). The annoying waits are what kill light rail for most people. As long as you are moving at 25 mph or higher, most people aren’t going to complain too much. We all know that light rail has to obey the speed limit, and the drivers on the other side of the tracks usually don’t.

    Valley Metro needs to publish schedules for the train though. Currently you can get schedules on the Trip Planner site, but they need to print actual schedules for the light rail and Metrolink in the Transit Book. In addition, there are several “unadvertised” deadhead trips from Mesa and 19th/Montebello to the yard that are not advertised. For some folks in Tempe or North Phoenix, those trips might actually be useful.

    The other major debacle of opening weekend was the limited schedule. Trains should have run at least until the end of the service day. They were crowded until the closing hour of 8 p.m. on Saturday. I also drove past some stations coming from dinner in the 9 o’clock hour and I still found people waiting in vain for a train. Not a good way to introduce these people to public transit.

  7. Nick says

    Thanks so much for the excellen comments. We will be sure to update this subject more in the future. There is a schedule buried somewhere on Metro’s site, I’ll try to find and post this week.
    Seriously, thanks for the comments!

  8. Yachtcharter Griechenland says

    That’s great, I never thought about Light Rail Travel Times – A work in progress like that before.

  9. Tony says

    I noticed the other day the shorter commute to work was a breeze. Or the rain. Or both, it was a bad weather day! Because of the elements, I think people decided to get back in their cars.
    But I agree with David SB, it seems the less people on the train, the shorter the commute.

  10. Brad Johnson says

    Took the kids to visit their mom for lunch on my day off. Went McClintock/Apache to Central/Thomas — Each way it took 52 minutes of train time. Waaay too long for a commute.

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