Metro ridership update: systemwide up over a year ago and new record month for Gold Line but bus numbers remain flat

Update, 1:45 p.m. — three Metro Rail lines had record numbers (Gold, Blue and Red/Purple) and more info about how rail ridership is calculated have been added to the below post. 

 

Metro has released its ridership statistics for July. Bottom line: systemwide ridership is up  over a year ago, bus ridership is slightly less than it was in July 2010 and rail ridership is up 8.9 percent, with increases on all four lines.

And for the first time since it opened in 2003, the Gold Line averaged over 40,000 average weekday riders (42,900 to be exact) this past July. That’s about double the average weekday ridership the Gold Line had in July 2009, before the Eastside Gold Line opened and added to the line’s ridership. In addition, over the past couple of months, the Gold Line has been running more frequent and longer trains during the morning and afternoon rush hours. The Red/Purple Line subway and Blue Line also set monthly records and the Green Line had its second-best month.

It’s important to note, however, that buses have automatic counters that tally ridership. Metro Rail does not have those counters and monthly ridership is calculated based on rolling averages of counts done in the past month and and over six months prior. So the July numbers likely reflect earlier trends during the year — such as the spike in gas prices this spring.

On the bus side, it’s interesting that ridership is about the same as a year ago, despite two rounds of service changes in the past 12 months, including some service cuts. As we’ve said in the past, high local unemployment could also be a factor: Los Angeles County’s unemployment rate was 12 percent in June and the number of people without jobs had increased from the previous month. The U.S. unemployment rate for June was 9.2 percent.

Here’s a look at rail, bus and systemwide ridership over the past two years:

Rail Systemwide Ridership Estimates

  July 2011 July 2010 July 2009
Average Weekday Boardings 349,432 306,180 305,988
Average Saturday Boardings 204,340 201,586 191,879
Average Sunday and Holiday Boardings 169,499 170,480 163,424
Total Calendar Month Boardings 9,027,329 8,290,110 8,430,487

Bus – Systemwide

  July 2011 July 2010 July 2009
Average Weekday Boardings 1,093,577 1,100,260 1,136,753
Average Saturday Boardings 755,267 747,375 761,906
Average Sunday and Holiday Boardings 554,388 555,422 560,696
Total Calendar Month Boardings 28,974,201 29,619,433 31,234,512

Systemwide Ridership Estimates

  July 2011 July 2010 July 2009
Average Weekday Boardings 1,443,009 1,406,440 1,442,741
Average Saturday Boardings 959,607 948,961 953,785
Average Sunday and Holiday Boardings 723,887 725,902 724,120
Total Calendar Month Boardings 38,001,530 37,909,543 39,664,999

 

Charts showing ridership on the Orange Line, Red Line, Blue Line, Green Line and Gold Line are posted after the jump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


45 replies

  1. Oy vey.

    It’s not the unemployment numbers; it’s the stupid flat rate fares on buses. People work in lots of places throughout the city, not just in Downtown LA. They live in apartments in the inner core and they work at Starbucks, Ralphs, restaurants, gas stations, and retail stores etc. all over the city. Ridership numbers remain flat because it’s not capturing these short distance commuters. No one is going to pay $3.00~$6.00 just to get to/from work when they live less then 10 miles away; it’s cheaper and faster to drive, bike, scoot to these places. Buses are competing with these guys for short rides and it ain’t grabbing their market share.

    You want ridership numbers to increase, they need to cheapen bus fares for short distance riders. Time to introduce pay only the 10 cents per mile using tap-in/tap-out on buses I say.

  2. I don’t see fares being as low as $0.10 cents per mile. Having ridden BART which runs on distance based fare model that charges a base fare $1.75 and adds to that based on how far you go with extra service charges if you cross the bay or going into the airport. Granted BART serves longer distances than bus do so the base fare should be higher but I could see a LA Metro charging anything from $0.50 to $1.00 base fare with additional charges based on how far you go. A $0.10 base fare seems to low to me.

  3. Great news for the Gold Line, wait until the extension opens up to Azusa (2015) and ridership will increase dramatically. Great news.

  4. Wow so metro still has to estimate Metro Rail numbers. We need to get as many people off paper passes and move them to TAP ASAP so that rail ridership can be counted from TAP validations and ticket vending instead.

  5. Steve,
    Can you please elaborate on the following quote in your article: “Metro Rail does not have those counters and monthly ridership is calculated based on rolling averages of counts done in the past month and and over six months prior. So the July numbers likely reflect earlier trends during the year — such as the spike in gas prices this spring.”.

