Expo Line buzz lifts rail system numbers

expo-line-train-sm.jpgSanta Monica-bound Expo Line train. LA Observed photo.

The first full month of stats for the new Expo Line leg between Culver City and Santa Monica shows that ridership is up, both there and across Metro's rail system. The weekday increase on the Expo Line is not huge, but real: 45,876 riders a day in June compared to the year's next highest month, 30,785 in February. These are Metro estimated daily average ridership numbers. The increase is more dramatic on weekends, which agrees with the eyeball evidence that people are riding the Expo Line into Santa Monica on hot weekends, perhaps making the four-block trek to the beach or Santa Monica Pier. Saturday ridership in June was up by about a third, and on Sundays the ridership has doubled over earlier in the year.

The details from Metro:


Across Metro's rail system, the bump in riders on the Expo Line reversed for now the slow decline in ridership. The Blue Line, the Red/Purple Line subway and the newly extended Gold Line also felt increases with the Expo Line open, June was the top month for overall rail riding in the past year, for daily and Saturday numbers. Sundays were a bit higher in May, which I assume had something to do with the Expo and Gold line extensions opening to riders.

Metro Rail’s monthly ridership peaked at 372,320 estimated boardings back in Oct. 2013, compared to 362,501 in the newly boosted June stats. Metro bus ridership continues to drop in the aggregate, as it has since 2014, says Metro's Steve Hymon.

What’s happening?

No one knows for sure, but among the reasons floated are an improving U.S. economy (meaning more people have money to buy cars), transit service cuts due to funding issues and perhaps cheaper gas. As for Metro’s bus service in recent times, it was at about 7.3 million annual revenue hours in 2004, dipped to about 6.8 million hours in 2011 and is targeted at about 7.02 million hours in 2016.

One theory I’ll float: with more people driving to more jobs, perhaps riding in a bus in more traffic is less desirable. Feel free to comment on whether you think that theory holds water or is bound for the horse-hockey pen.

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