Falling transit ridership is a nationwide problem, but it’s particularly a setback in Los Angeles, which is investing like crazy in transit due to two recently passed transportation sales tax measures.
By Ethan Elkind
Laura Nelson covered the recent ridership decline in the Los Angeles Times and what L.A. Metro plans to do about:
Metro bus ridership fell 18% in April compared with April 2015. The number of trips taken on Metro buses annually fell by more than 59 million, or 16%, between 2013 and 2016.
A recent survey of more than 2,000 former riders underscores the challenge Metro faces. Many passengers said buses didn’t go where they were going — or, if they did, the bus didn’t come often enough, or stopped running too early, or the trip required multiple transfers. Of those surveyed, 79% now primarily drive alone.
In an attempt to stem the declines, Metro is embarking on a study to “re-imagine” the system’s 170 lines and 15,000 stops, officials said. Researchers will consider how to better serve current riders and how to attract new customers, and will examine factors including demographics, travel patterns and employment centers.
Meanwhile, as Metro explains in its outlet The Source:
Metro has not embarked on such a systemwide effort since the 1990s so it is timely given the significant expansion of the Metro Rail system this century, growth of municipal operator services and the popularity of other transportation options (i.e. ride hailing services such as Lyft and Uber).
It was easy to dismiss prior reports of falling ridership, but now is definitely a good time to take it seriously.
But Metro won’t exactly be hurrying to get to the bottom of this. The bus system review isn’t planned to be completed until April 2019, which will then require public hearings later that year. So any actual changes won’t go into effect until December 2019 — at the earliest.
Two years seems like a really long time to study this issue, although Los Angeles does have an enormous system. Still, a little urgency could be in order. And in the meantime, the agency could focus on one immediate step that is guaranteed to boost ridership: Require local governments with major transit stations to relax restrictions on adjacent development.
And Metro could start with the recalcitrant neighborhoods around the new Expo Line.
Otherwise, we’ll have to wait a while on any results from the bus study.
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