March ridership numbers; Expo Line continues to climb and numbers remain strong for Metro Rail

March ridership graphs

Ridership estimates for Metro buses and rail lines in March have been released; the above charts show the current trends. The takeaway in one sentence: ridership for the Expo Line continues to climb, ridership across the rail system remains strong and bus numbers continue to be flat.

If you would like to see charts with stats recorded in March of the past three years for the rail lines and bus system, please click here.

Metro Rail saw 359,855 average weekday boardings in March 2013 compared to 294,801 in March 2011 — a significant increase. The record for average weekday ridership was 362,091, set in November of last year 362,904 set in June of last year.

Categories: Inside Metro

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32 replies

  1. A suggestion for future posts on ridership: instead of showing only ridership, show ridership by passenger mile or, even better, by service hour. Metro has been quietly cutting bus hours and even axing entire bus routes (e.g., the 42 and the 305). You describe bus ridership as “flat” but if ridership is unchanged despite these cuts, that suggests ridership is actually increasing on a per-hour or mile basis—in other words, the system is getting more efficient. Alternatively, it might suggest that the buses are too crowded and the demand is there to add more bus service. Rail isn’t the answer for every trip.

    • Wally-you forget! Metro HATES ITS BUS RIDERS! Hence the cuts to bus lines, and the INCREASES in light-rail lines that ONLY BENEFIT riders within, going into, or out of the city of LOS ANGELES! I ride on a bus line that has STANDING PASSENGERS DAILY (Line 266!). But the MTA has CUT THIS LINE, as opposed to increase it! I guess because it does NOT go into/out of Los Angeles! If you are a light-rail rider, you get an increase in service! If you are a bus rider, you get treated worse then gum on the bottom of a shoe!

  2. The Silver line’s ridership might increase if it were to go to San Pedro. Any reason why it does not?

    • Hi Mike,

      The Silver Line stops at Harbor Gateway Transit Center due to the high demand there. There is local service to San Pedro (Line 205 being one that runs down Vermont) that feeds into the Silver Line.

      Anna Chen
      The Source, Writer

      • There is also a Line 450/450X that goes all the way to San Pedro, and then to either Artesia (Harbor Gateway) Transit Station, and also to Downtown L.A. Not sure why there is this “overlap” between the Silver Line and the 450450X.

  3. It actually looks like all the HRT, LRT, and BRT lines are on a general upward trend for these three years, except for the Red Line, which is recovering from a collapse in late 2011. However, the regular buses are clearly where the most riders are – the monthly fluctuations in that number swamp the changes in all the rail lines. Is there any explanation for why bus ridership seems to drop every year in December and July?

    • This is only an uneducated blogger guess, but perhaps most people are out of town on holiday during December and July, which could explain the drop in ridership.

      Anna Chen
      The Source, Writer

  4. Crai,

    Because LRT is cheaper to build than HRT. Cash strapped cities need to make do with what they can afford. And building LRT is difficult as it is because of the endless meetings and studies that goes on top of that before a shovel is put to ground. How do you think HRT will stand in this day and age of high labor costs, where everyone sues each other, and concerns from the public about more traffic jams while it’s being built?

    City planning in real life is way different from playing SimCity on your computer. You have to deal with all these headaches to get anything done.

  5. I agree with NYExile about building more HRT Instead of LRT. ALl the LRT lines are so slow compared to the Red and Purple Lines. I think the Red/Purple line averages 32 mph including station dwell time, while the LRT lines average from 18 to 20 mph. I hate how I park at Atlantic and it takes 25 minutes to go to Union Station, while 25 minutes on the Red Line will take me to Universal City station, which is considerably further. Why has LRT become fashionable across the nation while HRT has fallen out of favor? BART and DC’s Metro all use HRT. Original plans in the 60s and 70s called for an all HRT system in LA county.

  6. @Dr. M and Dana Gabbard

    It should also be noted that Metro had earlier said that the bridges (and I assume other infrastructure) of the Orange Line extension was built to withstand the weight of trains. There shouldn’t be a huge engineering job to lay tracks.

  7. @Dr. M

    Precisely, it could be built in stages with the buses running on adjacent streets while rail is built. Metro could apply to have the Orange line buses run in regular traffic; since they already do in Woodland Hills anyway and it’s not a problem.

    Metro could start stage 1 from the Chatsworth Station to Woodland Hills, or if Van Nuys is selected as LRT they would probably start near that line for a connection to resources and storage of rail cars.

  8. Dana Gabbard that is an interesting point. However, if Metro is willing to tear up Wilshire to dig a subway trench I don’t see them shying away from dicing up the center median of Chandler to lay down rail. It seems to me that while the Orange Line guideway gets fiddled with they can reroute the buses onto a nearby parallel street as a stopgap measure. It wouldn’t make people happy (neighbors and riders both) but would be worth it long run.

