LACMTA Ridership Update – October 2014

Note: see the update to bus ridership here.

Another three months has passed, so it’s time for another LACMTA rail ridership update.

First, the raw data. Highlighted cells represent the top 10 months for that line (since January 2009).


Ridership was generally up a little bit on all lines. The Green and Blue Lines remain well below their peak ridership months in the second half of 2012, as is the Red Line below peak months in 2013. Gold Line ridership remained near all-time highs, while Expo Line was flat except for Sunday ridership. Expo Line ridership was flat in the second half of 2013 as well, so we’ll have to see if 2015 brings another surge. Trends were similar across weekdays, Saturday, and Sunday, except for the Red Line on Sundays, which had some of its best numbers on record.

Here’s the rolling 12-month average of weekday ridership:


On the rolling 12-month graphic, the recent dips in Blue and Green Lines ridership look a little less troubling. The sharp drop in Red Line ridership is likely due to fare gate locking.

For this update, I decided to include the Saturday and Sunday rolling 12-month averages as well.



Note the sharp uptick in Gold Line ridership on Saturday and Sunday starting in July 2013, while weekday ridership is little changed. This is probably because Metro started running 7-8 minute headways on the Gold Line on weekends. While this is nice for Gold Line riders and led to a bump in ridership, you have to wonder why the Green Line – which has identical ridership overall and on a per mile basis – only gets 15 minute service on the weekend, and the Blue Line, with higher ridership, gets 10 minute service.

Boardings per mile is a better way to look at productivity. Here’s the update for the rolling 12-month average of boardings per mile:


Now Featuring Bus Ridership!

As experts like Jarrett Walker and Juan Matute have written elsewhere, an extensive, successful rail network will only be part of a successful transit network for LA. Bus will always be important. With that in mind, here’s a look at ridership trends on five of LA’s major arterials. Each arterial has both a local bus route and a Metro Rapid bus (700-series route numbers). Therefore, the ridership presented is the sum of the local and the rapid. The chosen arterials and bus routes are Santa Monica (4 & 704), Wilshire (20 & 720), Venice (33 & 733), Vermont (204 & 754), and Western (207 & 757). The Orange Line and Silver Line are also included.

Here’s the raw data, and the rolling 12-month averages for weekdays.



Orange Line and Silver Line ridership grew steadily throughout the period, and Wilshire and Venice had growth as well. Santa Monica was flat, while both Vermont and Western saw considerable drops in ridership – nearly 12% in the case of Vermont.

Here’s the Saturday and Sunday rolling 12-month averages.



On the Saturday and Sunday graphics, we can see some interesting structural changes reveal themselves. The 733 service on Venice was introduced in July 2010, and this seems to have resulted in an increase in ridership. Meanwhile, the 757 service on Western was discontinued on weekends in July 2011, and this seems to have resulted in an immediate drop in ridership. By late 2012, ridership on both streets had leveled off. This change is also evident in weekday ridership on Venice, though not as pronounced.

Lastly, we can look at the percentage of trips on each arterial being served by the rapid route.


The 720 dominates ridership on the Wilshire corridor. On Venice, the rapid captured about 50% of ridership when introduced, and has since slipped a little. On Western, service changes in July 2011 resulted in a quick jump in rapid share, followed by a continued increase. Vermont also saw a slight increase in rapid share, though in both the case of Western and Vermont, total ridership on the corridor declined.

It’s impossible to discern what caused ridership changes from this data. An improving economy means more people have jobs, which increases ridership, but it also means more people can afford cars. Some of the neighborhoods served by these routes have been undergoing changes that often decrease ridership, such as gentrification.

There are two ideas I would feel comfortable floating out. One, because the Silver Line on the 110 is just a little over half a mile from Vermont, some Silver Line ridership may have been captured from Vermont. The Silver Line is limited by poor stop spacing, but it goes directly downtown, so it may have captured trips from Vermont that were transferring to the Red Line. Two, the Expo Line may have captured some ridership in the USC area.

The most important thing here, though, is that ridership on these bus corridors is higher than many of LA’s LRT lines. Wilshire and Vermont have more riders than any LRT line except the Blue Line. These bus routes are a critical part of mobility in LA. We’ll have Wilshire BRT, but maybe we should have a Vermont, Western, Santa Monica, and Venice BRT too.

That’s it for now, stay tuned for Metrolink!


26 thoughts on “LACMTA Ridership Update – October 2014

  1. Fakey McFakename

    Isn’t Vermont one of the corridors Metro discussed adding BRT to?

    Also, would be interested in your thoughts on Pico and the lack of a bus route all the way through to Downturn due to the Metro/BBB split.

    1. letsgola Post author

      I think you’re right about Vermont.

      It stinks that there’s no continuous route on Pico (and for that matter, Olympic), especially since Pico & Olympic are the east-west roads that don’t get that screwed up traffic on the 405. The 704 and 720 are brutal during rush hour b/c Santa Monica & Wilshire are always totally snarled.

      1. calwatch

        What you should do is add in 18 ridership (Whittier Bl) to the counts, or use the boarding data from 2011 I posted in another thread to allocate boradings from one side of the corridor to another. Wilshire/Whittier is really treated as a single corridor by MTA, and it can be considered the case even though the 18 operates on Sixth Street west of Downtown, which is close enough to Wilshire that it could fairly be considered one corridor.

      2. calwatch

        So? 6th is close enough to Wilshire at all points, and I also said you could allocate boardings using the per stop data from 2011 I posted in the other thread.

      3. letsgola Post author

        I’d prefer to add the ridership for the 18; that way it doesn’t matter if the distribution of ridership between the 18 and the 720 has changed over the last few years. (I’ll get around to actually doing this later today.)

  2. Erik Griswold

    The turnstiles were latched in June of 2013. So the turnstiles did not lead to a drop in ridership. Perhaps a more accurate ridership number?

    1. letsgola Post author

      Perhaps; I didn’t realize it had been that long that the turnstiles were locked. Looking at the raw data the Red Line peak was in Oct-Nov 2013 with a very pronounced drop just after the new year.

  3. Joe Linton

    I’ve been noticing that since the mid-September fare increase, bus ridership (comparing Sept-Oct 2013 to Sept-Oct 2014) drops a lot (like 5%) while rail ridership drops a lot less (like 2-3%.) It’s perhaps too early to tell – and to try to factor out stuff like gas prices, or service cuts, or who knows… but curious if you’re looking at the post-fare-increase changes.

  4. AJ

    “We’ll have Wilshire BRT”

    It’s very generous to call bus-only lanes that are active for four hours per day “BRT”

  5. axel

    if you calculate boardings per mile for bus routes in the same way as for rail, you’ll find that Vermont and Western have significantly more boardings per mile than wilshire. I have 3,835/mile for vermont and 3,561/mile for western, versus 2507/mile for wilshire. I’d be glad to share the rest if you want

    1. Wanderer

      I’d guess that’s a result of the long, not terribly productive stretch along Wilshire from Beverly Hills to Brentwood, with higher ridership east of La Cienega or Fairfax

  6. Irwin

    Any reason why you didn’t include Ventura, Van Nuys, and Sepulveda in your bus data? Sepulveda I get… the data is broken up between Metro and Culver City so it is incompletely but the northern portion is all Metro.

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