Crowding on the Gold and Expo Lines

If Gold and Expo Line trains have seemed more crowded to you lately, that’s because they are. The Gold Line is seeing more riders since the opening of the extension to Azusa. And Expo is more packed since the line is now only running two-car trains, due to fleet maintenance and rail cars being used for testing on the extension to Santa Monica.

But are all the Gold and Expo trains jam-packed and over capacity? Are we all crushed on board like sardines in a can?

Well, no. Perception is subjective: let’s talk about how crowded the Gold Line really is and how crowded the Expo Line will be when it opens to Santa Monica on May 20.

First, some important backstory. In Oct. 2009, after a year of negotiations, a deal collapsed for Metro to purchase 100 new rail cars from the firm AnsaldoBreda. The purchasing process then had to begin anew and Metro signed a deal with the firm Kinkisharyo in April 2012 for an initial order of 78 light rail vehicles to be delivered by early 2017.

While that was happening, the Gold and Expo extensions were being built. That forced Metro to make a decision: delay the opening of the extensions until the 78 new rail cars were delivered and put in service or open the lines with shorter and/or less frequent trains. Metro chose the latter, deciding that it was better to provide service now rather than let completed projects sit idle.

Through late March, Metro has received 23 new rail cars and a new rail car are expected to be delivered roughly every week. But new rail cars do not go directly into service. It takes time for Metro to ensure the cars are up to spec and break them in. To be blunt: Metro’s fleet of light rail vehicles is stretched very thin at this time with most trains running with two cars. Trains on the Gold are running every 12 minutes between Sierra Madre Villa and Azusa and Expo Line trains will run every 12 minutes between downtown L.A. and Santa Monica.

And that, as some of you have noticed, has led to some trains being more crowded than in the past.

My take on it: I’ve been a regular Gold Line commuter between Pasadena and Union Station for the past five years. I usually ride south between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and back north between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Even before the Foothill Extension opened, there was some crowding and sometimes I had to stand.

Standing isn’t a big deal for me. I don’t mind leaving seats open for those who need them and I don’t like being squished in those three- and four-seat rows. Plus I spend too much time on my behind in my office cube anyway. Finally — perhaps because I work for Metro — I like seeing a lot of people riding mass transit.

Trust me, I am seeing what happens on our system firsthand and I’m also hearing it from you: part of my job is monitoring the agency’s social media. I read and respond to your tweets, etc., about being packed in like sardines, comments about it being unbearable, how everything is bad and nothing is good and is it going to be like this forever on the Expo Line and Gold Line?

The answer is: probably, to a certain extent. Adding stations to a line should result in more riders. While we DO have new rail cars arriving, it doesn’t automatically mean that every train will suddenly be longer. There are various reasons why not every rail car is placed into service. Some are in rotation for regular maintenance. And there are still some restrictions we must follow that impact frequency — things such as signal crossing coordination with local cities and train speed regulations.

Maybe a longer train means everyone gets a seat, but the thing is…that’s not really our goal. We’re not Amtrak and we’re not an airline. We’re a mass transit agency in the second-largest metro area in the nation. We want a train that carries more people than just the number of seats.

A screen grab of a Google image search for "Tokyo Compression," which are photos by Michael Wolf of crowding on the Tokyo subway.

A screen grab of a Google image search for “Tokyo Compression,” which are photos by Michael Wolf of crowding on the Tokyo subway.

Certainly we don’t expect trains to be as packed as they can get in Tokyo or Shanghai or Taipei — places where I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy mass transit in all its jam-packed glory. But our trains are wider than buses and were built to accommodate people standing.

Does this make some people unhappy? Sure, especially if they were used to sitting. But we need to get used to this new reality. If you’re going to ride at peak hours or other busy times, you may have to stand, and you may even have to stand close to someone else.

Metro Rail Operations staff is always monitoring load factors to make sure the situation doesn’t become unsafe. We have staff at stations when there’s a need. You may have seen staff in yellow safety vests at Union Station during the afternoon rush hour assisting Gold Line passengers. We’ll probably do something similar at some Expo Line stations after the extension opens.

Is there room for improvement? Of course. That’s why your feedback is important, and you should continue to provide it via Twitter, Facebook or by emailing Customer Relations. There are also little things that make traveling with a lot of people a little easier — not crowding around doors or blocking seats with bicycles or backpacks. Another option is adjusting your schedule and/or commute time.

But on the matter of crowding, I think we could be on the cusp of a paradigm shift. The long-running joke about there being no transit in L.A. is old and stale and wrong. We have plenty of transit and clearly people are riding. Metro will try to add capacity to its system, but we also want the mass in mass transit to happen.

Because that’s what a world-class system is: one that lots of people are using.

Follow Anna on Twitter for more transit musings and other misadventures.

131 replies

  1. Good write up on a problem everyone knows about. My suggestion is to put
    up a few large Bill Boards along the Gold Line that say. “If you feel like a
    Sardine you can blame Ex Mayor Tony and current Supervisor MRT. They
    played politics with the new car order and delayed the order by three years.
    That is why there is rail car shortage. MTA’s staff knew what would happen
    but the Political No nothing Board of Directors did nothing but talk” No one
    seems to take responsibility for their mistakes.

