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Less than a year into its operation, Phoenix’s light rail is extending Friday and Saturday night trains from 12:15am to 3:15 am, all funded by federal stimulus dollars.  This gives Phoenix the title for the West’s latest running train, surpassing Denver at 2:48 am.

Although every system in the nation except New York must shut down for part of the night for maintenance, staying open late weekends seems like a reasonable compromise, and one that would enhance public safety.  On the other hand, service increases cost money, and this blog’s demographic may skew the perceived importance of running at such a late hour.  Moreover, late night service means late night warning bells in Sodo and the Rainier Valley.

Phoenix is going to report on their experience after 6 months of this.  It should be an interesting read.

What are the parameters of the minimum late-night service that you think would be useful?  Should Sound Transit wait till U-Link opens?

(H/T: Lloyd)

48 Replies to “Phoenix Adds Late-Night Rail Service”

    1. That’s a really cheap shot at the Valley. Ambulances and gun shots aren’t heard from your window all night with 15 minute (or whatever) frequency.

      It’s easy for you, not living along the line, to say that the added noise is outweighed by the safety issues. And I agree with you. However, the point of the post is that there will be political opposition to this kind of thing, assuming the funding and technical issues can be worked out.

      1. “Ambulances and gun shots aren’t heard from your window all night”

        yep, one of the many reasons I doubt I would ever chose to live in that valley, train or no train.

      2. I heard more sirens and gun shots living near University Way & 50th in the early 90’s than I did living in the CD off and on between 2001 and 2007. This included a year living a block from 23rd and Union which is a relatively high-crime area. Still never really had a problem other than my housemate’s car getting broken into an having the radio stolen. During that time I also spent a year in Belltown which did have sirens and gun shots you could hear from your window all night.

  1. I am impressed to a city actually tailoring their transit to the needs & uses of residents. Too many transit systems cater solely to the commuting crowd, which is itself good, but leaves those who don’t use it for commuting to complain. This hopefully helps residents see that a good system can be of use to THEM as well.

  2. Well, at the very least they could offer a Beacon Hill to UW late night run when U-Link opens. “Hill to Hill” or something, perhaps going northbound starting at 2:15, then Southbound at 2:45.

  3. I thought that a late night schedule would be a no brainer. We wonder why downtown is failing to be a true metropolitan city and no one thinks that maybe its because public transit practically shuts down before us drunkers are even considering leaving the bars to flop into bed. How are can people be expected to patronize a night life when there is no easy/safe/legal access to it.

    1. Well, they are apparently patronizing a nightlife now, if you “drunkers’ aren’t considering leaving the bars by 1 am.

      1. I think that 3am would be more reasonable. If your out til 1am, especially during the Seattle weekend (aka thursday through sunday), you are most likely going to make it to 2 with dancing and then some eats.

      2. Thanks to the Liquor Control Board most bars kick everyone out by 1:40 AM. If Link ran until 2:15 it at least is a way for people to get home (assuming they live along the route).

        OTOH if you live somewhere Link or a Night Owl bus can get you chances are you live somewhere a cab ride isn’t going to be too expensive either. Even if you have an expensive cab ride it still is cheaper than dealing with a DUI ticket.

      3. Even if the penalty is steep, if the odds of getting caught are low, many folks will risk the ticket. As you say, unless you’re right on the Link route, late trains aren’t going to be very useful (since no other transit will be running to get you from the station to where you live), and a cab ride from Downtown to many neighborhoods is $20-30. Most of the folks who already drive drunk will probably continue to do so, even with Link.

  4. It might be better to see what the ridership patterns are once service begins, but for now, 1am seems like a good plan. Late-night (1-5am) service right away doesn’t jump off the page as a great idea — yet.

    The whole point of running the line through Rainier Valley was to encourage new starts of transit-oriented development and redevelop existing neighborhoods around those stations. This will happen – but it will take some time for plans to be approved, tenants secured, and buildings built. Once the new or new-look neighborhoods begin to attract people late at night (which requires places to attract them to – bars, clubs, and the like), Late Night with Link sounds like a much better idea. There simply don’t seem like enough places served by the downtown stations right now, save perhaps Westlake, which could serve as a feeder to/from late-night goings-on nearby: the Market, Belltown, Capitol Hill. But again, transit patterns would need to be studied.

    1. I would beg to differ. Every downtown stop is within blocks of great restaurants and bars that could use the boost from people that live in the neighborhoods that link services. Also, a service like this could really go a long way towards the revitalization of pioneer square and international district.

      I understand that it may not have the ridership at first, I just think that it would go a longer ways to have the services already there and let people know that this was an option. For one thing, if it only runs till one, how are you going to measure the amount of traffic it might see at the later hours. By measuring taxi traffic or bus traffic? Its just does not seem very reasonable to me.

