March ridership numbers released

The overall numbers are below. As you can see, ridership has decreased in the past two years by about 3.7 percent and we’re not yet seeing a bump because of high gas prices.

Reasons? There is no definitive answer — it’s likely a combination of factors, including high local unemployment (12.3 percent in L.A. County in February), a fare increase in July 2010 that impacted about 48 percent of Metro riders, fluctuating gas prices in the past two years and bus service changes.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Systemwide Ridership Estimates

Mar. 2011 Mar. 2010 Mar. 2009
Average Weekday Boardings 1,463,151 1,488,683 1,519,799
Average Saturday Boardings 957,481 960,510 992,077
Average Sunday and Holiday Boardings 609,715 749,684 725,199
Total Calendar Month Boardings 39,921,249 41,080,479 41,029,873

Graphs showing ridership for Metro’s bus system and the individual rail lines are posted after the jump.


18 replies

  1. From looking at the graphs, it seems like a 2 year period is kind of hard to look at any trends.

    Looks like the Red and Blue lines took the worst hit, which I’d assume is a result of jobs decreasing in downtown.

  2. Maybe its a “bonding issue”. In other words, why get used to riding on public transit when there is a VERY GOOD CHANCE the bus line(s) you are riding will get REDUCED or ELIMINATED by the MTA! Why should a rider start riding to begin with, regardless of the economy, unemployment, or what gas prices do?

  3. High unemployment is definitely a part of it. It’s easiest to take transit if you have an established traffic pattern… which job seekers and temps don’t have. Also, I’m seeing more and more bicycles on the road… I think some people are using pedal power in preference to paying a fare *or* for gas.

    I’m also seeing a couple of other effects in the breakdown by train line and buses. The buses seem to be heavily affected by school year patterns… are fewer people going to college? Do we have lower numbers of students in school than we have in past years (possibly because people have moved their families out of the city to the Inland Empire or Ventura, or because fertility rates dropped about 10 years ago, or somesuch)? Lower numbers of students might illuminate part of the drop.

    OTOH, The Red Line, predictably, peaks during the tourist season, which seems to be kicking in about now. Higher unemployment, more uncertainty, and other factors have a negative impact on tourism.

    Personally, I think the final factor is changing user expectations that Metro is flagging behind. People who have visited or lived in other large US cities are used to a much easier infrastructure for fare payment, arrival notification, and so forth.

    We’re on the right track with the new TAP stored value, but it’s still a hassle to get a TAP card and store value on it (we have to go to a station several miles from home, rather than around the corner to buy tokens, for example). The TAP itself costs money, which is a burden especially on temporary users (tourists, etc.) and it’s non-transferable, which reduces the incentive for hotels, businesses, and other entities to keep a few on hand to lend out. Finally, the website is a complete disaster. It’s better than it used to be with the basic information, but the process of buying a pass or storing value online needs a lot of improvement.

    NextBus, again, is moving in the right direction, but is still clearly in beta. It has a lot of trouble when road construction slows buses down, and the prediction just doesn’t seem to be on track yet. Furthermore, the site itself is hard to use (if you use the “old site” you can bookmark individual bus stops, but if you use the default “new site” bookmarks always take you back to the full list of ALL providers in ALL cities), and the stop numbers aren’t on the signs at the stops, so you either have to look them up on Google Maps or navigate through Line > Direction > Stop to find a new location.

  4. Wait the minute, high unemployment is the reason for low ridership amid the raising the gasoline price. If that is a true statement, MTA should ask itself why? When people don’t have jobs, people would drive less to save money. Instead, we don’t see the ridership goes up. Why, our public transportation system does not go anywhere in efficient way.
    If people want to miss interview, take metro
    It is also interested to know that except the redline, the train ridership is low. MTA and train only supporter keep want lA to put meager fund to add couple miles on rails. Will adding those miles work? Look MTA statistic, people are not taking rail even during the Economic downturn.
    The reason Gold line ridership is low is there are less jobs that are within walking distance of Gold Line station
    Why can’t MTA and train only supporter such as Steve realize train does not work if people have hard time getting in/out stations. I know it is difficult for them.
    I like to see the graphic representation of EXpo and Wilshire subway, I will not surprise to see lower ridership on those rails (they should be higher than Goldline but lower than red line).
    Thank you MTA and train only supporters to destroy our public transportation even further (and it was already bad)

  5. How are the numbers tallied? For trains, if the count is via the purchase of tickets, there’s also the distinct possibility of fewer folks paying the fare but still riding. I ride the blue line M-F and it’s unbelievably common to overhear folks talking about not paying and hoping they don’t get caught, riders getting ticketed when officers come on board, etc.

  6. Ridership definitely seems to be increasing on the Orange line, which I commute to work on. Yesterday, I rode it from the Red Line station departing at 12:56 PM and it seemed to have significantly more people than I’m used to. The bus driver had also noticed an increase recently.

    I would expect the ridership numbers for the Orange Line to increase in April over March if what I’m noticing keeps going to the end of the month. I did notice an increase for March over February and a driver I talked to in March also noticed that. He even asked me last month if the bus I usually take just before his is as crowded as his. He also said the bus after him has been running crowded like his shift.

    Oh, and the bike ridership is starting to increase probably due to a few days of warm weather, gas prices and perhaps a little thing called CicLAvia might have had an influence. Yesterday was very noticeable as two bikes could not get on the bus just before mine and this has not happened in months. I’ll have to start biking the entire 18.5 miles to make it more reliable and to give some room for more bicyclists. Late Friday and Saturday nights are difficult to get a ride with a bike when the weather is very warm. Up to 9-11 bicyclists were waiting for my bus a few times last year at 11 PM along the route on the weekend last summer and fall. I’ll expect to see that and more as soon as the weather stays warm for a few days as more bike lanes were put in recently in the San Fernando Valley.