    Alan Weeks

    • If I was a gambling man, I would bet that such a billboard is unlikely at this time. Then again, I am not an advertising expert. 🙂

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Is 3pm “peak times?” Because the Expo Line is running short trains at 3pm and 5pm and at 6pm, and cramming people in regardless of the time, and you’re saying that it’s only going to get worse? The Expo was delayed yesterday afternoon because Metro was running trains with too few cars, and every stop took forever for people to cram in. This is not “successful” mass transit. It’s taking a line that i could and did recommend to others and making it a joke.

    • A more accurate statement would be that its going to get worse before it gets better. When Expo Phase 2 opens to Santa Monica on May 20 the ridership demand on Expo will skyrocket, but the service will likely be constrained to two-car trains every 12 minutes, even during the peak periods. (All of the other light rail lines increase service levels to one train every 6-8 minutes during the peak periods.) There’s no way to predict how the new riders (and the existing riders for that matter) will react to the crowded conditions on the full line. For sure they (we) will send a lot of nasty messages to Metro complaining about the sardine-like conditions. Many will ride once and immediately go back to their comfy commute on the 10. Others how have schedule flexibility, will adjust their schedules to avoid the crowds. Eventually (6 months?) Metro will have enough new cars to lengthen the trains to three cars. Later (next summer?) Metro will have enough new cars to increase the service frequency to 6 minutes (with two-car trains) during the peak periods.
      What a wonderful world it will be!!!

  3. Thanks for this post. As a long time lover of public transportation (most of my adult life in San Francisco), I was thrilled with the Foothill Extension and can’t wait until it opens in Claremont. I have been a tweet complainer and I really appreciate the timely responses. I try to remember to tweet the good stuff too but you know that people mostly take the time to complain! I agree with Oscar above that people need to learn to ride public transportation—if you are standing, move to the center of the train! Also, experienced transit riders know to take their bags/backpacks off their shoulders and hold them down by their feet when walking through a train or standing. Bags on shoulders take up more standing space and often whack people in the face! The parking issues are very disappointing. It doesn’t make sense that Metro and the cities didn’t anticipate the demand for parking. People coming as far as Rialto are driving to take the Gold Line Extension! Additionally, I’m hoping that the trains will start to run on schedule reliably. I’m often waiting a half an hour for an inbound train at Azusa downtown. They really need to run every 12 minutes with some regularity for it to be useful to get to work. As it is, I have to plan on getting to work half an hour early just to be there ontime. I want my half an hour sleep!

      • That’s an interesting article. I wonder if Omnitrans would consider extending the 290 Express service by ~10 miles to connect Montclair to the Gold Line in Azusa. They could use this to close the gap until the Gold Line is extended to Montclair. I think there’s plenty of parking available at Montclair. Another option would be for Foothill Transit to truncate their 690 Express to feed the Gold Line instead of travelling all the way to Pasadena.

  4. Maybe it’s time the MTA employ “pushers” like they do in parts of Japan. They stand on the platforms wearing white gloves. They push passengers in with all their might until the doors can close. Problem solved! …just kidding.

  5. I’ve been led to understand that the Expo line was intended to open with 6-minute headways, at least before the railcar shortage situation became clear. If that’s the case, is there any talk of running 1-car trains every 6 minutes instead of 2-car trains every 12? This uses the same amount of railcars, provides the same capacity, but also provides a better level of service sine trains are more frequent.

  6. Why not replace the four seats per row with benches along the wall of the train like in other countries? Then you have a lot more standing room. I agree that not everyone needs a seat all the time. But a more efficient use of space is a no-brainer.

  7. I think part of the solution to the crowding problem is for riders to move and stand further into the aisle instead of staking out their territory in the doorway area. And for people with bikes to enter in designated areas with their bikes as well.

  8. Who is it that we can complain to regarding the road connection at the APU Citrus station? I am not understanding the politics of why it hasnt been finished. Some comments say its Rosedales responsibility, other comments say Metro gave money to Azusa. Nothing is going to get done unless enough people voice their concerns.

    • Hi,

      That construction is being done by City of Azusa and Rosedale developers. It is expected to open this summer. Feedback may go to City of Azusa.

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Souce

  9. @Anna, i agree with you conceptually…i get on the gold line at DT Azusa although i live closer to APU. Usually i get a spot to sit at Azusa but land up offering my seat to someone by Irwindale / Duarte. On my way back home in the evening, i don’t even bother looking for a seat. I am fine with standing the 55 minutes or so each way.

    My bigger issue is and i would tie it to the “crowding on the Gold Line” concern is the parking fiasco at APU and Azusa DT and now probably even at Irwindale. APU parking is filled before 6am, there is no street parking and its not walkable for most of the Glendora (or beyond) residents. DT Azusa parking structure has some ridiculous constraints in terms of 3 hour parking, city parking and FT specific permit parking – all that resulting in significant spillover on the streets around the station or now at Irwindale.

    There has been no comment / update / feedback from Metro on the parking situation beyond “we are aware of the issue” and every passing day just adds to the frustration.

    • Hi ND,

      I would say that there’s been no update because there…has been no update. The lots and structures have been built and currently there are no plans to expand/rebuild them to increase capacity. Parking on the surrounding streets and at Azusa DT is something that would need to be negotiated with each city. Staff is aware of the parking issue and is searching for ways to mitigate, but there is nothing concrete to announce at this point.