  9. Did Metro under estimate the Expo ridership when doing the study? I ask because Metro over estimated the Gold Line ridership numbers. Was there a change in how Metro estimated the ridership numbers after the Gold Line mistake?

  10. Dr. M, the disruption of converting the Orange Line to light rail probably precludes a conversion. Platooning of buses (running in pairs) is an attempt to increase capacity within constraints due to cross traffic concerns of the L.A. Dept. of Transportation.

    Atheistically Yours, folks in Long Beach, Pasadena, Culver City etc. also pay the sales taxes that fund the system and deserve to enjoy the benefit. No increase in # of buses on any line? Attend a Service Council meeting for your area and ask about service levels or e-mail You may find the response illuminating.

    • Dana-I HAVE attended a “Service Council Meeting” (In the San Gabriel Valley!), MORE THEN ONCE, and no more USELESS BODY EVER MET! These MTA “Service Councils” are a COMPLETE WASTE of time and meeting space since BUS RIDER CONSIDERATIONS are not at all considered, and NO SUGGESTIONS are ever acted upon (e.g. the SGV needs MORE BUS SERVICE NOW on Lines 70, 266, and 270! The SGV “Service Council” IS aware of this! Has anything been done? NO!). A complete WASTE of time and space is what these so-called “Service Councils” have proved to be!

  11. All these “numbers” do is show the BIAS of the MTA towards the light-rail (that ONLY BENEFITS those going INTO OR OUT OF Los Angeles!), and against bus riders, who NEVER SEE ANY INCREASE in number of buses on any bus line! PATHETIC!

  12. Bus and rail appear to have opposite seasonal effects: bus ridership is lower in the summer months, but rail is higher. Any idea why? Do schools generate bus traffic but not rail traffic?

  13. I think expo is really catching on. My good buddy, a Frenchman, recently bought a place near the Sees candy. I was properly impressed with his decision, and how much willingness he has to ditch his car to visit. We both live a few blocks from a train and it’s great; not to mention another buddy of mine living near MacArthur park station. We all wish it was a bit faster, but overall, it’s pretty a care free ride for the both of us. My buddy used to never ride metro, now he does at least twice a week, and will ride more when the Santa Monica portion opens.

  14. It’s telling that the Red line has by far the most riders of all the rail lines, despite having a relatively short length. People like using it because it functions like a “real” urban subway.

    When more HRT/subway lines open (Purple Line, hopefully more) you’ll see all those numbers climb I think.

  15. Except for the Expo (rail) and Silver (bus) lines, the charts show that ridership is basically unchanged across the system. So why do you say ridership across the rail system “remains strong” while bus numbers “continue to be flat.” A more objective statement about the charts would say that both bus and rail remain strong or that both are flat.

    • Hi Wally;

      Because 359,000 or so average daily riders is among the highest numbers that Metro has seen — it has only been higher in a few other months.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  16. So the Orange Line carries about 30,000 riders per day. It feels more like 300,000 riders per day. Taking the Orange Line, at least to me, has become unpleasant because of crowding on the buses and at the stations, particularly in NoHo. At what point is the line considered to be running “at capacity” or “over capacity”? Do you have a fixed number for those thresholds? At what point is Metro going to consider upgrading their busiest busway to light rail?

  17. Wow this is great! We’re almost at the same ridership levels of BART. When phase two of the Expo line opens up we’ll definitely surpass BART ridership numbers.

  18. How much is Metro’s daily bus ridership affected by the timing of school Spring Breaks, which tend to coincide with Easter, which is a movable feast? Easter was on March 31 this year, but is usually in April. Are year-to-year comparisons of March and April bus ridership comparing apples and oranges?

    • Hey Jeff;

      Good point and the chart indicates you’re probably right. I tend to take more stock in overall ridership levels – the low and high — and whether numbers are trending in the right direction. On that count, bus numbers have been flat so the policy question is whether that number could go higher and if so, how?


      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  19. Silver Line ridership can strongly increase if it does not charge a premium fare on the l-110 Freeway. There also needs to be ads and information surrounding the freeway stations so that people can become aware of the line.

  20. With gas prices still over $4 per gallon, it just makes the decision NOT to drive more attractive.

  21. Looks like Metro rail is beginning to experience the multiplier effect of networks where each additional node brings in more traffic than itself is responsible for. Also, the fact that bus ridership is staying the same means that bus resources are being managed efficiently and that rail isn’t cannibalizing bus ridership.

    The Expo’s growth regardless of the time of year is very heartening.

  22. I’d be curious to see these broken out by hour, and boardings by station

    • Hi Jason;

      Metro does have stats by station — I just don’t have recent enough numbers to post but I’ll try to get something together in the future. I’ve seen the numbers before — basically nothing too surprising. The stations that look really busy are, in fast, the stations with the highest number of boardings!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source