    I did a quick calculation for the July Red Line numbers. Metro shows the following:
    Weekday: 171,163
    Saturday: 92,171
    Sunday/Holiday: 74,186
    Total Calendar Month Boardings: 4,329,229

    July has 20 weekdays, 5 Saturdays, and 6 Sunday/Holidays. If you add these up you come up with 4,329,231, which is just 2 off from the “Total Calendar Month Boardings” number that Metro provides.

    If the July ridership really does reflect data from previous months that is somehow “averaged” in to come up with the July number, then why does the result so closely match the “Total Calendar Month Boardings” unless that number doesn’t really show what it says that it shows (i.e. people getting on the train).

    Thanks,
    Robert

    P.S. We discuss these numbers on a regular basis on the Transit Forum, so I would like to be clear on just what is going on here.

    P.P.S. If Metro could provide the actual real numbers and the calculations that go into whatever gets reported on their web site, that would be great. We are just trying to get accurate counts, of real train riders.

    • Hi Robert;

      The issue is that buses have the automatic counters in their stairwells; the rail system, as you know, doesn’t. As it has been explained to me, the Metro Rail numbers are based on counts done at different locations and on different trains for several months.

      So the issue is this: the July numbers aren’t just a reflection of people who got on trains in only July. The methodology, as I understand it, is the same month to month, allowing for meaningful comparisons of which way ridership is going.

      But these are estimates, not hard counts. As for getting accurate counts, I’m not sure how that happens until everyone is on TAP.

      Hope that helps. Probably not the answer you’re looking for. I’ll pass along your comment to the relevant folks.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Hi Ryan:

      There isn’t a separate chart for the Silver Line and the Purple/Red Lines are combined, which makes sense given the Purple Line only has a few of its own stations.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. It baffles me why Metro still has to estimate the number or riders in this day and age. Hello? We’re in 2011 already, ten years into the 21st century.

    All these problems can be solved if TAP is fixed right, we move onto distance based fares, and start collecting data with a tap-out process. Every single sucessful transit agency from transit oriented cities like London to Tokyo does this. Why can’t Metro do it? Oh that’s right, because it’s so much easier to keep taxing everybody and not doing anything!

    1. There is no incentive for Metro riders to move to TAP. Metro needs to drill this into their heads. That’s how businesses work. You need an incentive to make new things work. What does TAP offer me in advantage to switch to TAP? Lower fares? Discounts? Not just “we dediced to go this way so sucks to be you.” Bzzz, need to learn Marketing 101.

    If there’s no incentive, people will just stick to what works. Provide “a pay as you go for $0.10 a mile with $1.50 cap” model for TAP users and people will switch to TAP in no time.

    2. There’s no “tap-out” process to collect data on how Angelinos travel around the city. All we have is a tap-in process that says John Doe got on at bus/rail stop A. There’s no data collection where John Doe taps out to see that he got off at bus/rail stop B along with 300 other riders throughout the day. Without collecting data on where people got off, all Metro has to rely on is guess work where the big riders are, where the frequencies should be prioritized and where they’re making transfers at.

  7. Good point Y, but I can think of a much easier way to collect that info without any additional cost to Metro. Since nearly everyone has or will shortly have a smart phone, people could “opt in” to allow Metro to track their transit use by way of the GPS receivers in their phones. Metro could even give riders discounts if they “opted into” the program, there is some incentive right there. Metro would then collect some very useful real time data.

    Another thing is, you kind of have to look a couple years ahead before spending any kind of big $ on hardware to make sure that it isn’t going to become completely obsolete. The entire TAP system was rolled out just before smart phones started becoming universal. I could easily see in a couple years, the technology will be available to allow someones smart phone to be their TAP card. And I’m not talking “wave your phone in front of the machine” either, I’m talking a system whereby at station entry your phone connects automatically to the Metro fare payment computer, with no effort on your part other than having the Metro “TAP Card” Application installed on your phone.

    The beauty of that implementation would be that the same hardware could be used to see which station that you get off at. If you had a distance based fare structure it could easily make that computation when you exited the system. It could also be used on buses. Live, real time, unlimited ridership information. Thats the holy grail…

    Robert

  8. RE: Mr./ Ms. Y. Fukuzawa,

    Speaking for myself and perhaps others, if all you are interested in doing is bashing Metro each chance you get why don’t you get your blog? Yes, yes, yes we have all read how you have lived in London and Tokyo and other parts of the world and how their systems are much better. How can we forget, you remind us every chance you get. News Flash: You now live in LA and this is the transit system we have. If you do not like what we have then please move again. I, and maybe others that read this blog are tired of all your rants and bashing comments on this site which is why I am finally posting a comment.

