Your guide to the Phoenix No Pants Light Rail Ride 2024 on Sunday | Phoenix New Times

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Your guide to the Phoenix No Pants Light Rail Ride 2024 on Sunday

Revealing everything to know about the return of metro Phoenix's infamous pants-free event.
Drop trou and ride the train this weekend.
Drop trou and ride the train this weekend. Mark Poutenis
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After a four-year wait, Valley residents have an excuse to take their pants off in public again.

Phoenix’s No Pants Light Rail Ride returns this weekend for the first time since 2020. As the name of the event implies, it involves locals hopping aboard Valley Metro Rail without any pants, skirts or shorts on. (Participants are dressed in underwear, tops and shoes, though.)

The infamous event, equal parts flash mob and urban prank, is scheduled for Sunday.

It's one of Phoenix’s unique (and cheeky) events, earning its underwear-clad participants stares, glares and smiles from onlookers or fellow light rail passengers. During its original run, it was also quite popular.

Phoenix’s No Pants Light Rail Ride dates back to 2009. A spin-off of a similar prank started on the New York City subway in 2002 by comedy collective Improv Everywhere. The local version launched shortly after Valley Metro Rail debuted in 2008. (Other rides took place in cities worldwide).

Originally organized by Improv Arizona, it was meant as a lark. As co-founder Jeff Moriarty told Phoenix New Times in 2018, the No Pants Light Rail Ride was born out of a desire to help liven up the Valley,

“It started as a way to show that Phoenix could have a little fun and it wouldn't break anyone. That Phoenix could laugh at itself,” Moriarty said.

A couple dozen people attended the first year, but turnout grew and the event chugged along through the years. By 2020, hundreds of pantless people participated.

Then, COVID-19 and its aftermath derailed Phoenix’s No Pants Light Rail Ride. The event was canceled in 2021 and 2022. By 2023, interest in the event waned.

Enter Michael Maurer. Last fall, the Valley resident and a previous No Pants Ride participant wanted to bring back the ride and announced plans to stage a similar event. It helped revive interest in Phoenix’s No Pants Light Rail Ride and get Moriarty and Improv Arizona involved again.

“It's really fun to do, but definitely isn't for everyone,” Maurer says. “But for those with a curiosity for the weird or those wanting to push themselves to try something different, this is the event. There is no shaming or judging at these events.”

If you’re interested in joining in the pantsless prankery when the ride returns this weekend, we're revealing all the information you’ll need to know.
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No Pants Light Rail Ride participants board a Valley Metro Rail train in 2013.

When and where is the No Pants Light Rail Ride in Phoenix?

The No Pants Light Rail Ride 2024 in Phoenix is scheduled for Sunday.

How does the No Pants Light Rail Ride work?

Riders will gather at the Valley Metro Rail stations at either Country Club Drive and Main Street in Mesa or at Dunlap and 19th avenues at noon. Everyone will de-pant at 12:10 p.m., board trains and depart the stations a few minutes later. Trains will head for the Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street station in downtown Phoenix, arriving at approximately 1 p.m. Participants will deboard and walk to Walter Studios, 747 W. Roosevelt St., for a mid-ride meetup and social gathering.

How much is the No Pants Light Rail Ride?

Participating in the event is free, but the Valley Metro light rail fare is $2 per ride or $4 for an all-day pass.

Who can participate in the No Pants Light Rail Ride?

Anyone and everyone. Moriarty says it's an all-ages event and kids, parents and entire families have participated. "It's mostly adults, but everyone is welcome,” he says. We've had babies in diapers and senior citizens in boxers on the same ride."
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The No Pants Light Rail Ride helped Phoenix resident Angie Rivera (left) cope with self-consciousness.
Benjamin Leatherman

What’s the attraction of the No Pants Light Rail Ride?

It varies by participant. Some, like Moriarty, dig the urban prank aspects of the event. Others enjoy the chance to dress up in colorful underwear or engage in a unique social experience.

Phoenix resident Angie Rivera, who first participated in 2018, says it was a fun experience that helped her feel less self-conscious. She’d heard about the ride from friends and wanted to try it.

“I've always liked flash mobs and wanted to do something different and meet other people who liked having fun,” Rivera says. “I felt self-conscious (at first), but I went through with it. ... The No Pants Ride was the most comfortable I'd felt in a long time. It's so different from (conventions) because no one seems to be nitpicking anyone's appearance. Everyone is beautiful and everyone is having fun, too.”

How did the No Pants Light Rail Ride begin?

No Pants Rides started on New York City's subway system in 2002 by comedy collective Improv Everywhere. The concept expanded worldwide with spin-off groups in cities with rail-based public transit staging rides on the same day in early January. Phoenix’s version began in 2009, mere weeks after Valley Metro light rail first launched.
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Phoenix’s No Pants Light Rail Ride is a fun time for participants.
Benjamin Leatherman

Why did the No Pants Light Rail Ride go on hiatus?

Because of the pandemic and its lengthy aftermath, Moriarty says public safety concerns kept Improv Arizona from reviving the ride in 2021 and 2022, though they considered doing versions involving social distancing. The fact that No Pants Light Rail Rides weren’t happening in other cities was also a factor. By 2023, interest in the event had waned locally.

“After everything that happened with COVID, people just weren't thrilled about getting on a packed light rail car. So we figured we'd wait and see how everyone felt, but no one seemed super excited about it.” Moriarty says. “We love the event, but the world's very different than it was when we last did this. So we were just kind of hibernating.”

Why is the No Pants Light Rail Ride returning?

