PowerPoint: Metro’s ridership challenges

Above is a recent presentation by Metro staff that drills down deeper on the issue of ridership. Ridership on Metro increased three percent overall between 2010 and 2014 (including a 21 percent increase on Metro Rail) but has declined on both the agency’s buses and trains since last April. (The latest monthly ridership estimates are here).

What’s happening? Some highlights of the presentation:

•There appears to be no correlation between gas prices and Metro ridership.

•There is, however, a correlation between employment and ridership on Metro Rail, the Orange Line and Silver Line.

•Ridership began declining in April; the fare increases and changes last year didn’t take effect until mid-September.

•Overall Metro bus service has declined by three percent since 1985, yet the number of boardings per hour on buses has fallen 25 percent in that time. But it’s not like bus service in Los Angeles County is in short supply. Muni agencies in Los Angeles County in 2013 were providing more than three times the service that they did in 1985.

•Bus ridership has fallen more steeply at a national level and at other local bus agencies than at Metro.

•When car sales rise, so does Metro ridership — which may be counterintuitive. The reason: the more people that are working, the more people need to get to work, even if by different means.

•Although not in this presentation, this statistic matters: for every trip not taken on Metro, the system actually loses 1.6 boardings — because many riders would have transferred.

•One other nugget from Metro staff that is perhaps relevant: although the percentage of Metro buses arriving on-time increased between 2010 and 2014, the number of complaints increased slightly from riders about buses that never arrived, buses that were off schedule or buses that passed them by. That probably results in some people no longer riding.

•Keep in mind there are likely some other factors at play with ridership on the rail side in the past year, including greater fare enforcement, service delays (particularly on the Blue and Green Lines), cutbacks to rail service due to maintenance and improvement projects (Blue Line and Red/Purple Lines) and the fare increases that took effect last September.

The Metro Board is, not surprisingly, very interested in the issue and four members — Eric Garcetti, Paul Krekorian, Ara Najarian and Hilda Solis — have authored a motion to be considered by the Board at its March meeting on Thursday. The motion directs Metro staff to find new ways to improve existing service, offer new services and better market Metro. The motion is posted below.

There have also been some past Board motions that cover similar ground. Here’s a staff report from 2012 in response to a motion by Board Member Michael D. Antonovich on improving the Metro customer experience. And here’s an Antonovich motion from 2012 asking Metro to better coordinate schedules for transfers between Metro, Amtrak, Metrolink and other muni bus agencies.

As for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1, a few things to keep in mind. Metro is planning to run the same amount of bus service in FY 2015-16 as in the current one and anticipates starting service on the second phase of the Expo Line to Santa Monica and the Gold Line Foothill Extension to the Azusa/Glendora border. As a result, Metro’s operating budget is expected to grow by five percent to approximately $1.5 billion.