    Also, when other visitors to this site have a question, who the hell made you the moderator?
    I thought it was Fred Camino and Steve Hymon that run this site. Just chill. Maybe you if you watch some repeat episodes of The Oprah Winfrey show, your outlook will hopefully turn from bitter to positive.

    -Mr. Esparza

  9. @Robert

    I can see that working with NFC enabled smartphones which the smartphone works like a TAP card, but as a standalone GPS device I have my doubts that it’ll work by itself.

    For one, smartphone apps are very user based which can vary from person to person. Not everyone uses twitter or facebook, not everyone is willing to let corporations collect GPS data everywhere they go. That’s called big brother looking over your shoulder and it’s tantamount to invasion of privacy. If it didn’t catch on in Japan which has been using GPS with built-in contactless feature on their phones since 2000, it ain’t going to work here either. The technology ain’t new, it’s been tried out in Japan 10 years ago and it never caught on. No use wasting time trying to reinvent the wheel again.

    Number two, enabling GPS feature 24/7 just drains the battery of the phone. I’m not sure everyone is going to keep the app on 24/7 just so it drains the battery for Metro to collect data. Battery technology hasn’t improved as much in the past twenty years as opposed to what smartphones can do. What then? Add recharging stations at every bus stop and rail stations? The money it takes to do that might as well just be used to add in a TAP-in/TAP-out machines.

    Number three, how is a GPS enabled smartphone going to work underground in subways? GPS satelites reception doesn’t work underground so you have technological restrictions there too.

    Thus, there has to be a halfway point. A data collection scheme that doesn’t invade a person’s privacy too much, but a process that can track how Angelinos travel about the city.

    The only option I see is tap-in/tap-out as it’s done elsewhere. At least that way it’ll only record “TAP card user #XXXXXXX got on at bus/rail stop A at 0800 2011/8/15 and got off at bus/rail stop B at 0830 2011/8/15.”

    In contrast, a GPS enabled smartphone will record sensitive info like “Google user xxxxx@gmail.com living in XXXX Any Street got out of home at 0700, made his way to a McDonald’s at YYYY Any Street at 0730, bought a cup of coffee and a Egg McMuffin, got on a bus/rail stop at A 0800, got off at bus/rail stop B 0830, made his way to work at ZZZZ Any Street at 0845….[end transimission because battery died out at 1500]”

  10. Smart phone users in Tokyo can already do most of what Robert’s talking about.

    Of course, the smart phone apps can’t replace the Suica card completely (Tokyo’s TAP, only much more powerful), because even in Japan not every transit rider has a smart phone.

    Also, waving your phone at the fare gate seems much more accurate and reliable than automatically deducting fares; what if you walk too close to the Gold Line station entrance on the way from the Red Line to Metrolink?

    TAP definitely needs a “TAP in, TAP out” like Y Fukuzawa suggests, and I think a distance-based fare would work.

  11. @Mr. Esperanza

    Wait, wait, I thought we lived in a democracy where I’m entitled to free speech on a public board to point out my grievances against a public transit system that is being run with my tax dollars. What you say sir, is a dangerous idea of “shutting out dissident” tantamount to becoming totalitarian socialist society.

    All I’m doing is pointing out all the common sense approach to making public transit right with less taxpayer burden by providing examples from successful public oriented cities like London, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Singapore. That is the goal that LA Metro wants right? “We want to change our lifestyle to a public transit oriented society.” That’s the message that has been spread throughout the decade.

    What more do you want for a person who actually lived and seen how they work in London and Tokyo, and provide a background rationale on how their system is run? You can’t have both “we want to become a public transit oriented society like London and Tokyo,” but “oh but we don’t want to break a sweat doing it so let’s just keep on taxing everybody and keep raising fares; we want to become like London and Tokyo, but we’ll use the excuse we’re not London and Tokyo when someone tries to point out our inefficiencies.”

    You want LA to become like London and Tokyo, a public transit oriented society, then you need to learn how transit works over there. That includes learning the rationale of why they use distance based fares over flat rate systems, actually working to get the job done right, instead of gimme gimme more tax money!

    If you don’t like the idea of distance based fares, all you have to do is make a proper rebuttal that makes sense, not say “shut up, move away.” If your rebuttal does not make any sense, I then will come back with another rebuttal. That’s how things work in democracy. Not “shut up, fork over your damn tax dollars, we get to decide how to use it sucks to be you.” That is not democracy.

  12. Yes,
    A Tap-in and Tap-out system gets Metro the exact information that they need, and would also enable them to do zone based fare charging. And like you pointed out, the hardware already exists to implement it, only a software change is required.

    Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, most of the light rail stations aren’t equipped with entry/exit fare gates where they could “force” you to do the Tap. BART in SF is a good example of where Tap-in and Tap-out was implemented from the start. You slide your ticket in for entry, and in again when you exit. In LA, you would have to rely on people to Tap-out when exiting, which will never get 100% cooperation. I did just use the Allen station of the Gold Line, and noticed that they had a couple fare gates installed with the TAP capability right there. I ended up getting a paper ticket (no current Tap card) and just walked through.

    Trying to add fare gates to all the current stations would be impractical, and then there is the whole idea too that some handicapped people would have trouble if that were done for a variety of reasons.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with my phone letting Metro know where I am and what modes of transit I used. I can certainly understand why a lot of people wouldn’t want that kind of information readily available to anyone given all the hacking going on these days.

    Robert

  13. Actually, adding in tap-in/tap-out terminals could be done relatively cheaply today. The hardware would only cost $300 per bus at max.

    The concept is no different from a fare meter of a cab.

    Tap-in records where you got on the bus. We already do tap-in already so no fundamental difference here.

    Tap-out deducts proper fare based on distance traveled from the odometer difference. Put up a sticker sign that says “remember to TAP out or you’ll be charged full fare.”

    If a person forgets to tap-out, the next tap-in will deduct the full $1.50.

    This fare system makes a lot more sense and from an IT perspective, it’s relatively easy to implement. Let’s get it done.

  14. Steve, why have APCs (Automated Passenger Counters) not been installed on the rail cars? Does it have something to with avoiding laying off the remaining schedule checkers?

    • Hi Chris;

      I have no idea, but I doubt it has anything to do with protecting any jobs — as we reported last year, Metro is hardly immune to layoffs. My best guess is that rail cars have wider doors than buses and it’s harder to accurately get an automatic counter to work, especially given how many are simultaneously entering and exiting trains. Seems to me the better bet is to get counts off a ticket/gate system, but there are challenges there, too.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  15. @Robert

    Right, adding fare gates across every station does seem impractical now, but it has to be implemented sooner or later. Looking the other way isn’t a solution that can be shoved off onto the shelf collecting dust waiting for the problem to figure itself out on its own; the problem will just get keep on getting worse as transit ridership numbers increase.

    We have some of them now at many stations for the purpose of automating fare jumpers, but yet many haven’t been locked. And some of them use turnstile gates instead of wider fare gates; nothing suggests fare gates can’t be built wide enough to let wheelchair passengers and those with huge rollerboard luggage go through; SF BART fare gates that uses the Clipper Card and Boston’s MBTA fare gates that uses their Charlie Card were built with that idea in mind. In contrast, look at the Metro Green Line station at Aviation/LAX; it uses a narrow turnstile which makes no consideration of those with large rollerboard luggages to LAX.

    Granted, tap-in/tap-out fare gate implementation should’ve been done from the start, but adding them now would save millions more later (where’s that money going to come from?) when we have a full system in place. Imagine if the Gold Line gets extended to Ontario, the Crenshaw Transit Corridor gets built, the Red Line goes to Santa Monica and the Expo Line goes all the way to Venice; it just gets costlier to add them to more stations. We can’t rely on an open honor system forever if public transit riders are to increase; imagine what Tokyo JR and subway lines and London Underground would be like without fare gates; total chaos. Tokyo and London didn’t wake up one day with millions of riders using public transit everyday and they scrambled to install fare gates across the board, they did that from the start. OTOH, if you go to an open honor system, you get the Athens Metro in Greece, and we all know how well the Greek economy went. Don’t want LA Metro following the path as the Athens Metro.

    For what it’s worth, Metro is plagued with poor planning of running a public transit agency. You bring up a great point about how our light rail stations were built with no concept of this in mind. All these issues needs to be dealt with first instead of taxing everyone more assuming that more taxes will solve all of Metro’s problems.

  16. @ Y Fukzawa

    I still think the “Metros Fares are killing short trip ridership” is a bit of a red herring. Your comments have prompted me to do some research on Tokyo and London’s fare structures to see how they compare to LA’s. I also researched a Japanese bus provider that operates outside of Tokyo to get a better understanding of distance based fares on buses.

