Reuters

How L.A.'s rail system has put more riders on transit.

When rail goes in, ridership goes up. At least, that's what's happened in Los Angeles, where the county's transportation authority, Metro, has gone on a more than two-decade binge of light rail and subway development. A new analysis of transit ridership before and after the four lines opened shows that overall ridership has dramatically increased with rail in the picture.

Scott Page, a planner with Metro, has analyzed ridership stats and documents to see how transit use patterns changed along corridors formerly reliant solely on buses but now augmented with rail lines. By comparing average ridership before and after the rail options were in place, Page shows that adding rail service has grown ridership on these corridors anywhere from 95 percent to nearly 350 percent. His results and data have since been published on Metro's blog The Source. Below is a breakdown of those figures, using average weekday boardings counted during specific ridership survey periods to compare pre- and post-rail ridership:

Blue Line corridor
Before: 41,971 (Most recent previous ridership count: 1990)
After: 104,001 (2012)
Increase: 147 percent

Red Line corridor
Before: 51,306 (Most recent previous ridership count: 2003)
After: 161,168 (2012)
Increase: 214 percent

Green Line corridor
Before: 11,074 (Most recent previous ridership count: 1993)
After: 49,640 (2012)
Increase: 348 percent

Gold Line corridor
Before: 31,199 (Most recent previous ridership count: 2002)
After: 60,922 (2012)
Increase: 95 percent

For public transit advocates – especially rail proponents – these numbers are easy to love. They can also be used to make the case that investing in rail projects (in addition to less expensive bus projects) can help to achieve transit ridership goals, in numbers anyway. If the goal is geographic coverage, the case would be harder to make. And if the goal is providing public transit cheaply, even these impressive ridership figures wouldn't make much of a difference.

Still, it's important to note that this analysis focuses purely on ridership figures, and doesn't take into account population change or other demographic shifts between the early 1990s and today. The county's population has grown by more than a million people over that time, to 9.8 million. That's a growth rate of roughly 11 percent. This growth – as well as a variety of other factors – surely plays into these ridership figures.

But on their face, these numbers paint a very appealing picture: more people will ride transit when it involves trains and not just buses.

Image credit: Reuters

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of an encampment of homeless people outside Minneapolis,
    Equity

    Why Minneapolis Just Made Zoning History

    The ambitious Minneapolis 2040 plan will encourage more dense housing development in single-family neighborhoods.

  2. Tesla vehicles sit in a parking lot in California.
    Transportation

    America’s Power Grid Isn’t Ready for Electric Cars

    The challenge isn’t just about how much energy electric vehicles will need. A more important question is when they’ll need it.

  3. The opulent anteroom to a ladies' restroom at the Ohio Theatre, a 1928 movie palace in Columbus, Ohio.
    Design

    The Glamorous, Sexist History of the Women’s Restroom Lounge

    Separate areas with sofas, vanities, and even writing tables used to put the “rest” in women’s restrooms. Why were these spaces built, and why did they vanish?

  4. Passengers line up for a bullet train at a platform in Tokyo Station.
    Transportation

    The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks.

  5. The dramatic, triangular National Australia Bank building in Melbourne's Docklands.
    Environment

    Is ‘Climate-Positive’ Design Possible?

    Advocates say we could design city buildings and neighborhoods that cancel out more carbon than they emit, with the right policies and mindset.