Daily Archives: September 24, 2016

LACMTA Rail Ridership Update – August 2016 Edition

Six months have passed, so it’s time for another LACMTA rail ridership update. Well, actually seven months, so we’ll throw August ridership in as well. As a reminder, bus ridership for the Westside and San Fernando Valley has been broken out into separate posts.

The last few ridership updates were snoozers because they just showed continuations of previous trends – generally, decent performance on the Expo and Gold Lines, and concerning ridership declines on the Red/Purple, Blue, and Green Lines. This time, we have more to talk about with two new LRT extensions; the Gold Line to Azusa opened in March, and the Expo Line to Santa Monica in May.

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


Unsurprisingly, the Gold and Expo Lines both had top 10 months for every month after their extensions open. The Gold Line was already at all-time highs and the Expo Line was close. The Gold Line’s increase in ridership after the extension opened was very modest – about 4,000 riders, or 9%. The Expo Line jumped about 13,000 riders, over 40%.

Ridership declines on the Blue, Green, and Red/Purple Lines have reversed themselves a little recently, perhaps due to the better network effects created by the opening of the Gold and Expo Line Extensions. While ridership has remained well below peaks, it has increased enough to  nudge the 12-month averages up.

Here’s the rolling 12-month average of weekday ridership. Note that the rolling 12-month averages for the Gold and Expo Lines will understate the ridership increases due to sudden jumps occurring when the extensions opened, so we’ll include the raw monthly graphs too. Raw weekday ridership:


Rolling 12-month average weekday ridership:


Saturday and Sunday trends largely reflect the weekdays. Here’s the Saturday and Sunday rolling 12-month averages. Again, raw monthly graphs are included to show Gold and Expo changes. Raw Saturday/Sunday ridership:


Rolling 12-month average Saturday/Sunday ridership:


One very interesting thing about weekend ridership is that the Gold and Expo Line extensions have arguably been even more successful on weekends than on weekdays. The Gold Line has seen Saturday and Sunday ridership jump by about 6,000 riders, or 20% on Saturday and 24% on Sunday. This is a greater ridership gain than weekdays not only in percentage, but in absolute terms, surely an unusual outcome. The Expo Line data is even more remarkable, with ridership increasing by about 13,000 riders (60%) on Saturday and 16,000 riders (100%) on Sunday.

Lastly, here’s the update for the boardings per mile, again both raw monthly graph and rolling 12-month average. Raw weekday boardings per mile:


Rolling 12-month average weekday boardings per mile:


The Gold and Expo Lines both saw a decrease in productivity, not unusual for lines where extensions just opened. As ridership grows on the extensions, these trend lines will climb back up. The Blue and Red/Purple Lines have ticked back up a little bit, perhaps reminding us that extending the transit network increases ridership on existing lines too.

Gold Line and Expo Line Thoughts

While there’s been both excitement and concern about the Gold and Expo Line extensions, it’s important to remember that it’s very early in the game for these lines. Four months after the opening of Expo Phase 1, ridership was at about 20,000, and continued to rise to over 30,000 by two years after opening. Gold Line ridership was at about 32,000 six months after the Eastside Extension opened, and had risen to over 45,000 by the time the Azusa extension opened. We’re still very much in the adjustment period.

Still, the initial weekday ridership increase for the Gold Line extension of 4,000 is less than I’d hoped for. Traffic on the 210 is very bad during peak periods, and downtown Pasadena is a large enough business district to generate trips in its own right, so demand shouldn’t have to all be people making a long trip to downtown LA. It is especially surprising that the weekday ridership gain was smaller than the weekend ridership gain. Considering the length of the extension (11 miles and 6 stations) and the nature of development in the area, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to hope for around 12,000 riders in the future – about 1,000 boardings per mile or 2,000 per station.

The Expo Line extension opened to even more fanfare, fulfilling the dream of restoring rail transit service between downtown LA and the beach. This created a lot of excursion trips in the first month or so after opening, with people riding just to see the line. The initial ridership increase of 13,000 was respectable and we should expect it to continue growing. The Saturday and Sunday ridership increases were more impressive and are indicative of the strength and variety of travel demand along the corridor. Saturday and Sunday ridership is now at about 75%-80% of weekday ridership. Considering the Expo Line has been running 12 minute headways during the day and 20 minute headways late, there should be considerable gains to be had just by getting enough vehicles to run 6 minute peak headways. In addition, restoring 10 minute headways during evenings and nights would also be helpful.

Next up will be central LA and Westside bus ridership. It won’t be as interesting as rail ridership, but perhaps we’ll see some impact from the Expo Line extension.