    Mass Transit in Tokyo

    Tokyo Metro
    Fares Range from 160 to 300 Yen/ $2.08 to $3.92 USD

    Toei Subway
    Minimum Fare 190 Yen/ $2.48 USD

    Toei Bus- The Largest Bus Operator in Central Tokyo
    Adult Flat Fare 200 Yen / $2.60 USD

    Other Japanese Bus Provider
    Gifu Bus
    Base Fare 200 Yen with additional fare for extra distance / $2.60 USD + additional fare for extra distance traveled

    Mass Transit in London

    London Underground
    Zone 1 Fare to Zone 6 Fare

    Non Oyster Card
    4.00 to 5.00 Euro/ $5.77 USD to $7.22 USD

    Oyster Card
    Peak: 1.90 to 4.50 Euro / $2.75 to $6.50 USD
    Off Peak: 1.90 to 2.70 Euro / $2.75 to 3.90 USD

    Buses in Central London

    No Oyster Card
    Flat Fare: 2.20 Euro / $3.18 USD

    Oyster Card
    Flat Fare: 1.30 Euro / $1.88 USD

    None of these fares has the comparable equivalent of $0.10 per mile. They have base fares that are rather close to our $1.50 the only difference is that they charge long distance riders more not short distance riders less which helps them to earn profits or reduce operation subsidies. It seems that both London and Tokyo moved away from charging distance based fares on buses in their urban cores. It seems that distance based, at least when it comes to London and Tokyo, are more about making longer trip riders pay more not short trip riders paying less. London also penalizes non Oyster Users with higher fares. As for buses that operate on distance base-fares in Japan, at least with the case of Gifu, they have a base fare that is comparable in price to our 1.50 flat fare. The only crime I can see Metro committing is not charging higher fares for going longer distances so it can be less dependent of subsidies.

    References

    http://www.londontoolkit.com/briefing/underground.htm
    http://www.londontoolkit.com/briefing/buses.htm
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2015.html
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2375.html
    http://www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp/eng/services/bus_ride.html
    http://www.jref.com/practical/transportation_tokyo.shtml
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gifu_Bus

    Note: I know wikipedia is not a credible source but I don’t read Japanese so I can’t verify the information on Gifu’s website so Im just goint to assume that the info on fares is mostly accurate.

  17. Here’s my take on tap-in/tap-out on a software programmer’s perspective:

    1. Add a field on TAP for transit agency. Say LAMETRO, CULVERC, SCVT, SMBIGBLUE. This avoids the problem of one regional transit agency using a different fare system over another. This way, a person using his TAP card on a tap-in/tap-out distance fare system on Metro won’t have problems when using the same TAP card upon riding the flat rate Culver City Bus. Even though Metro and Culver City both uses TAP, it’s relatively easy to segregate between two different fare methods from a programming perspective.

    2. Many of the newer buses already have those automated announcements that speak bus stops. Wiring that info to a tap-in/tap-out reader isn’t that difficult to do.

    3. All buses have odometers; a simple programming can be done to have (odometer reading upon tap-out = A) minus (odometer reading on tap-in = B) = miles traveled to deduct proper fare per distance traveled.

    4. Capping at a max of $1.50 is easy math. If (A-B) x $0.10/mi < $1.50 deduct that amount, if not, only deduct $1.50. This way short riders pay only $0.10 per mile up to a max of $1.50 and it won’t deduct more than that every ride.

    5. Concept #3 & #4 isn’t much different from a cab meter which has been used for decades.

    So this is how a tap-in/tap-out system on buses would work from an IT perspective:

    1. Bus rider gets on a Metro bus at Bus Stop A. He/she taps in as it’s already done right now.

    2. TAP records: TAP card user ######, [transit agency=LAMETRO] [bus number=###] [bus stop name=data from talking bus stop announcement] [odometer reading] [date & time]

    3. Bus rider gets off at Bus Stop B. He/she taps out

    4. TAP records: TAP card user ######, [transit agency=LAMETRO] [bus number=###] [bus stop name=data from talking bus stop announcement]] [odometer reading] [date & time], TAP automatically deducts fare based on odometer difference in $0.10 increments up to a max of $1.50

    5. Bus rider gets on a Culver City bus at Bus Stop B. He/she taps in as it’s already done.

    6. TAP records: TAP card user ######, [transit agency=CULVERC]

    7. TAP recognizes transit agency is not LAMETRO, therefore it’s not on a distance based system. It deducts 75 cents flat rate.

    This provides many benefits:

    1. Metro gets to collect transit ridership data on where TAP users got on AND off (without discretionary private info like a TAP user's name and address or his/her private life patterns) allowing them to see hard data on how Angelinos move about the city.

    2. This data can be used by Metro to increase frequencies where needed and reduce those where it’s not. It can also be used to see which transit stops are “more heavily used” over another at which time of day (weekdays? Weekends? During peak transit hours? Or off peak hours?) along a particular route, allowing them to add limited and express services as needed.

