A few weeks back I noticed an interesting chart on the America Public Transportation Association [APTA] website on how long people had been riding transit. The chart was compiled using data provided by local agencies across the U.S.
In particular, I was struck by their numbers showing that a lot of people — about 30 percent of people surveyed nationally — had been riding transit continuously for one year or less. That suggests that for whatever reason(s), people are willing to try transit.
I posted a similar poll on The Source. As of Thursday, there were 364 responses and the results are above. That’s not exactly overwhelming and certainly not scientific.
With those caveats, it’s still intriguing to compare our numbers to the numbers from APTA. In our poll, about 15 percent of those who responded said they had been riding transit continuously for a year or less and 70 percent had been riding continuously for two years or more.
In other words, there seems to be about twice as many relative newcomers to transit nationally than there are for Metro based on these two surveys.
What’s this mean? Two medium-sized thoughts:
1. I’m not entirely persuaded that almost a third of transit riders in the U.S. are newcomers to transit; here are some issues raised by the California Transit Assn. Likewise, I’m guessing that our poll’s numbers reflect that The Source’s readership is biased toward longtime transit riders (not that I’m complaining!). In other words, there’s always the chance both surveys are flawed and this means nothing.
2. If the numbers in any way reflect that Metro isn’t attracting new riders at the national pace, my best guess is that it’s because Metro’s transit network still has some big holes to fill.
In particular, there’s no rail to the Westside, the part of Los Angeles County with the second-most number of jobs outside of downtown L.A. and UCLA, which attracts students from across the region. Nor, of course, is USC connected to the rail system yet — although that will soon change with the opening of the first phase of the Expo Line and its three stations in the Exposition Park area.
I think the college angle is important because young people, in my view, are probably less likely to be married to their cars and more likely to give transit a try. Other Measure R projects will also serve some local colleges: the Gold Line Foothill Extension will have a stop adjacent to Citrus College and Azusa Pacific University in Azusa. Expo Line Phase 2 should have good bus connections to Santa Monica College. And
What are your thoughts? Is Metro doing enough to attract and keep new riders? Leave a comment please.