Maurer, a previous participant in several rides, wanted to revive the event. “I thought it was an awesome way to get people together for a body-positive event [and to] meet new people that are like-minded,” Maurer says.

In October, he announced plans for the Arizona Pantless Light Rail Ride, a spinoff event occurring during the same early January timeframe as Improv Arizona’s previous rides. The news got a big response on social media, including hundreds of comments on the event’s Facebook page. Weeks later, Moriarty contacted him in hopes of helping out.

“I was nervous, (but) luckily Jeff is such an easygoing guy with great humor and stories that really lifted most of my apprehension,” Maurer says, “He gave me tips and info and said he’d do everything he could to help out.”
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No Pants Light Rail Ride participants aboard a Valley Metro Rail train in 2017.

What’s different about this year’s No Pants Light Rail Ride?

Other than the mid-ride meetup occurring at a new location, not much. “The spirit of it is the same. Everyone’s going to end up at Walter Studios, which is a great place to do the meetup,” Moriarty says. “They’re also working with St. Vincent de Paul and having people donate their pants. So that's new, but very much in line with the sort of community event that the ride has become.”

How will clothing donations to St. Vincent de Paul work?

Maurer says there will be bins at Walter Studios where people can donate their pants or other clothing to St. Vincent de Paul, the Valley nonprofit dedicated to assisting the less fortunate. “We encourage (everyone) to donate pants you remove and any other items you'd like to bring as well.” He also suggests bringing a second pair of pants for the ride home.
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Riding Valley Metro Rail in underwear isn’t illegal if specific body parts aren't being exposed.
Benjamin Leatherman

What should you wear for the No Pants Light Rail Rail Ride?

Moriarty suggests wearing some colorful or snazzy-looking underwear, socks, shoes or hats. Maybe put on “something fun, colorful and interesting, as long as it covers the appropriate body parts.”

Is it illegal to go pantless in public or on the light rail?

Technically, no, as long as you’re covering certain body parts. Arizona’s public indecency laws state that it's only illegal to “recklessly expose” the genitals, anus or female nipples or areolas. Valley Metro’s “code of conduct” rules are more of a gray area and discourage “disruptive, intrusive, unsafe or inappropriate behaviors” while riding, including public indecency.

Moriarty says pantless riders can stay within the rules by choosing underwear that’s comfortable to wear but doesn’t expose too much. You’ll also want to make sure any flaps are properly secured. He also suggests doubling up on underwear: “Go with one pair for style and another pair underneath for safety,” he jokes. Or, make creative use of fishnets, feather boas, body stockings or socks to avoid accidental exposure.
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No Pants Light Rail Ride participants in cosplay gear during the 2019 event.
Benjamin Leatherman

Can you cosplay during the No Pants Light Rail Ride?

Cosplay is lightly discouraged by organizers, but not outright forbidden. Previous No Pants Light Rail Rides have involved people dressing as geeky characters like Deadpool or Spock. While Moriarty appreciates the passion for cosplay, he says the No Pants Light Rail Ride isn’t necessarily an event where you go all-out with costuming.

“This isn’t cosplay, but people are having fun and they're being creative, so it happens,” he says. “And there’s some amazingly creative people coming up with interesting combinations of underwear and outfits. And we had somebody who came as a priest without pants and another person dressed like they were going bowling with the appropriate shirt, shoes and (ball bag).”

What else should you bring?

A backpack, small bag or fanny pack might be useful for carrying your pants, wallet, keys or other stuff. Consider bringing along a newspaper, book or tablet to have something to read while riding the light rail to pass the time or make it appear like you’re just another rider. Speaking of which …
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No Pants Light Rail Ride participants are encouraged to act naturally while aboard trains.
Benjamin Leatherman

How should you behave during the No Pants Light Rail Ride?

Like you’re experiencing a normal ride on the light rail, only without your pants. Maurer and Moriarty encourage participants to stay in character and maintain the idea that they’re ordinary riders who simply forgot to wear pants. (Therein lies the prank part of the event.)

In other words, don’t spoil the joke.

“The original idea of the event, which we still try to push, is to act like nothing's out of the ordinary is happening. If anyone asks, you just forgot yours and have no idea why others aren’t wearing pants either,” Moriarty says. “It’s always meant to be this surprising thing people happen upon.”

Ride organizers also say they won’t tolerate any disruptive, destructive or over-the-top behavior by participants, which would cause Valley Metro security or law enforcement to remove people from trains. On that note …

Has anyone been arrested during Phoenix’s No Pants Light Rail Ride?

Yes, though it had nothing to do with their conduct during the ride or what they were wearing. In 2020, a participant was arrested by Phoenix police at the mid-ride meetup on an unrelated warrant.

How have people reacted during the No Pants Light Rail Ride?

Moriarty says he’s experienced a lot of positive reactions during previous rides. “The most common are the ones who just grin. They know something's going on but they don't know what. Their day just became a lot more interesting,” he says. “Each year, we’ve had somebody go, ‘OK, fine,’ and they take off their pants and join us. They weren't planning on it. They ran into a bunch of people having a really good time in their underwear and they said, ‘You know what? I'm in.’”

There have also been negative reactions, too. “There's always somebody who’s like, ‘Oh, you should be ashamed of yourselves. This is ridiculous. This is horrific. This is disgusting,’” Moriarty says. “What's strange is that you’ll see more skin in the (summer) when people are wearing T-shirts and shorts than you do during the No Pants Ride. This is still a very reserved and conservative town.”
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