No Pants Light Rail Ride: A Field Guide to Sunday's Event in Phoenix

If you were one of those folks who wound up getting pairs of socks and underwear for Christmas, don't be too bummed out about it. In fact, you can put some of 'em to good use this weekend.

The latest No Pants Ride, which is organized by local branches of the worldwide pranking group Improv Everywhere, takes place on Sunday, January 11, in cities all over the planet where there happens to be a public transportation system involving rails. In New York City, for instance, the event happens on the subway. Ditto for L.A., Washington D.C., London, Paris, and Mexico City.

Participants of last year's No Pants Light Rail Ride Phoenix.
Participants of last year's No Pants Light Rail Ride Phoenix.
Benjamin Leatherman

Here in Phoenix, the event is organized by Improv Arizona and takes place on the light rail and has featured an ever-growing number of participants every year since it debuted in 2009. In fact, it's almost as old as the Light Rail itself.

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Improv Arizona member Jeff Moriarty, one of the organizers of the event, says that the event started out as a way to "shake thing up a little" on the Light Rail.

"Our first one was the same year the Light Rail started in Phoenix. We rode it pantsless that very first week," he says. "Originally the appeal was just to shake things up a little [and] try something unusual on the light rail."

It's grown a bit since that inaugural ride, however, both in scope and intent.

"Now that we've done it a few years, a lot of people come to expect it," Moriarty says. "We still surprise quite a few passengers, though, and we always have someone join in and take off their pants en route."

Acording to the Improv Everywhere web site, the No Pants ride started out as more of an urban prank but has evolved into an "international celebration of silliness."

There's also a lot of camaraderie involved, Moriarty says.

Participants of last year's No Pants Light Rail Ride Phoenix deboard in downtown Phoenix.
Participants of last year's No Pants Light Rail Ride Phoenix deboard in downtown Phoenix.
Benjamin Leatherman

"It has become as much a fun event to meet people as anything else. When you ride around in public in your underwear you create some instant friendships," he says. "By the time everyone gets to the meetup they're not a bunch of strangers anymore, but they're all friends hanging out and having fun. It's like Instant Friendship, just add water...or just remove pants. Removing pants really brings people together."

But while the intent of the No Pants Light Rail Phoenix has changed over the years, the way the event goes down has remained (mostly) the same. Riders show up at a particular light rail station on either end of the route, remove their pants, get on board, and head to downtown Phoenix to celebrate the occasion.

And when they're in the midst of riding, other passengers tend to stare, whisper to each other, or ask participants why they're sans trousers. And therein lies the fun of the ride. While it isn't illegal to go pantsless in public, it's certainly not a regular thing for people do to, because of modesty.

Moriarty says that they encourage riders to not let on why they're not wearing pants.

"We want people to keep the secret and not act like anything strange is going on no matter how much they ask. Sure, 50 people around them without pants on is a giveaway, but that just makes them all the more confused," he says. "People sometimes go nuts not just about the underwear, but that they can't figure out what's happening. We love to give people a little something weird in their day. People need more weird."

And if all this sounds like something you can, um, get on board with, we've put together a field guide of sorts to the No Pants Light Rail Ride to help get you prepared or get the most out of the experience.

No Pants Light Rail Ride Phoenix participants head to Angel's Trumpet Ale House.
No Pants Light Rail Ride Phoenix participants head to Angel's Trumpet Ale House.
Benjamin Leatherman

Time/Place: The event takes place on Sunday, January 11, starting at 1 p.m. Participants can gather at one of three departure points before boarding the first light rail train that leaves the station.

Those on the eastside will begin at the Price Road and Apache Boulevard stop and head west. Conversely, people over in the West Valley will start at the 19th Avenue and Montebello station and go east. Meanwhile, Moriarty says that a group will also leave from Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor Airport and hitch a ride on the PHX Sky Train people mover system that connects with the light rail.

But no matter where you begin, the ride will end at the Roosevelt Street and Central Avenue station where everyone will deboard and head for Angel's Trumpet Alehouse to eat, drink, and hang.

