592,000 boardings on Metro Rail on Saturday

As thousands converged on downtown Los Angeles for the Saturday Women’s March, Metro Rail carried a total of 592,000 boarding passengers – 360,000 more riders than on a typical Saturday. Los Angeles Police Department estimates placed the crowd at 100,000 and event organizers pegged that number at more than 750,000.

On some Metro lines, rail cars were crowded – many to capacity – and most stations in downtown L.A. also were filled. And yet passengers remained cheerful and positive.

“This was an amazing experience for our region, as well as for Metro,” said Metro Board Chair John Fasana. “Whatever your political thoughts, it was exciting to see so many people exercising their right to demonstrate peacefully. And it spoke to the crowds that there was no violence and that despite crowding, at the end of the day our patrons were safe.”

To gear up for the march, Metro added service and security to accommodate what organizers at first estimated would be 75,000 participants. As attendance projections grew, more rail cars and more frequent service were scheduled. When trains began to crowd on Saturday, additional service was added. To accommodate the massive crowds, extra rail cars were added to service. The result was a 60 percent increase in car capacity, compared with a typical Saturday. Staff also was on hand to help new customers buy TAP cards at ticket machines and yet the lines were long in a handful of stations.

“Hundreds of thousands of Angelenos peacefully took to the streets Saturday to stand up for their values — and Metro played a big part in bringing people together by serving 592,000 boarding passengers on a historic day,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro First Vice Chair Eric Garcetti. “Seatmates became friends, fellow passengers marched side by side. The incredible level of ridership shows that L.A. shows up when it counts, and we can get there safely and conveniently. And now with the passage of Measure M, we are building a transportation future that will give us all new opportunities to connect to one another.”

Among the busiest rail stations in downtown Los Angeles were the 7th Street/Metro Center Station, which serves the Red, Purple, Blue and Expo lines; Pershing Square and Civic Center stations, which carry Red and Purple line passengers, and Union Station, which serves the Red, Purple and Gold lines, as well as Metrolink. Beyond downtown, the North Hollywood and Universal/Studio City stations for the Red Line were among the busiest.

“I applaud our operations team for their outstanding efforts to provide this critical service to Los Angeles,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “As much planning as we did, the heavy ridership still required the good spirit and patience of our patrons, and we appreciate that. We are very pleased overall that Metro was able to serve so many people on Saturday.”

Ridership began to spike at 7 a.m., dipped between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and then peaked again at about 5 p.m. The event was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m. More than 40,000 new TAP fare cards were sold within a short period of time on Saturday. TAP cards are the method of payment for Metro trains and buses.

24 replies

  1. Hi Steve,

    I assume the number is individual boardings, not linked trips. Is it possible to get the latter? This could give a better estimate of the number of people who went to/from DTLA during the march.

    I suspect the majority of people who used Blue or Expo just got off and on at 7th/Metro and didn’t bother with connecting to Pershing Square. Gold I’m not so sure about (probably some walked from Union Station and some took the subway), and Green line passengers most certainly transferred to the Blue. But with TAP, it should be possible to get the number of linked trips.

    A separate note on the return from 7th/Metro: Saturday around 2 PM there was a boarding change where they started loading all Blue line trains on platform 1 and Expo trains on platform 2. This wasn’t announced very well, and unfortunately we were caught right at the time of the change: as we slowly made our way with the crowd down to platform 2 we saw a Blue line train leave, which turned out to be the last one — from that point on, Blue line trains started departing from platform 1, and we were stuck on the wrong platform. It took a while to figure out what was going on, and more time to change platforms among the crowds. It would be good for the future if Metro could anticipate this sort of boarding change, and start directing the crowds properly well before the change happens, given the time it takes people to get to the platform. 7th/Metro still has several years left as a stub-end station 🙂

    • Hi Ron;

      This is the only data that I have been provided. And, yes, it is boardings.

      I rode the Gold Line in — I’m guesstimating about half the people on my train walked to City Hall area from Union Station (I did) and half took the subway from Union Station.

      Thank you for heads up about the platform change at 7th/Metro — I’ll add that to our list of issues that came up during the day.

      Thanks for reading/writing!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Hi Steve – how does the 592,000 boardings compare to other high-ridership days for Metro rail, and was there a bump in bus boardings as well?

