New USC study on the Expo Line finds those living near the line are driving less

USC Expo Line report by sourcemetro

The new study is above and the news release from USC is below.

The results are certainly encouraging and suggest that a new transit project can influence the behavior of those who live nearby. I think it’s also worth noting that the sample size wasn’t huge — 200 households. I also was struck by the finding that use of the Expo Line was higher among households that were both near the rail line and frequent bus service.

I expect that Expo Line ridership will rise when the second phase between Culver City and Santa Monica opens — at this time that’s forecast for early 2016 — if service is fast and frequent.

Expo Line Drives Drop in Driving

Residents living near Exposition Light Rail stations drove 10 to 12 fewer miles daily, tripled rail ridership after line’s opening, new USC study finds

Dec. 16, 2013 – Angelenos who live near an Exposition Light Rail station dramatically reduced the number of miles they drove and tripled their rail ridership after the opening of the new rail line last year, a new USC study released Monday shows.

Residents living within a half-mile of the new station traveled 10 to 12 fewer miles daily by car – a 40 percent decrease – after the new rail line opened, according to the study.

That same group also tripled their rate of rail travel, from an average of one daily rail trip per household before the Expo Line opened to almost three daily household rail trips after it opened, according to the report.

“Los Angeles has made a large commitment to rail transit, and this study is the best evidence to date that persons near rail lines are driving less,” said lead author Marlon Boarnet, a professor with the USC Price School of Public Policy. “People have been wondering if anyone will change their travel habits in the wake of more rail transit, and this says the answer is clearly yes.”

The Expo Line at the La Cienega station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The Expo Line at the La Cienega station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The findings represent the first experimental study of the effects of a new rail line in Los Angeles. The study’s authors followed more than 200 households over seven-day periods in fall 2011, before the Expo Line’s initial opening, and after the rail line opened in fall 2012.

The households were split into two groups: people who live within a half-mile of an Expo Line station, and those who live farther than that distance from a station.

The researchers asked participants to track their travel by recording daily odometer readings for all vehicles and logging trips by mode of travel. About half of the participants also carried a GPS device and accelerometer to measure their travel and physical activity.

“This is the first before-after evaluation of a major rail transit line in Los Angeles,” said study co-author Doug Houston, assistant professor of Planning, Policy & Design at the University of California, Irvine. “The results suggest that regional plans to target household and job growth towards dense, high quality transit areas are headed in the right direction and could be associated with sizeable reductions in vehicle-related air pollution.”

Among the report’s findings:

• Residents living near Expo Line stations produced about 30 percent less carbon emissions from their vehicles after the opening of the rail line than did residents living farther from the stations.

• Those living near the Expo Line stations who were the least physically active before the line’s opening increased their moderate or vigorous physical activity by 8 to 10 minutes per day, as compared to those living farther away.

• The impact of the Expo Line on driving and rail ridership was largest near stations with more bus lines and on streets with fewer traffic lanes. “This suggests that bus service can increase the impact of rail transit and that wide streets, which can be barriers to pedestrian access, reduce the impact of rail transit, at least in the Expo Line corridor,” Boarnet said.

In 2008, Los Angeles residents approved Measure R, which is projected to raise $40 billion over the next 30 years to fund more than a dozen rail and rapid transit projects. The first phase of the Expo Line opened in April and June 2012 connecting downtown to Culver City and is currently being extended to Santa Monica.

Average daily ridership on the Expo Line numbered 27,603 people in October, up from 21,382 a year earlier, according to Metro.

Funding for the study was provided by the Haynes Foundation, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the Southern California Association of Governments, the University of California’s Transportation Center and Multi-Campus Research Program on Sustainable Transportation, and the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.

For the full report and executive summary, visit

Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects

12 replies

  1. […] A new study by researchers at USC showed that people who live within half a mile of LA Metro’s new Expo Line were driving significantly less—as much as 40% less than they did prior to the opening of the light rail line.  They also drove less, and had a lower carbon footprint than those who don’t live near transit.  This is excellent news, and most welcome to those of us who understand that driving is not hard-wired into Angelinos, but is a result of an infrastructure that has been built almost entirely around the automobile for the past 80-odd years.  The study showed that infrastructure matters.  If we build it right, we maximize the chances that many more people will leave their cars at home and take transit more often. […]