Culture News

Final Four Produces 2 of the Top 5 Travel Days in Metro Light Rail History

The University of Phoenix Stadium, site of the 2015 Super Bowl
The University of Phoenix Stadium, site of the 2015 Super Bowl Jim Louvau


click to enlarge
A transit officer directs large crowds at Roosevelt Metro Station Sunday. This was one of the busiest stations on the line and drew the biggest police presence.
Sean Holstege
The Final Four extravaganza and all the side events going on last weekend meant extremely crowded trains and platforms on the Valley Metro Light Rail system.

The hubbub contributed to two of Metro’s busiest-ever days, but didn’t come close to the all-time record set during the 2015 Super Bowl weekend.

Here then, we present the refreshed top five busiest Metro days and five fun facts about what went into a comparatively smooth experience.

1. The day: January 31, 2015 (Sunday). Passengers: 126,606. What was going on: NFL Experience, Super Bowl Central, Block 23 Concert, Seahawks Fan Fest
click to enlarge
The University of Phoenix Stadium, site of the 2015 Super Bowl
Jim Louvau


2. The day: January 30, 2015 (Friday). Passengers: 81,856. What was going on: NFL Experience, Super Bowl Central Phoenix Suns vs. Chicago Bulls

3. The day: April 2, 2017 (Sunday). Passengers: 76,000 (estimated). What was going on: NCAA Final Four Fan Fest, Suns’ game, Diamondbacks’ home opener, Phoenix Pride Parade, free March Madness Music Festival in Margaret T. Hance Park featuring Aerosmith and other acts.



4.. The day: January 29, 2015 (Thursday). Passengers: 75,822. What was going on: NFL Experience, Super Bowl Central, Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias.

5. The day: April 1, 2017 (Saturday). Passengers: 74,000 (estimated). What was going on: NCAA Final Four Fan Fest, free March Madness Music Festival in Margaret T. Hance Park featuring The Chainsmokers and other acts.

So how did Metro pull it off? By staffing like this:

75 Valley Metro ambassadors to greet and guide visitors and riders.

70 light rail vehicle, platform, and system maintenance technicians to keep trains running safely
click to enlarge
Crowds are held back at the entrance to the March Madness Music Festival in Margaret T. Hance Park Sunday.
Sean Holstege

45 fare inspectors in partnership with the Transportation Security Administration and Phoenix Police Transit Enforcement Unit and dog teams to ensure the safety and security of riders

42 customer service representatives to answer rider questions

40 bus operators and supervisors to provide special event transportation support


Metro was thrilled. The weekend blowout is an auspicious sign if the Valley tries to lure more big-ticket sporting events, and if plans to extend tracks to the stadium in Glendale come to fruition.

“We have proven that we can support major, large-scale events while also serving our local riders that rely on transit to get to their daily destinations,” Metro spokeswoman Susan Tierney said.

The regional transit agency credited planning and learning from prior events.

“Our experience with hosting the 2015 Super Bowl and the 2016 College Football Championship laid the groundwork for successful implementation of Valley Metro Rail service during the Final Four and more than 20 events in the downtown area,” Tierney said.

Looking ahead, Metro said it would consider special event trains if the Valley nets another big sporting fish. If that’s another Super Bowl or BCS championship, it remains to be seen if rail will reach the venue by then.

“The connection to University of Phoenix stadium is very exciting for the Valley and we look forward to having the opportunity to serve this venue in the future,” Tierney said.



KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sean Holstege is the editor of Phoenix New Times. He's been a print news reporter for 35 years. He was an investigative reporter at The Arizona Republic and the Oakland Tribune. He won a Sigma Delta Chi award for investigative reporting. He’s covered transportation, terrorism, the border, disasters, child welfare, courts, and breaking news.
Contact: Sean Holstege