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

      • Thanks Anna, i am sure i am oversimplifying, but one resolution, although partial could be to do away with the artificial constraints for 3 hours parking etc in the Azusa DT parking structure..or at least reduce the # spots reserved. It will not address the overall deficiency but at least will be a good start.

    • When the Foothill extension opened I figured it would take a couple weeks for commuters from east of Azusa to figure out that the Irwindale station was more accessible from the 210 and has more parking spaces than the Azusa stations. Has that happened, or is there still room to park at Irwindale?

      • I don’t have the official data at this time, but anecdotally it seems Irwindale is more or less full at this point.

        Anna Chen
        Writer, The Source

  10. One quick suggestion, especially for the “bike” areas – why do we have “subway straps” only on our buses and not on our trains? The grab bars over the open areas, especially on the red line, are much too high for many people, and subway straps would give those standees something to hang on to.

  11. Why can’t we just have trains that have open gangways so you can go from one train to another? We’re the only country in the world that doesn’t do this. Why? Is it because of some stupid red-tape bureaucracy issue?

    Also, Metro should start seriously considering distance based fares. It’s simple supply and demand economics, if the demand for longer trips is high and created over-crowding but supply, or spaces on the train is low, the Econ 101 answer is to make people who travel longer trips pay more. Charge the people travelling Azusa to Downtown LA to $3.00 one-way while Pasadena to Downtown LA is $1.75, you’d see less overcrowding.from people getting on at Azusa and hogging up all the space all the way to Downtown LA, while keeping more room for Pasadena commuters.

    • Distance based fares wont solve anything. Someone getting on in Azusa for $3 is still far better than driving from Azusa to DTLA, and then paying $30 for parking.

      The gold line is still cheaper than the silver line bus ($2.50). If anything, all light rail users should be paying $2.50 or more one way.

    • We just opened the Foothill extension, and already some people are talking about discouraging ridership, while others are dissing the new line as a giveaway to districts that will never end up using it.
      All before March ridership numbers are published.
      Amazing! Some people are never happy.

  12. i get the excuse and understand the reasoning, but when you’re rolling out a new product you better make sure it’s ready and comfortable on the 1st day for all your new customers giving mass transit a try. 1st impressions are important and lasting. i started riding the metro again after taking about a year off and did notice the insane amount of ppl on the train recently. i don’t mind standing, but if i were a new customer and wanted to try it out to/from santa monica (when it opens), my impressions would not be too good and depending on commute, may get back into my car and the comforts that it offers.

  13. I can live with the crowding (it’s a good thing!) but can’t take reliability issues. Last Saturday, took us 45 minutes from Monrovia to Staples Center. It took us over 2.5 hours for the return and we started at 7th/Metro! The story we got was a train vs. car at SW Station 3 hours prior messed up the schedule due to trains sharing a track for a bit. Whatever it was, had 4 packed trains to SMV depart Union Station, then a “test train” with Citrus/APU placard show up. Nice! Except we get to SMV only to have the driver leave and a minute later a Metro employee come onboard to tell a half full train that the cars we were in now were going back to Union Station. You had a number of very upset folks! The next eastbound train came in about 5 minutes only to be followed by another train maybe 5 minutes or so later. I’m just glad this wasn’t late at night (after 11pm) and I wasn’t alone!

    Keeping a good schedule as much as possible is what is going to help gain ridership. You have to make it worthwhile for people to leave their cars at home. Unreliable travel times make it challenging.

    • This is something I told a Metro employee at SMV before. The cars arrive at LAUS saying APU/Citrus but then arrive at SMV with the operator saying this was the end of the line for them.

  14. Thanks for being frank about this. Transit nerds saw this coming since the AnsalsoBreda deal collapsed in 2009. I’m actually surprised at how well Metro is keeping up with limits on rolling stock in the system.

    The biggest drawback from this situation are the new Foothill Extension riders who store their cars in Azusa and try out Metro for commuting. These suburbanites aren’t use to close quarters, sharing space, or standing in isles for nearly an hour to get downtown. I worry about the same negative culture shock when the much anticipated Expo Line Phase II opens as a driving alternative for Westsiders.

    The Three-car sets on the Gold Line in the mornings ans evenings are great but are too rare at this point and hard to predict. Is there any set schedule for the times they run? Also, the new complete train car advertising wraps that cover the windows are not helping. Obscuring the windows with ads make it hard to see into the train and determine crowding levels and space availability during those split seconds when a train pulls into a station. That said, I’m loving the new accessibility the Gold Line and Expo Line extensions are bringing.

    • Obscuring the windows with ads is a terrible idea. Not only does it make it difficult to see how crowded a car is, it feels claustrophobic — yet another reason for some to avoid Metro if they have a choice.

    • Yes, the Red Line, being heavy rail is definitely spacious, though it still does become crowded in the downtown area. For those from the San Fernando Valley who ride the Red Line, some of them transfer from even smaller sardine cans known as the Orange Line.