    3. It allows Metro to continue using TAP independently over other regional buses until they decide to do so as well

    4. It provides a low cost way to implement cheaper pay-by-the distance fares to short distance riders to gain that market share and increase ridership.

    5. Introduction of lower, “pay by the distance” fares provides an incentive for people to switch to using TAP instead of continued reliance on paper passes.

    With all these benefits in hand, I can understand the rationale why Y Fukuzawa has been pushing for distance based fares. It just makes good sense over flat rate fares that doesn't offer any of these.

  18. I think the one thing missing from all these schemes to make distance fares work is simplicity. You want a system that is easy for the rider if you want to capture discretionary patrons. Considering when buses are busy taping out seems that it would slow down the process of embark/debarkation. I think metro should focus on improving the TAP system and do a detailed analysis of these other schemes.

  19. Public transit is not immune to the rules of economics. Continued faith on flat rate fares has its downsides, just like my former home city, NYC.

    Do you know how ridiculous subway and bus fares have become on the NYMTA? It’s now $2.50 per ride and more planned fare hikes are on the books in 2013 and 2015! Now $2.50 is a deal for those going from JFK/Jamaica into Manhattan, but for the next station or two, it’s a rip-off. $5.00 roundtrip to visit my dad living two stations away? Heck, I’d be better off just biking there.
    All flat rate fares have done for NYC is fare hikes over another, further pushing more New Yorkers to choose the bicycle or investing on a scooter to get short distances. I hardly see this flat rate system bringing in ridership increases if it makes it unfair for short rides.

    So I need to ask you anti distance based people these three questions. A simple yes or no answer.

    Q1 “Is it fair for a person who only needs two buses to get to from work over a distance of 5 miles, to pay $6.00 a day (or $5 using a day pass) over another one that rides a single bus end to end for 20 miles and only pays $3.00 roundtrip?”

    Q2 “Or would that person just ride a bike?”

    Q3 “If that person chose to ride a bike, did Metro lose ridership by alienating short distance riders?”

    The whole flat rate thing is a scam that only benefits long distance riders and makes the system easy to implement to the transit agency just so they can continue to be ever so tax dependent instead of doing work. It needs to end. Now.

    I don’t want my new hometown going the way of NYMTA; I moved away from NYC so as to avoid that mess. But all I’m seeing is LA Metro making the same exact mistake as NYMTA. What’s next in LA Metro’s playbook? Fare hikes to $1.75 across the board for everybody? If that happens, then it’s an oh-oh.

  20. @the dude abides

    We already have people paying their bus fares in permutations of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters taking up huge time and frustrated people in line as it is now.

    Everytime I see these people I sigh in frustration why these people can’t load up $10 onto their TAP card and just tap-in. It’s so much faster that way. Tap in/tap-out takes what? Less than one second?

    For what it’s worth, tap-in/tap-out makes things more faster. Get those people paying their fares with wads of coins moving to TAP via an incentive like cheaper “pay per distance fares” and things will go much smoother.

  21. 160 yen as a base fare is actually pretty reasonable when you consider that a McDonald’s hamburger is 100 yen.

    The dollar’s lousy exchange rate makes everything seem more expensive.

    Either way, a distance-based fare does make more economic sense. TAP cards would take all of the complexity out of it.

    And I do think TAP out makes much more sense for rail than for buses, where the boarding process is obviously different.

  22. @Ronny

    Here’s my take from an IT perspective. Once you implement distance based fares, adjusting fares later will be just be an easy software upgrade.

    $0.10 per mile at a cap of $1.50 gets people using TAP by offering a cheap incentive of “pay less for shorter rides.” It also adds the benefit of making Angelinos used to the idea of tap-in/tap-out as other cities around the world as well as capturing the short distance ridership market instead of making them pay $1.50 for a short ride.

    Metro can run on a $0.10 per mile with $1.50 cap variable rate for five years or so. If they see it increasing ridership and doing its job of recuperating operating costs fine.

    If not, there’s a lot of things that can be done on a microscale like, raise the cap to $2.00 but reduce it to $0.08 per mile. Or increase it to $0.15 per mile but keep it capped at $1.50.

    The ability to make “fine tuned” adjustments become possible on a distance based model.

    It doesn’t necessarily have to be always $0.10 per mile at $1.50 cap. For all its worth it doesn’t even have to be in $0.10 increments either.

    But starting out with a $0.10 per mile $1.50 cap on tap-in/tap-out system is a great way to introduce the distance based fare concept.

  23. Maybe we need a new way of counting passengers on rail. Yeah, TAP/the fare gates are a mess and embarrassment. Yes, LA’s fare system needs a major revamp.