    2. This is exactly what I was going to say–let’s wait and see what people do on Link before we start planning Owl service.

    1. Yes. But aren’t those buses? I wonder how full King County’s buses at 2:15 AM are?

      1. You’ve never been to London at night. Despite the (much-deserved) reputation of being notoriously unreliable and being ‘free-spirited’ with its scheduling, the night buses in London that I’ve ridden were packed at 2:30 in the morning, going to all corners of the city.

        However, London has 12 million people. Seattle, well, doesn’t.

      2. The buses can be pretty full at 2:15 … I’ve seen the 83 be standing room only on a Friday or Saturday night.

  5. Personally I see no reason not to keep the every 15 minute late night service running until at least 2:15, this would correspond to when the first night-owl bus runs leave downtown (2:15).

    Ultimately if Sound Transit was to offer all-night service Saturday and Sunday mornings a 30 minute frequency should be more than enough after Midnight or 1 AM.

    Still I really can’t complain too much, the schedule for Link is much better than current bus service late at night or early in the morning.

  6. BART doesn’t have late night (post bar) service which makes getting from SF to the East Bay either very expensive (cab) or very dangerous (dodging drunk drivers on the bridge). Is this stimulus money you speak of specifically for late night transit?

  7. Having ridden a lot of buses at 2:15 AM, they can still be moderately full.

    I think it would be great for Link to operate after 1 but more important would be to make the high-ridership, east-west routes that connect Link to other communities run later. For example, the 140 (Burien-Renton) stops running at 10 even though Link runs until 1, so those trying to get from downtown to Burien or Renton will still take late buses if it 9 or later, even though Link is still running frequently at that time.

  8. I was surprised on a recent visit to London that the bars & pubs all closed between 11 & 11:30. The reason? The tube stops running at midnight.

  9. How about we run late night service between King St. and the Convention Center then? You’re basically in the tunnel, so there’s little noise concern, and you pass plenty of bars and restaurants and music venues. Plus it gets folks close to residences in Cap Hill and Belltown or to transfer easily to buses in the CBD.

    1. Because Link doesn’t stop at either of those stations, and I don’t see the point in running on a 1.3 mile line for an hour.

      1. The international district sits at the terminus of s king st

        As for the convention center maybe building a light rail station there should be at least part of st 3 if not sooner.

  10. Having previously lived in Washington DC I can say that having Metro open until 3 on the weekends was a godsend. It made going out that much less stressful. 20 minute lead times between trains at that hour sucked pretty badly, but it was often better than the alternative.

  11. I’ve never ridden the Route 7 nightowls, and above posters say they’ve been on moderately full & SRO nightowls. But my experience on the 81–never more than 10 people, mostly graveyard workers & homeless folks, only one or two barflies (myself being one)–has always suggested that there’s just not enough demand in this city for late-night transit. But if LINK does encourage more riders along that corridor, why not just have shuttle buses that follow the LINK route from the time the LINK stops running until, say, 3 a.m.? That way at least there’d be no problem with bells.

    1. The 81, 82, 84, and 85 have relatively few riders most of the times I’ve taken them over the years and are more or less how you describe. The 83 varies, sometimes it is just the graveyard workers, a few homeless people, and a barfly or three, other times it is full of college kids on their way home from a night of partying.

      Of all the night-owl routes the 84 probably has the lowest ridership, there have been a number of times when I was the only person on the bus other than the driver.

      Another couple of routes that can get surprisingly busy for night owls are the 174 and 280. The 174 often pulls into the downtown night-owl layover zone nearly full. As for the 280 while it is popular with the homeless during the winter as a warm place to hang out there are times when I’ve seen it with few homeless and with quite a few people just trying to get somewhere. Not anything like the 83 but still with more riders than I’ve ever seen on an 84.

      1. The 174 hits two major employment centers with major activity in the wee hours: the airport and the UPS facility in Sodo.

  12. I am thinking, maybe there could be, like many of Metro’s Night Owl routes, two trips departing Downtown at 2:15 and 3:30 am, then they immediately turn around and head back downtown. Or, when U-Link opens, the trains could turn around at Husky Stadium.

    The main issue, however, is in coping with the noisiness of the trains running past, especially when people are sleeping. ST said that somehow they’d help residents cope with the noise by soundproofing and even air-conditioning homes along the line.

      1. I assume so they don’t have to keep their windows open in order to keep their building cool during the summer.

  13. I would think that the late night traffic on MLK could be light enough to not use the bells at the gates and on the trains and go to “flashing lights” only. In the daytime lights don’t stand out as much, but at night, especially at 2am flashing red’s do stand out really well. 12am or so switch over and 5am switch back depending on the daylight levels?