  15. This is precisely the kind of attitude that puts people back in the comfort of their cars. Cities with crammed mass transit systems are simply (and vastly) different from L.A. You assume it’s just about changing people’s attitudes, but if that were the case we would have had a more successful mass transit system here a century ago. Here – for a multitude of reasons, chiefly involving geography – if we have to be crammed together, we choose to do it in a car. The train must offer an alternative to being mashed together or ridership will drop (after the initial expansion bump). But, as a longtime Gold Line commuter, myself, I do appreciate learning how self-righteous our Metro employees seem to be about urban planning, not to mention how paying customers should think.

    • We did have a successful transit system here a century ago. It was ripped out when it was decided it was no longer in fashion.

    • Someone doesn’t know their history. The Pacific Electric when it started by Henry Huntington was the largest mass transit system in the world with over 1,200 miles of track. It was so influential in the development of Southern California that most of the freeway systems we see today was built over the remains of the Pacific Electric.

      The only reason why it fell out of favor was because it was privately held, and thus it always lost money because it didn’t have government subsidies. Not to mention most of the right of way trackage was bought by General Motors, who subsequently ripped off the trackage and replaced most of the interurban trains with buses.

      The metro and Metrolink of today are loosely descended from the Pacific Electric, since many of the light rails use old PE tracks, and Metrolink trackage is almost identical to PE’s old routes. If only Metrolink was an electrified interurban system, then it would start hitting the greatness of Pacific Electric.

      Don’t mind me, I just love history of the Pacific Electric and I did do my undergrad thesis on the rise and fall of the Pacific Electric.

  16. The headline in this story should just be “Metro given billions to build transit, then cannot do its job.”

    Working as a reporter – on Oct 23 of last year, I specifically posed this question to Metro: “Will Metro have enough cars to start service on Expo”?

    I got this answer Oct 28 from Rick Jager: “We will have enough rail cars to operate the extension when we open.”

    That answer now is different: essentially it’s two car trains be glad you’re not in Shanghai.

    • That answer is still true. If it wasn’t, Metro would not be able to open the Expo extension in May. You didn’t ask him if there would be enough cars for everyone to have a seat at all times.

  17. I agree with a lot of the comments on here. I, too hate the crowding, but understand it’s part of taking mass transit. Although, I wish there was a better solution to the bike issue. Maybe something similar to Portland’s MAX cars where bikes are hung from hooks instead. That being said, I enjoy being able to sit or stand and read a book rather than sit in traffic staring at brake lights. My question, however, is regarding the decision to run only every other train to APU. It seems like far more people are going to Azusa than to East LA, so why not have every other train to to Atlantic, and every train go to Azusa? Is my perception of ridership off due to the fact that there are in effect two train-loads of people ending up with me on the Foothill extension versus the one to Atlantic?

  18. I may be getting ahead of myself here, but if that Sepulveda Pass project ever comes to fruition. being that it will take the 405 route, should the cars be Light rail or heavy rail like the purple and the red lines? I think they were discussing light rail cars, not sure based on the capacity of that route if that will work, thoughts?

  19. Overcrowding for the short term, while you buy more rail cars is understandable. Overcrowding as a permanent goal is wrong.

    Yes, all members of the public should be encouraged to use public transit (unless they live in an isolated area, such as the desert). But public agencies should make long range plans to accommodate all of those people. It is not unreasonable to be comfortable while commuting to work. And it will make it tougher for you to lure passengers from private cars, if your trains and buses are significantly more uncomfortable than a private car.

    You are like the tail wagging the dog, when you tell us to adjust our work hours or commute times. Many of us have no control over those factors. Should hospitals close for a portion of the day because Metro can’t bring in medical employees? Should downtown office buildings welcome criminals for a portion of the day, while security officers adjust their work schedule to suit Metro’s taste?

  20. How the expectations have fallen! In LA,people would rather drive than take the sardine train. Why should I suffer and stand when I can drive and enjoy my space! Metro should be offering a better experience if they want people to ditch their cars and take public transport. Also with the Goldline coming to the northern section of the SGV the southern section of SGV is losing bus service. 190/194 for those who don’t know

  21. I’ve been riding the Gold line for almost 9 years now and it’s always been crowded during rush hours. Not many people get a seat if you catch Gold from S Pas to Union. At times no seat starting from Del Mar. So it’s not surprising that the opening of the Asuza extension made it more crowded. Hopefully there will be a relief next year when new cars arrive in service.

  22. There might be more seats available if passengers were educated to not sit in the seat next to the aisle and leave the seat beside them next to the window empty or having their belongings there. As a disabled passenger who can not always get a senior or disabled seat; I resent people leaving the seats near the windows empty and forcing others to stand because they are rude.

  23. I’ve complained, but not so much about the overcrowding as about the reliability. I’m big on keeping the promises that are made. So, if you are posting that 6 car trains are coming (something posted on The Source previously), then they need to show up. If you post a timetable with trains running every 12 minutes, I shouldn’t see that the next train isn’t arriving for another 20. It’s the little things.

    On the other hand, anytime I’m grumpy about standing with my elbow in somebody else’s ribs (I hope that’s their ribs), I look out the window at the 210 and I’m instantly reminded that it’s not as bad as being stuck out there.

    • As a blue line rider, the most frustrating part is to see our 3-car trains turned into 2-car trains to meet the demand of the Gold and Expo lines. The Blue Line has ALWAYS been crowded, and now it’s even worse! I’ve basically had to stop riding my bike, since it’s so hard to get on and off the train now, so my commute is 30 minutes longer than it was!

