An interesting new study (above) from the Mineta Transportation Institute looks at total transit ridership along the Expo Line and Eastside Gold Line corridors.
The gist of the findings: in the first year of service, overall ridership was up along the first phase of the Expo Line but down on the Eastside Gold Line. The study suggests two possible lessons:
1. Changes in bus service that are coincident with the introduction of new light rail transitcan negatively affect the overall transit ridership in the corridor. The immediate effect of bus service changes along the Gold Line extension appears to be related to net “bus plus rail” ridership declines in that corridor. The net transit ridership effect along the Expo Line corridor was an increase in ridership, possibly because bus service was not reduced by the same magnitude along the Gold Line extension.2. Households living near new Expo Line light rail stations reduced their vehicle miles traveled (VMT), but those households living near bus stops that were eliminated increased their VMT. This is not definitive, but it suggests the possibility that bus service is a complement to rail transit service, at least for driving reduction.
Obviously, the study has its limitations, the foremost being that it only looks at a relatively short time frame after both rail lines opened. The latest numbers from Metro indicate overall transit ridership is up along the Eastside Gold Line. If nothing else, the study’s findings suggest buses are an important part of the first mile/last mile solution to getting people to and from rail stations — hard to argue with that.
One other issue, I suspect, is that the Eastside Gold Line is relatively short at six miles. The Expo Line travels to the very busy 7th/Metro Center Station in the heart of job-rich downtown L.A. whereas the Eastside Gold Line requires a transfer at Union Station to reach the densest parts of DTLA.
Related: Metro in 2012 also looked into similar issues in a staff report and found that overall ridership increased in four rail corridors studied: the Blue Line, the Red Line, the Green Line and the DTLA-Pasadena Gold Line. In the case of those four rail lines, Metro found that ridership overall increased in the respective corridors even with significant changes to bus service after the rail lines opened. Again, not a shocker — all those rail lines are high capacity, frequent and high ridership lines.