Los Angeles Rail: Ridership Decline Estimated at 42 Percent | Newgeography.com
The old bus system was an astounding success.
"Obviously, the success of any transit program depends on the extent to which more customers use the system. Los Angeles had an enviable record in that regard in the decade before the adoption of Proposition A, and until 1985. Between 1970 and 1980, one-sixth of all new transit ridership in the nation was on the Los Angeles SCRTD bus system.
Rubin and Moore show that SCRTD ridership increased by more than 125 percent, from 218 million ridership in 1974 to 497 million in 1985 (Reports 1 and 2, below). This was accomplished by programs that lowered transit fares, and substantially increased service on what was, at that time, exclusively a bus system. There has probably never been such a large percentage increase in transit ridership for such a large transit system in modern US history."
Then the planners added rail.
"Driving Down Ridership with Rail
Finally, and most astoundingly, ridership, measured by “boardings,” has fallen as more rail has been opened (see below).
After the 1985 peak, fares were raised (1986), boardings dropped by nearly 10 percent, to 450 million. The higher fares eventually led to a further boardings decline of 20 percent decline, to decline of nearly 20 percent, to 362 million in 1995. By 2007, boardings had increased to nearly the 1985 level, but by 2019 had fallen back to 390 million, 21 percent short of the peak all-bus level.
Transit Customer Decline: 42 Percent (or More)
However, even that 21 percent ridership decline is optimistic. Rubin and Moore estimate that there has been an actual decrease in customers that is twice as much, 42 percent. This is because of the way transit ridership is reported. Passengers are counted each time they board a vehicle (boardings). Thus, if, for example, a passenger transfers from one bus to another traveling from home to work, the number of boardings is two, rather than one. Each transit vehicle, bus or rail, counts as a boarding. Some trips require the use of three or more transit vehicles.
Generally, the addition of a rail system tends to increase the number of transfers. This is because transit agencies, including SCRTD/Metro reorient their services so that bus riders are often forced to transfer to rail lines to complete their trips. The 42 percent reduction rate is based on the change in transfer rates from the early 1990s to 2004. During that time, the transfers per trip doubled. However, rail service has been expanded since 2004, and, as a result it’s likely the transfer rate has increased. This would suggest that the number of customers may be even lower than Ruben and Moore have estimated based on the latest, but stale data.
Regrettably, LACMTA no longer reports transfer data. This means that policy makers have no information on the number of customers using the system and how that has changed to the present."
1. Introduction, Overview, and the Birth of Transit in Los Angeles
2. The Rise of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)
3. Metro’s Transit Ridership Is Declining
4. Metro’s Long Range Plans Overpromise and Underdeliver