    • Amazing that Metro seems so concerned about crowding on Gold and Expo trains, totally ignoring the most “sardine-can” like experience on all of Metro: the Blue Line. l[Duh!] But of course, it is mostly minorities riding the Blue Line, so maybe that fact accounts for Metro’s lack of concern about grotesque overcrowding.

      It is shocking that it now appears to be Metro’s own incompetence that caused the lack of new cars and the consequent overcrowding.

  24. I ride the Gold Line six days a week, commuting from Azusa.

    The trains are crowded which to me is good because it means that LA residents are looking for alternatives to the overburdened freeways: by the way, any Gold Line rider will tell you that even at its peak the train is far less jammed as is Fwy 210 Eastbound at the 605

    • Bikes should not be allowed on trains during peak hours. They add to the crowding problem.

  25. Well, I come from Shanghai, it’s completely different from LA. The LA rail system does not have a large network, probably because the funding is different. So expansion of network is much easier in Shanghai. To be frank, metro rail line does not travel pretty fast because it uses light rail trains and is operated by drivers instead of automatically. Some portion of the gold/blue/Expo lines share road with vehicles or have street intersections. All these factors limit the speed of the train. When I take green/gold line along the freeway during off-peak hours, cars catch up trains easily. It’s probably the light rail train sucks. In Shanghai we have wider train so it could travel much faster(maximum speed about 60miles per hour). Also the network is a crucial factor. More lines means more accessible to the destination. I know LA population density is vastly different from shanghai and downtown area in LA is much smaller than shanghai, but I still think it is worthy to build more and more rail lines to attract riders. Just like rapid 720 along Wilshire, even in Shanghai I haven’t experienced 5 articulated buses arrive at the same time, it was so crazy!! But the purple line still hasn’t extended. Metro ought to provide a large rail system and reduce travel time to make it more user-friendly.

    • I’ve been on the subway in Shanghai. It’s very impressive looking.

      It’s also a disaster waiting to happen. Do you know about the leaks that occurred within 6 months of the opening of the new line under the river? After just 6 months of use, the newest line in the system had to be completely shut down and repaired.

      How about the crash that occurred on (I believe) line 10 in 2011? These two events were within a couple of months of each other.

      Say what you want about the LA subway, but it sure is safe.

      • Hi George, I thought you mistake something. I’ve never heard of leaking tunnel after operation. Are you referring to Line8? It was shut down because the tunnel under the river was pretty close to another tunnel in construction called South XiZang Road Tunnel built for 2010 Shanghai Expo. The vibration of trains would affect the construction of another tunnel so this cross-river portion was closed for a short time. But Shanghai metro did experience some accidents. In 2005 during construction of line4, the foundation of a tall apartment building right above the underground was sliding down, residents were evacuated. No injury reports. Then the building was dismantled. There were some accidents due to signal systems. Prior to line 10, another crash occurred on line 1 during peak hours and the whole line service was suspended for several hours. Another incident also happened on line 10, the train went wrong direction due to signal system. Imagine a blue line goes to Expo line after Pico! The crash on line 10 delayed the plan of automatic driving. Line 10 began automatic operation 2 years ago and travel time was reduced. Even some accidents occurred due to signal, there is no reason for us to abandon it. Still, signal system enables trains run much faster. If LA blue and expo line could have their own tunnel, they do not have to wait for green light anymore, and trains could travel faster more frequently and on-time performance would be greatly improved.

  26. FYI your Facebook link sends people to the “metro la dance club” page not MTA Los Angeles but hey, anything to get ridership up I guess 😉

    • Hi Tracy,

      Nice catch! So many similar account names out there…it’s been fixed. Thanks!

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  27. Seems funny to complain (or celebrate!) crowding when ridership on the rail lines has been *falling* over the last two years.

  28. More Trains!!! By the time this gets to Highland Park/Lincoln Heights the trains are full and no standing room!
    And I heard that they are going to expend this to Claremont eventually?! What then??

    • In case you missed it, this is mostly a temporary issue. More rail cars are coming!! It’s not always going to be like this.

      “And I heard that they are going to expend this to Claremont eventually?! What then??”

      Purchase more rail cars accordingly before the extension opens.

  29. I used to drive to La Cienega/Jefferson station and take the train into downtown to connect with the Red Line to Union Station. Lately I’ve been taking the local 37 to downtown instead since the trains are packed and slow.

  30. I think the comment about the bicycle is interesting but you have to realize that most people need the bicycle to mitigate the first last mile issues. While some may be able to park their cars at a station a lot of lower income or environmentally conscious people decide to do the world a favor and cycle from home to the station. We should really be thanking those people for not adding to the pollution! I do agree, however that metro should consider better options for bicycles since they have increased significantly since I’ve started taking the train!

  31. If you are handicapped with a walker or a wheelchair, (electric or manual), you can forget about riding the Metro trains

    • William Jennings – I sure hope you are not serious. I know a lot of riders can be jerks, but I have seen people give up seats for elderly and I have seen groups squish together to make room for wheelchairs. I hope we are good enough to make a small sacrifice for someone who has to struggle every day just to get around.

