One of the most persistent criticisms of Metro by critics in recent times is that the agency is spending too much money on building new rail lines and that rail lines do nothing to grow public transit ridership. In particular, some people and groups have complained that new rail lines have triggered the elimination or consolidation of certain bus lines.
Over the past few months, Metro Service Planner Scott Page — a 23-year veteran of the agency — combed through dozens of documents in order to better understand the impact of the opening of Metro Rail lines on the agency's ridership. Scott focused on bus lines that ran parallel to rail lines that were either completely discontinued or modified so that the bus line became a feeder line to the rail station.
His conclusion: ridership on Metro Rail lines is considerably higher than on the buses that previously served corridors where rail was built. This suggests that the idea that Metro Rail is harming ridership simply isn't true. If anything, the data suggests the opposite — that rail appeals to and serves a broader spectrum of the taxpaying public and that the rail lines have created an integrated system in which buses are still important and compliment the growing rail system.
Some background: Before the Blue Line opened in 1990, Metro's predecessor agencies only ran buses. Today, Metro operates 183 bus lines serving a 1,433-square-mile area with an average weekday ridership of nearly 1.1 million. Metro's five rail lines have a total of 87.7 miles of track and have an estimated 351,000 or so average weekday boardings.
Below please find a white sheet written by Scott as well as a spreadsheet with bus and rail ridership numbers.