    But hey, more people are riding rail! Wohoo!! I never thought I would see the Gold Line over 40,000! These numbers are astounding and something to be celebrated!

  24. I suggest Metro to beta test distance based fares on a particular bus route for like a year, say like the heavily traveled #720 line from Downtown to Santa Monica and show us a compare/contrast data.

    1. Add tap-out hardware near the exit of the buses.

    2. Market it like “On #720 bus route, pay less for short rides by using TAP!” This will bring in short distance riders on the #720 route instead of alienating them to bicycles.

    3. TAP users benefit by being charged $0.10 per mile capped at $1.50

    4. Cash fares will remain $1.50 flat rate; if riders want to take advantage of lower fares on the #720 bus, they need to start using TAP.

    5. Collect data from tap-in/tap-out to see how transit riders move about on the #720 route

    6. Compare ridership statistics between the #720 bus versus a similar one on flat rate

    7. Then decide if it’s worth it to go distance based on other buses and to rail lines.

  25. What if there is not enough on the TAP to cover the distance based fare? Does the rider need to see the BUS driver to add value as they leave?

    How will these distance based fares effect daily, weekly and monthly pass pricing?

    Metro has already said that TAP capping is currently not viable. We all know it is just a software fix, but you know it is Metro.

    Zones make more sense than per mile basis. People don’t want to always do the math on their ride to see how much it will be. Zones define the cost up front.

  26. @the dude abides

    In NY, NYMTA buses and subways show how much value is remaining on the card as we swipe our stupid flimsy MetroCard at the farebox.

    It’s the same in Boston’s CharlieCard; upon tapping in, a screen says “you have $5 remaining.” If you wish to add more, just go to the add value machine and add more money to it.

    There’s also no technological gap as to why anyone can’t top up more money using their smartphone or calling in a specific number to enter in “TAP number XXXXX, add $10 from VISA debit card number ####-####-####-####” with the keypad on one’s cell phone. I do it all the time to load up a Starbucks card.

    And I think you’re underestimating (even insulting) that Americans can’t do math.
    That is not true; we do math all the time if it benefits our wallet, just like how it’s cheaper to buying soda in bulk at Costco over buying it day after day at a vending machine.

    If distance based fares benefits us with cheaper fares, people will do the math. I have a smartphone that shows the distance from point A to point B and just as easily multiple $0.10 by the miles between the two.

  27. And just an interesting comparison –
    Angels flight ride is 298 feet. On a per mile basis the 25c ride would be $5.00.

  28. @the dude abides

    Does Angel Flight get anywhere in the city other than up and down Bunker Hill? The distance for the all riders using Angels Flight is fixed for everyone. 298 ft distance is not going to change from rider A to rider B for those that rider Angels Flight. Rider A gets up 298 ft, so as Rider B gets up 298 ft. It justifies a flat rate.

    OTOH, it’s totally different on buses and rail. Rider A and rider B have different travel needs so the distance traveled varies between each rider. Rider A travels for 5 miles, while Rider B will need it for 20 miles. Hence, flat rate fares is not fair for Rider A to pay $1.50 for 5 miles when Rider B gets a deal to pay the same $1.50 for 20 miles.

  29. One mile is 5280 feet. Angels Flight is .05 miles long.

    Also, you could link TAP cards with bank accounts to do automatic TAP card reloads, just like San Francisco does.

  30. From the gist of it, a New Yorker tells us that flat rate fares are not working in a dense urban city like NYC; it only pushed fares higher and drove people away from public transit for short distance rides.

    And it’s not working in a spread out city like LA either; there’s probably a good reason why we see more bicyclists and motorcyclists on the road today; the cost doesn’t justify short riders to take Metro for short distances. Even the data on this article shows that bus ridership numbers are stagnant.

    Maybe it’s not the economy, maybe it’s the fares, stupid?

    It’s time we take a serious look at what fare systems other cities around the world use. It’s worth a shot to research and rationalize how much of a difference distance based systems make from flat rate. Just by listening to tap-in/tap-out systems will enable Metro to collect true transit ridership data is worthwhile in itself to make transit more efficient on where they are needed the most.

    And from what I make of it, distance fares isn’t all that new. It’s being used in places like London, Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, and all around the world one way or the other and they’re all great public transit cities.

    Compare that to public transit in the US where majority of them are run on flat rate and they all pretty much suck, put two and two together and then there’s probably a basis to it.

    thesource needs a great article on this matter. The topic just keeps coming up and it’s not going away; more people are becoming fed up higher fares and higher taxes. It’s time we start looking at this matter from all ends and it’s worth it’s own in-depth article.