    • Good questions. I’m not an expert in logistics and I was just throwing out ideas (which i think they were looking for?) but I assume Metro employs lots of people that are logistics experts. I believe they also employ a chief innovation officer (or similar.) I’m sure that combined brain power can take my rudimentary and simplistic idea and improve on it. No reason to leave ideas off the table is what i figured!

  32. I can very reluctantly get behind the idea of this crowding being the price of riding at rush (But, no most of us cannot adjust our work hours. Lucky you if you can though!)

    That said, there has to be some quid-pro-quo for us sardines living with the crowding. Here’s some ideas:

    1) Not allowing bicycles/suitcases/scooters/etc during rush

    2) Lowering fares during rush

    3) Sending 1 car S/B on the Gold Line and 3 N/B during PM rush given demand is over-whelming North bound 4-7PM (and the inverse in the AM)

    • Hi Barry;

      I think your idea of reverse surge pricing — lowing prices when the demand is highest — is both counter-intuitive and extremely interesting. Might be one more incentive to get people to try transit at the busiest times of the day for roads and freeways. Thanks for commenting.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Steve – happy to help. I figured that one was a non-starter, so pleased to see your positive response. Don’t rule out #3 either.

        And I know that bikes are here to stay, but we all need to have a very serious talk about how to manage them, because the status quo sucks. Some riders are responsible and just have nowhere good to stand, which needs to be figured out. Some riders are just irresponsible and their bikes are dangerous to other riders which also needs to be figured out.

    • Barry: Unbalanced service isn’t a viable option for most light rail systems, especially when they have a shortage of rail cars. If Metro sent a one-car train southbound from APU to Atlantic, where would they get the extra two cars for the return three-car train to APU? and once that three car train returned to APU, where would they leave the extra two cars for the next southbound trip? Unfortunately, most transit lines between a city center and the suburbs are less efficient because of the unbalanced demand. The Blue Line to Long Beach and the Expo Line to Santa Monica are two exceptions because they have large attractions at both ends of the line.

    • “send 1 car S/B on the Gold Line and 3 N/B during PM rush”

      Sorry, but this is also an idea that will do more bad than good. Yes, those peak-direction trains are packed and yes the reverse peak trains are empty. But those reverse peaks are still peak direction trains because they need to make their way back downtown with the same amount of rail cars to pick up the crowd in Downtown again.

      What sense would it make for that train to run 3-cars to Azusa and return to Downtown with only 1-car when that same train has to run peak-direction again (but now with only 1 car), once it turns back to Azusa in East LA??

  33. I don’t mind standing, but I do agree with others about the importance of making a good impression for potential new commuters. There are many ways Metro can do this. Frequent, if shorter, trains will be a good idea. Beyond first impressions, we might want to become a bit more assertive about claiming empty window seats (when someone is already on the aisle), or asking people to remove their bags from seats when the train is crowded. I often see people timidly standing on the Gold Line when there are seats to be had if only they would politely speak up.

  34. If you want to see the mass in mass transit happen Metro needs to schedule the trains running every 5 minutes during peak hours. (Just like they do in other cities.) Then the masses will use the system.

  35. I can understand the crowding, it just seems counter intuitive to send a full train to Sierra Madre… unload it then make 70% of those folks wait 12 minutes to get onto another full train so they can travel to Irwindale, Azusa, and APU/Citrus? Why not just flow all the way through?

    • It’s in part a rail car issue. It takes more rail cars to run every six minutes all the way between East L.A. and Azusa — a distance of 31 miles.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • The only way they could do that would be to reduce the 6 minute service to Sierra Madre and the stops before there. Which would reduce the (previously excellent) service to the folks that have been using the Gold Line for 13 years. Which seems unfair to those people (i.e. me! Maybe I’m biased though :D)

        Sidebar question for extension riders – why get on a SMV bound train at Union Station? Isn’t it easier to wait there and get on an APU bound train instead?

      • Thanks Steve Hymon. I see your point. Even if Metro made all the trains go through at 12 minute intervals they would be quite full. I sure hope the long term goal is to allow trains to travel the full distance.

      • Barry, as an extension rider I would rather split my wait time and just get on the first train. Union Station can get crowded and often I find it better to get off at Del Mar and where it is more pleasant or less crowded, or enjoy the half-empty train between Del Mar and SMV and get on at SMV. Leaving SMV toward Azusa, unless there has been a service failure, there are usually a few seats still there.

    • For what it’s worth, some of the trains *do* flow all the way. I’ve done to the downtown azusa station twice now, and one time I choose to get on the first train because the Union Station platform was too crowded, and one time I waited it out for the APU bound train, got a seat, and got to keep that seat when tons of people got on at SMV. It’s your call.

  36. Anna: Thank you for writing this post! You’ve touched on most of the issues that I’ve been complaining about for the past month, since the Gold Line extension opened and since pre-revenue testing on Expo required Expo trains to be shortened to two-cars in peak service.
    The one questions that you haven’t addressed is whether Metro takes crowding into consideration when they decide which lines get the few additional cars that are available. I agree with your premise that crowding is a sign of strong demand for the rail system, but my question is one of equity.
    As I noted in a previous post, the Expo Line now serves, by far, the highest peak period peak loads of the four light rail lines, with over 100 passengers per car. By comparison, the other three lines serve average peak loads of 76 (Blue Line), 53 (Green Line) and 70 (Gold Line, before Foothill extension). I could also note that Expo is the only light rail line that doesn’t have additional service in the peak periods. Has Metro looked at the ridership data and considered the crowding data to decide which lines warrant the extra service? Or maybe they have looked at the ridership data and decided to use a different evaluation criteria to make their decision. Or maybe it’s a first come/first served issue (the older lines get the extra cars). I’d be interested to know what criteria are used to make these decisions.
    Thanks again.