"The Sky Train finished opening this year, so we wanted to add it to the ride," Moriarty says. "A pantsless baptism of sorts."

Price: While participation in the event is free for everyone, you'll have to spring for the light rail fare -- single-ride tickets are $2 and an all-day pass is $4 -- and any sort of food or libations you get at Angel's Trumpet or elsewhere.

Getting there: If you're coming by car, both the Price/Apache and 19th Avenue/Montebello stops have free Park-and-Ride facilities or large lots nearby where you can leave your rides. Those joining the group at Sky Harbor, however, will probably have to pay to use one of its many parking garages.

Age Limits: There are none as the ride is open to everyone. Moriarty encourages people of all ages to participate. "It's mostly adults, but everyone is welcome. We've had babies in diapers and senior citizens in boxers on the same ride." Angel's Trumpet is also open to all ages during the daytime.

Weather: The forecast for Sunday states that it will be clear, sunny, and 70 degrees. It should be warm enough to go without your pants, although you might want to bring a light jacket just in case.

Food and drink: Food, open containers (read: alcohol), and unsealed drinks are generally frowned upon by Valley Metro, if not outright banned. That said, if you'd like to bring a coffee or other beverage in a sealed cup to sip along the way, that's totally cool. Or you could just wait until everyone gets to Angel's Trumpet and eat and drink to your heart's content.  

The post-ride shenanigans at Angel's Trumpet in 2013.
The post-ride shenanigans at Angel's Trumpet in 2013.
Benjamin Leatherman

What to Bring: That's entirely up to you. If you'd like to do something a bit more plain, it's totally cool. But if you'd rather be more colorful, then that's okay too, since some participants in the past have sported rocking socks or snazzy underwear. Just don't go too over-the-top with your dress or go all out with a costume.

"We've had a lot more costumes and dress-ups the past few years, but that's not the intent," he says. "We still want people to just think a whole trainload of people forgot their pants at the same time."

As such, if you're hoping to pretend to be an ordinary Light Rail rider, only without pants, bring a book, tablet, or gaming system to use while the ride is in progress. A bag or backpack to carry your pants might also be helpful as well.

And if you're going the boxers route, it's advisable to wear some brief underneath to avoid any, um, wardrobe malfunctions. Oh, and make sure whatever undies or boxer shorts you're sporting are clean. Just saying.

What Not to Bring: Pants (duh) as well as any sort of unmentionables that are too revealing.

What to do: Show up at a starting point, drop trou, and hop on board. (Participants who begin at the airport are asked to lose their pants in the restrooms to avoid any problems with security.)

Once you're on a train, Moriarty and organizers request that you act as though nothing out of the ordinary is happening at all. If another rider winds up asking you why you're missing your pants, simply make up some sort of excuse -- from normal to strange -- about why you're dressed (or undressed) that way.

In other words, keep the prank going without spoiling it. According to the Facebook event page, the event is "supposed to look like a normal train ride."

What not to do: Cause a disruption with over-the-top behavior or disturb the fun time that other participants are having. There aren't any actual laws against going without pants in public, but you don't want anyone to summon the cops with your shenanigans. Also, refrain from going for the full monty or flashing anyone since that is illegal.

After-parties: Everything that will take place at Angel's Trumpet Alehouse is essentially the after-party. If you'd like to keep going after that, Moriarty says that the folks at both the George & Dragon and Phoenix Public Market are welcoming No Pants Light Rail Ride participants to stop by for a drink or three.

Schedule and stops: Note: all times are approximate. YMMV.

1 p.m.: Participants will gather at stops 1:10 p.m.-1:12 p.m.: Boarding of the trains 1:12 p.m.-1:52 p.m.: Ride time 1:52 p.m.-1:58 p.m.: Trains will arrive at Roosevelt/Central Station, participants will deboard and head for Angel's Trumpet Alehouse 1:58 p.m.-4 p.m.: Post-ride party at Angel's Trumpet

What to expect:

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Related Locations

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Angels Trumpet Ale House
George & Dragon Pub

4240 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85012


Phoenix Public Market Cafe

14 E. Pierce St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004


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