  31. I love the idea of beta testing “pay less for shorter rides” for TAP users.

    Metro should consider that as a option. Can’t Metro work with Cubic to test this out? It’s never been done before but the concept written here seems practical to do given today’s technology.

    It’s worth testing it out; I’d definitely ride the bus more often if it didn’t rip me off $1.50 for a short ride to the bank 7 blocks away.

  32. Rail avoids getting stuck in street traffic so it has an advantage over buses. That’s why ridership on rail is increasing.

    In contrast, buses still get stuck in traffic and needs to stop at traffic signals so ridership remains flat.

    Buses have no advantage over car. I still have to wait for the bus, the bus still gets stuck in traffic, and Metro expects me to pay $3.00 on two buses just to get to work for 5 miles? The heck with that, I’d still drive or ride my bike instead.

    As Ken W said, “it’s not the economy, it’s the fares.” The entire fare concept has to go back to the drawing board. They can’t diss out short distance riders over long distance riders, it needs to be more fair.

  33. Beta testing the distance fare idea that’s been discussed here would get me to ride the bus more.

    I only need to use the bus from Normandie & 3rd to Normandie & Olympic.

    My current options are: pay $3.00 roundtrip everyday for that short 1.2 mi distance or bike.

    I choose to bike and save that $3.00 for lunch.

    If they make the trip cheaper for that short ride, I’d take the bus and Metro would be earning several cents more in revenue.

    But since they charge $1.50 per ride, they get nothing.

  34. I’m a student from Singapore. Singapore started using distance fares on buses last year so it’s not impossible.

    They hired consultants from Japan who’ve been using distance fares on buses since the 1970s to help bring this idea to reality.

    In all, there’s nothing confusing about it. Just as everyone said, all you do is tap-in when you board and tap-out when you get off. No more looking for exact change, the card deducts the fare automatically based on distance. It’s not hard, it’s really easy.

    If Singapore can do it, there’s no reason why Los Angeles can’t. If they can’t conceptualize, they just need to ask Japan on how they did it. Videos on how distance fares works in Japan and Singapore is up on youtube. No need to travel to Japan or Singapore. Isn’t technology wonderful?

    Distance fares on buses reduced Singaporeans’ bus fares by 2.5%, ridership has increased and made the system fairer as we now get to pay less for shorter rides.

    Los Angeles needs to stop looking at failing examples within the US and start looking how other countries have been running it. This includes learning about their fare system which is the main revenue stream of public transit.

    You can’t build a good public transit without rationalizing the fare system.

  35. I always wonder if buses and trains in LA ever make any money by making everyone pay $1.50.

    I understand now it doesn’t and that it’s only to make more taxes. I thought so because it’s so much different from what I am used to in Japan.

    In Japan, I only pay 5% sales tax but we have good train system because everyone pays on how far they ride the train and bus.

    But here, I pay near 10% sales tax just so bus and train cost $1.50 and the system is really bad. I don’t think LA’s idea is working.

    LA need to learn from Japan; people pay fair price because travel distance is different for everybody, sales tax keeps low, and have better system.

    It is not fair for everyone to pay the same price when travelling distance is different from person to person. I don’t want to pay for more sales tax just because they don’t want to do work when answer is already there.

    Start with ten cents but no more than $1.50 per travel distance is a good idea. This should be tested out immediately. Any small changes can be made later.

  36. Doesn’t anyone else remember when Metro’s 11th-hour-thwarted plan to implement zone fares on the Blue Line in the ’90s? *That* sure went over well…

  37. @DSM

    Because Metro has no marketing skills. Back then they tried to implement that, they used the “rail doesn’t get stuck in traffic like buses so people have to pay premium prices for that service” tactic. Didn’t work because people couldn’t conceptualize it. Gas was still cheap.

    Times are different today. But Metro could use better marketing skills to sell it right this time and you’d get approval from the people. Instead of saying “pay more for longer rides,” you sell it as “pay less for shorter rides.” In all it means the same thing: introduction of distance based fares, but it sounds more different if you mention “pay less for shorter rides” (sounds like people get a deal) than “pay more for longer rides” (sounds like people get ripped off).

    And by selling it as “$0.10 per mile to $1.50 cap,” you solve the issue of anyone paying more than current prices. If anything, most people will end up paying less and at max no one will be charge more than $1.50 as it is now. That’s how you get approval from riders, you sell the idea of distance based fares to Angelinos, and they become used to the idea of paying per distance as in other places.

    After everyone have gotten used to it, all Metro has to do is tweak it later.