    • The number of rail cars for each line is budgeted each year. Supply, demand and service frequency are big considerations.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  37. What a joke. What world class system you are talking about? Have you ever been out of this country at all? I and my family tried out the Gold Line on Expo Extension day. The parking structure was full. There was no parking nearby in Rosedale. There was a long line waiting stretching past the parking structure. We made a stop in South Pasadena. When we tried to take the train to Union Station with our in-laws, we had to wait 25 minutes for the next train. On our way back, we witnessed a guy urinating on the platform. Our in-laws from Hawaii had never ridden a metro train before. No doubt we were quite embarrassed to show off our “World Class System”. You did a great job in publicizing the Gold Line Extension but did a horrifying job in your main business, that is to move passengers massively and quickly.

  38. I recently read Metrolink is now offering ticket purchases for their trains via their smartphone app. Is this something possible in the future for Metro? It seems easier than adding money to TAP cards, especially when someone is in a hurry. I like ExpressLane idea of auto-refilling when an account drops below a certain point.

  39. A little bit of constructive criticism:

    Agreed that standing is fine, and I don’t mind it at all … actually sometimes prefer it. However, the trains seem to be designed for sitting, not standing; there is very little standing room that doesn’t end up with peoples’ bags in other peoples’ faces, except if you stand by the doors (which causes other problems). And the standing room that’s available between seats is only enough for single file. Most other cities’ trains are designed with lots of room for standing (picture the inside of a NY subway car in your head), with seats only along the walls. This is bad planning by Metro, in my opinion: I don’t think Metro knew or planned for the trains to hold so many “standers”.

    I know you can’t change trains already in use, but please consider this going forward.

    • This. I agree that standing in crowded spaces is part of mass transit but many of the other mass transit agencies cited in the article have cars that are wider with more standing room. The seats in the narrow gauge Gold/Expo cars take up disproportionately more space so there is less room for the standers to spread out. I agree with other commentators that standing is fine but it is uncomfortable to stand with a seat pressed against your legs and a pole in your back.

      Regarding bikes on the train cars, the way that these rail cars are designed, cyclists are at a disadvantage when cars are crowded. It can be very difficult for a cyclist to get through the door, maneuver past the crowd, pivot around the seats, and finally arrive at the train’s bike space (assuming the space is vacant). As a result bikes are stuck blocking the door as the cyclist has no way to move.

  40. When are the ribbon cutting cerermonies at the santa monica lines for May 20?

    On Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 10:01 AM, Metros The Source wrote:

    > Anna Chen posted: ” If Gold and Expo Line trains have seemed more crowded > to you lately, that’s because they are. The Gold Line is seeing more riders > since the opening of the extension to Azusa. And Expo is more packed since > the line is now only running two-car trains, due” >

    • Hi June,

      We will have more information soon as staff works to finalize the opening day schedule. Stay tuned!

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  41. I’m ok with a crowded train. I think the Expo Line could use more trains though, especially when there’s events going on at Staples or the LA Convention Center. I think the trains here should fit more people by changing the seating so there’s more standing areas instead of seats. (No disrespect to those who need to sit down- I will always gladly give up my seat to someone who needs it)

    On a side note, I wish all the trains were cleaner inside. I’ve used the subways in New York and the BART in San Francisco and they all seem to be cleaned way more often and don’t reek of urine like the Red Line usually does. I don’t expect it to be clean enough that I can eat something off the ground, but any kind of improvement would help.

    • Hi,

      Trains are cleaned every night, but it’s definitely a tough job staying ahead of the game. :-/

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  42. Of course you are right; we all need to become accustomed to our more crowded trains. In support of the vertically challenged, I would like to add that because the horizontal passenger support bars in the new cars are now even higher than they were before, the short people of the world would appreciate it if Metro would add strap hangers.

  43. Good write Anna! i like the zest!
    I see crowding as a good thing: the Gold Line is actually useful. I ride between Azusa APU and Pasadena.
    I see the new Kinisharyo trains more and more and… I dread them. They are much quieter then the Ansaldo trains but otherwise the Ansaldo trains just seem better. I was surprised to see the Metro authority praising the quality of these new trains.
    I guess the worst thing is that drivers do not seem to be able to stop them where they want to. It is common to get close to a station and see the train stop before entering the station, then go a little further, only to stop short again and again. I witnessed a train stop five times before it finally arrived at the end of the platform. It seems the drivers intend to only slow the train, but then the brake does not disengage and the train ends up making a full stop. I am assuming the fact that the sinage and announcing system do not work properly can be fixed easily and I should not worry about it. But it is confusing not knowing if I can board a train that displays “test train/Not in service”, or not. Then the buzzers at the doors are way too annoying and the trains seem to grown and vibrate as a new train would not be expected to.
    What is going on? Can you write an article about these new trains?