    1. After I moved to a new house when I was a kid, I learned that BNSF uses the horn at all times of the day. I’ll be that it’s been proven necessary.

  14. How about an owl service along I-5 by Sound Transit stopping at: Everett Station, Mariner, South Everett, Ash Way, Lynnwood TC, 145th, 45th, Downtown (3rd Ave), Tukwila LINK, Sea-Tac, Kent-Des Moines, Star Lake, Federal Way TC, Tacoma Dome, Tacoma (Commerce St.), Lakewood/512 P&R, Lakewood TC? Stops could even be added at: Everett CC, Everett Mall, Alderwood Mall, Aurora Village, Northgate and DuPont. Service could run every 30-60 minutes leaving DT Seattle between 12 am and 5 am.

    Also for regional connections the 101/106, 120, 150, 174, 180, 230, 255, 271, 358, 522, 535, 545, 550, 554, 560, 564/565 could run hourly overnight. Perhaps some Pierce and Snohomish 24h service… Metro could also run the 80-series owl routes hourly (or perhaps scrap the owl network and run some of the regular routes 24h)…

    And a LINK shadow bus while you’re at it :)

    Would it work or too much expansion?

    1. Unfortunately none of the agency’s have the money right now. They maybe able to do Saturday and Sunday morning (but again that’s unlikely with the budget constraints)

      But if we are wishing how about some sort of Northgate/Lake City owl service or extend one of the owl routes that goes through the U-District to Lake City

      1. Northgate and Lake City both really need owl service badly, it is probably the most glaring hole in the current night-owl network. The 83 should be extended to Lake City on the same route as the 72 and the 82 could follow the route of the 16 and the 5 to serve Northgate. In order to make the timings work out the Wedgewood portion of the 83 would probably have to be dropped and the Queen Anne portions of the 82 would likely need to be taken over by the 81.

  15. new jersey has two subways with 24 hour service. the PATH which connects nj with ny is sorta an extention of new york subway but PATCO in south jersey/philly is not and very cool.

  16. San Jose used to have 24h LRT service, however this was cut in the early 2000’s. I believe that LA is running their Red Line Subway between Downtown and Hollywood until 3 am on Saturday and Sunday nights. Some European systems run 24h on Friday and Saturday nights (Copenhagen and Berlin come to mind). The only 24h rail lines in the country (and world) are the Chicago Red and Blue Lines (many more used to run 24h also, but they were cut), most of the NYC subway system, the PATH (NYC-Jersey City-Newark), and PATCO (Philadelphia-Camden-Lindenwold). I’m not sure, but I think SEPTA used to provide 24h subway service. Also the Long Island Rail Road runs 24h (imagine a 24h Sounder!). In Toronto the subways end at appx. 1 am, but there is certainly demand for 24h service. The Yonge and Bloor-Danforth subway night buses run every few minutes.

    Perhaps LINK should run until 3 am on Fridays and Saturdays as a trial service, and have a ‘LINK Shadow’ bus run while the line is shut down.

    1. Hmmm. Don’t forget the airport!! Travelers to and fro will need a way to get there 24 hrs a day.

    2. Pugetopolis needs more owl bus routes, not 24 hour Link (although that would be nice). In Europe, night buses cover all parts of the city and suburbs. Here, riding owl is feasable only if your activity is downtown or you live downtown. And if you work at a bar, forget about cleaning up and being out the door before the 2:15 buses leave. I grew up near Crossroads, and the closest owl bus is on Bellevue Way, more than an hour’s walk away. Fremont and Georgetown have gotten more nightclubs, but good luck riding an owl bus from them unless you live downtown or on the other end of their route.

  17. It seems to be very rare for a transit authority to identify specific markets, like people leaving the Arena or the Opera House, and provide service keyed to the times people actually leave the buildings.

    In fact, it got even harder when the Bush people ruled that public transit agencies couldn’t provide special services to Seahawks or Mariners games. We haven’t heard anything from the Obama people about changing this.

    But this, of course, is exactly what you would like to know when you buy a house in the city- can I actually live a city life? If you buy a house on a transit line (or rent) will you actually be able to go where you want or need to go on the transit system? You leave the game or show at 11, you don’t want to wait a half hour to start your ride home.

    The bus was born with a silver megaphone in its mouth, proclaiming that it was “flexible” and could go where people wanted to go. Maybe the transit agency should make it easier for people to tell them where and when that is, and publish the numbers so we can see. It could be that a few targeted buses or schedule tweaks could do a world of good.

  18. “Although every system in the nation except New York must shut down for part of the night for maintenance…” What does New York do that allows it to keep running?

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