  7. The factors are poor customer service, reliability, and schedule changes. Drivers leaving 5-8 minutes late from the starting point, buses arriving 6-8 minutes late, buses always breaking down…. Things like this will make a rider take the financial hit and pursue personal transportaion. Even if (more like when) gas prices sky rocket to $5.50 a gallon, people who are considering taking public transportation will just grin and bear the gas prices to avoid the headaches of riding. What MTA fails to see is that most people rely on them to get to ON TIME. If one bus is late, then they risk being late themselves and most likely will cost them their job down the line. To sum it all up, if you fix IT (customer service and bus reliability), THEY will come (riders and rider loyalty).

  8. Economic downturn, rising gas prices, even rising food rising, everyone is feeling the pain. And as Americans move away from the old way of just buying what you want, they are beginning to see things in a different light: frugality and efficiency.

    When all was good, we didn’t care about what kind of light bulb we used, we just looked that the old incandescent was cheaper so we bought them. When electricity costs started rising, only then we realized that the initial cost of paying more for CFLs and LEDs goes a long way to save on electric bills, adding additional $20 or so to your budget while still doing the same job of providing light.

    Same thing with the gas prices. We drove them like idiots when they only were a fraction of our budget, but now it’s creeping up where every gas fill eats away more and more of our paychecks. And our paychecks ain’t rising, in fact a lot more people are out of a paycheck. But unlike changing incandescent to CFLs, ditching the car over to buses doesn’t give you the same reliability.

    Buses gets stuck in traffic as cars do, they also stop at the same traffic signals as other cars, and yet they still take even longer as it’s a stop-and-go at every bus station. Especially because of the last one, the bus is never a true alternative to a car so people don’t want to take it. Sure it may cost $1.50 for a bus, but people say “meh, you get what you pay for, I’m going back to the car as there’s no other alternative that fits my needs.” There’s no reliability or the efficiency of a car where I can go when I want to go and not having wasting ten to twenty minutes of my time waiting for the bus which doesn’t offer any additional benefit than only costing me a $1.50.

    Now let’s look at rail in LA. Rails don’t get stuck in traffic that’s great. Now you’re talking. But it only serves half of the town. There’s a total empty void west of the 405 (the most congested freeway!), so what other alternatives are there? It’s either drive and fork over the rising fuel prices or suck up paying $1.50 for the slow bus. Not everyone has a job in downtown LA, the fact that the 405 is always congested at commuting hours should provide an hint maybe, oh just maybe that perhaps the northbound-southbound on the 405 is a big commuting section of LA that doesn’t even get near downtown LA? Hello, McFly, anybody there?

  9. Definitely the economy, fare evasion, and yes, infrequent buses, are the cause of the lower ridership. A agree with the notion that if a bus line may be cut, fewer people will want to ride as well as decreased frequency. But there is no denying that fewer jobs means less patronage. As far as the gold line is concerned, Most of the stops are in residential neighborhoods with the exception of Union Station, Memorial Park, and Lake (sort of). When the regional connector is built, that will really help the gold line because it will provide more centralized destinations from those residential areas.

  10. Do you know a study just came out that states it can cost up to 75 cents a mile to drive your car with the current gas prices?

    How many miles do you drive to work?

    If you calculate the cost difference, you may want to reconsider taking public transportation. $1.50 is a deal.

    I agree that service should improve, but with the current economic climate, that probably isn’t able to happen for a while.

    It’s time to start writing letters to your representitives in government. More money needs to be directed toward public transportation.

  11. I think everyone is looking at this wrong. Daily and Saturday ridership is only off by 2% but what is really telling is that Sunday and holiday figures are off by 20%. I don’t think unemployment can be an indicator of that data point, so what is it? Using Occam’s razor one would think economy and gas prices are the leading indicators, but with Sunday’s numbers that does not seem to be the case. Metro may want to look into that data to see the drop off.

  12. @Will

    @Will
    My car averages 34 mpg in the city. Even at current $4/gal gas, that equates to 8.5 mi per buck. Even if gas prices went up to $6/gal, I’d still get 5.6 mi per buck. Most rail or BRT stations nearest are within that 5.6-8.5 mi distance, so it’s cheaper for most to drive to the train station than take the bus which can take forever to arrive.

    The bus fare of flat rate $1.50 doesn’t justify it for short rides within 10 mi. Furthermore, the bus is unreliable. When comparing the unknown waiting time for the bus which is a hit or miss luck-of-the-draw between only a few seconds to as much as half an hour for only a less than 10 mi ride, most people will just hop onto their car and go.

  13. As for the Blue Line, I would look at the frequent disruptions in service over the past year or so, due to construction and tie-in activities related to the Expo Line project. On many weekends, the Blue Line has been completely shut down north of Washington station, replaced with a “bus bridge” shuttle.

    “the dude abides”, I think this could explain the lower Sunday ridership.

    These activities, while necessary, have made it very difficult to ride the Blue Line in the evenings and weekends. The bus bridge is very slow and unreliable, I have found.

    The good news is: the Expo Line is almost done, and therefore, so are the service disruptions.

  14. What are the latest figures for the percentage of LA area trips taken by transit as opposed to cars? Between skyrocketing gas prices and the poor economy, I would assume that transit’s share of all trips has been dramatically rising after a long period when the percentage of trips taken by transit has been either declining or only slowly rising.