LA Expo Line Riders Appear to be New Transit Riders
The Expo Line has only been open for a year, is only halfway complete on its journey from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, and yet it’s already seeing significant ridership growth.
Ridership on weekdays has been increasing at a steady clip of about 1,000 per month, reaching an estimated 26,000 per day during the week. Given that Metro projected about 27,000 riders per day by the year 2020, that number is very good. The number of people riding the Expo Line may pass that benchmark in the coming months.
Obviously that’s a sign of a successful rail line, on course to meet its ridership projections seven years ahead of schedule. There’s a lot of latent demand for rail in this part of LA, as suggested by the fact that many of the Expo Line riders are new to transit:
A common criticism of light rail is that it diverts riders from buses and fails to draw drivers out of their cars. Thus, light rail lines can fail to have an impact on traffic and congestion, but can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
This does not appear to be the case with the Expo Line. Metro’s publicly available ridership statistics show that bus routes that connect with the Expo Line, and routes that run along similar parallel corridors, all have maintained steady ridership numbers.
The article goes on to describe increases in the number of transit passes being used at USC, schools using the trains to get to museums and other educational and cultural destinations at Exposition Park, and so on. In any case, the Expo Line has induced new transit demand rather than simply shuffling existing users between modes.
If you build it, they will ride. California is full of latent demand for passenger rail. That’s true for the Expo Line and it’s true for high speed rail. Just like HSR systems around the world have attracted new riders away from planes and automobiles, so too will California’s HSR system. There’s no ideological or cultural attachment to the car in California, not these days. People are ready for an alternative, particularly if it runs on rails.