    Thank you,

    Victor Cenac

    • Hi Victor,

      Thanks! As far as the new rail cars go, my personal experience is that they ride a little more smoothly. But I understand the issue with the stop-and-go movements. Things should get better as trains continue to run — as operators get used to the new rail cars, and the trains are more “broken in” so to speak. On the issue of signage, I feel you — and staff is aware and working to resolve. Please let us know anytime you see inaccurate headsigns/hear wrong announcements, so we can pass the info along!

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  44. I observed excess Gold Line Cars in the old Gold Line Yard and it was well known while i was still at the MTA these cars were to be used for the extension. The Blue Line cars have not been well maintained and probably were subjected to alot of abuse. But what about transferring some Green Line Cars to the Blue Line / Expo Line. It should not be that difficult because there is still a track leading from the Green Line to the Blue Line I believe at the Imperial Station. Originally the Green Line did not have it’s cars when it opened or they were not ready so Blue Line cars were used on the Green Line. Why not reverse what was done in the past and help solve the Blue Line shortage with excess equipment even if its only two or three trains.

  45. Crowds are nothing in comparison with other metro services in other countries, and we will never have those sorts of crowds since LA is going to be a car city for a long time.

    Are there any updates on when Rosedale will open the 200 feet needed to connect the APU/Citrus station to Foothill? This is like a one week project at most and there doesnt look like anything is happening on it. The new Glendora shuttle bus doesnt even go to the APU station, it goes to the Azusa station. How stupid is this whole scenario? What does it take for us to get Rosedale to finish the project?

      • Currently, the APU station has shuttle buses pulling to the side, right outside to the south of the driveway for the parking structure. If its now already a designated drop off area, it should be.

        Im surprised the Rosedale road connection problem hasnt been addressed by anyone. Knowing a timetable when it will be finished would be helpful.

    • Oh boy! It’s funny how Glendora residents want to claim the APU/Citrus station… and I don’t blame them. That short short road… The (please insert your own negative here) Azusa City Hall cannot agree with the Rosedale developers on road alignment. metro gave them 1 million dollars more than 1 year ago to get them to get their act together. No movement. Azusa asked Metro not to open the station for 4 months so they could think a little longer about this road. SO much disregard for public interest and well being. But, I think it’s like asking Azusa to fly. Can’t do it!

      • I’d absolutely love to see a large turnout of gang members meandering throughout the Rosedale community. That would surely infuriate Rosedale citizens to force the projects completion.

      • Rosedale citizens are already infuriated. No need for gangs. They hired Paez security who routinely steals their cars and their guest cars and holds them for ransom, under all sorts of pretexts of parking violations. City of Azusa was supposed to remove the parking restriction on Citrus, north of the station to accommodate the under-built parking space in Rosedale and at the train station. But so far, no movement on that either.
        Metro should rent the patch of land next to the station and offer it at temporary parking space.

  46. So a “world class system” is defined by the number of riders, not by the quality of the experience? Classy.
    Perhaps if Metro were more invested in maintaining ridership and less in “easing traffic” they’d remember the time honored rubric “you only get one opportunity to create a great first impression”. Looks like both first opportunities for the Gold and Expo extensions will be squandered.

    • I think I am siding with metro on this one. I moved to Azusa in anticipation of Gold Line service which makes my commute possible. A delay until more trains are available would not be the preferred way to go for me. I actually cringe when I see empty trains go by. That is un-sustainable and I am afraid the service will be scaled down. Only if Metro would find a way to vary the train length more dynamic – only one car off peak and 3 at peak.
      I see attendants at stations to help people with parking, doors, vending machines, etc. My fare certainly does not pay for all of this!

    • If you had ever been to any major city in the world you would know that standing on a subway or mass transit train is not unusual at all. What makes Los Angeles any different? Have Angelenos become so soft and spoiled that daily whining is becoming the norm?

      • Hi Matt,

        He makes a point about experience — that definitely counts for a lot, and I readily admit that we didn’t give a super great first impression of the Gold Line Extension. That said, hindsight is 20/20, and we can only look forward to Expo now. 🙂

        Anna Chen
        Writer, The Source

      • Well, to a point… 🙂 metro is inviting us to take our bikes in the train, but at peak times the trains are so crowded there is no way you can squeeze a bike in. Never mind that even when there would be enough room, people don’t seem to want to make a step sideways to allow the passage.
        For a spread out city like LA taking the bike in the train is worthy option to maintain. For that to actually work we need less crowded trains (and better bike access – some bars need to be removed), not to the point where every one gets a seat, of course.

        • I don’t think it will ever be feasible to provide a bike car on light rail or subway. Metrolink is able to do this, but that’s a completely different beast. We have programs in place working on the first mile, last mile issue – bike share, ride share and other transit connections are options I hope we’ll be able to integrate sooner rather than later!

          Anna Chen
          Writer, The Source

      • Fair enough Anna. Of course, it probably won’t be that long before longer trains can be added once the new train arrivals are broken in, so I see this as a minor, temporary inconvenience at most. Important to remember that Metro recommended back in the day to avoid AnsaldoBreda, but our union loving politicians overruled them initially because AB had offered more union jobs with their bid despite their inferior record of providing working rail cars. This set up the delay for several years before AnsaldoBreda and its contract fell apart and it was rebid.