    • Hey Colleen —

      Great questions and…I can’t answer either. As far as I know, we don’t have a list of largest ridership days ever although I can tell you that on Metro Rail, the best year ever was 2013 when the average weekday ridership was about 363,000. And keep in mind that was before the Expo Line extension to SaMo and the Gold Line ext to Azusa opened.

      As for bus boardings on Saturday, I don’t have the numbers. We certainly saw a lot of crowded buses — including many/most headed toward DTLA — but we don’t have the numbers at this time. I do know that Orange Line and Silver Line buses were very full.

      Hope that helps,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. According to the LA Times the LAPD estimated the crowd at 500,000, not 100,000 as reported in this post.

    • Hi Bill;

      The LAPD on Saturday initially said the crowd was at least 100,000. So that’s where that number is coming from.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. I’m so glad to hear that so many Women’s March L.A. attendees used public transit!

  5. we were at the 2nd stop (17th street) on the expo line, and the trains were packed when they got to us. at every station people on the platforms just watched the doors open but couldn’t get on. and btw our trains were free all day.

    • Yes, we and many other people couldn’t even board the trains. We paid the fare, but didn’t get to DTLA.
      I wonder if they can calculate how many people didn’t even make it, but tried. Uber and Lyft were super expensive as well.
      Seems like they didn’t anticipate such amount of people. Hopefully next year will be better!

  6. So was the free fare a rumor or not?
    We were waved past the tap machines at the universal station where the gates were open.
    It should be that going through the gates is as easy as using Apple Pay or refilling ones tap card is as easy as refilling a Starbucks card. If this was the case, my friend wouldn’t have had to take uber to the event because of the crazy long line of manual Tap card sales.

    • Absolutely, some riders at some stations were given free rides as a means of crowd control. The problem was that on social media that turned into ‘rides are free across the entire system.’ Which they were not, even though some folks got free rides.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Well, that’s not very equitable is it?

        What about re-fillable digital cards question? Will Metro ever adopt a card payment system that employs Apple Pay or does something like what Starbucks does?

      • I can definitely tell you that at the Hollywood & Highland station, they were not doing this. The crowd for buying/loading TAP cards went from the ticket machine platform–where there were so many people you could not make out the individual lines–up to the middle platform (between the two sets of stairs/escalators). Since the TAP card site isn’t in a prominent place, especially not on your mobile site, I didn’t see the link for loading my TAP card online via the TAPtogo site. (Even if I had, it probably wouldn’t have mattered, since it takes an hour for the TAPtogo site to update your card for rail rides, and by that time, there were so many people, security wasn’t letting anyone else down to the platform.)

        It would be great if there were ticket machines at street level as well as down in the station. I was $0.20 short of a single ride fare on my TAP card. $0.20!! If the Metro had contactless payments (like they do in the London Underground, etc.), I could have used Apple Pay to pay my fare at the turnstile.

    • The free fare was a rumor. If it’s not posted by Metro Los Angeles on any of the websites or pages they maintain, then it’s not verified and is, therefore, a rumor.

      To clarify, people at Universal City Station were waved past by people who were not dressed in MTA uniforms, but in the fray of huge numbers of people, it’s easy to go with the flow and forget to stop and ask questions – especially with the haste by which everyone wanted to board a train as quickly as possible. Regarding the gates, I assume you’re talking about the emergency gates, which are easy to leave open when someone simply opens one and props it open. Or do you mean the turnstiles were set up in a way as to let others through without using the TAP card? If so, perhaps that needs to be looked into.

  7. I was over-the-moon with how well Metro and Metrolink handled the giant crowds that arrived at Union Station for the Women’s March! I saw a sea of humanity handled in a humane way by Metro and Metrolink (although more women’s rest rooms were needed.) This is certainly the Age of the Train! Mazel tov Metro and Metrolink! (PS: I don’t think free transit tickets would have missed the wrath of POTUS–something about a “gift of public funds”–something that historically has interested him.)

    • Metrolink left passengers behind on their SB and OC line services. Basically no one who lives in Los Angeles County was able to take Metrolink into the March (about half the route on the SB Line, less of an issue for the OC line). Metro funds around 50% of Metrolink, and yet Metrolink does not seem to know how to plan for events like this or CicLAvia.

      • All that said, there were a crowds of pink-hatted people on the Metrolink trains I saw. The point is the newer generations took transit, not autos to the March. The auto-choked LA I knew is finally running out of gas!

    • Hi Richard — the answer is yes, Metro did try to adjust for that.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source