No Quick Fixes for L.A.’s Transit Ridership Woes

One of the largest transit systems in the country continues to lose large numbers of riders. But the causes behind the drop and the solutions to stop it are hard to pinpoint.

2 minute read

July 14, 2019, 9:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink

Los Angeles Metro Bus


Laura J. Nelson reports on the current state of transit ridership in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bus system alone has seen a drop in ridership of 25 percent, or 95 million trips, in the last decade.

The reasons for the decline vary and include a stronger economy—when people buy cars—and a decrease in immigration as well as a network of bus service that critics say does not meet the needs of riders.

"The bus exodus poses a serious threat to California’s ambitious climate and transportation goals. Reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions will be next to impossible, experts say, unless more people start taking public transit," writes Nelson.

The solutions are varied as well. Metro has its eye on bringing in new riders who now drive by speeding up travel times and by better targeting service to places people need to go. But transit advocates say that improvements should focus more on the needs of existing riders, many of whom are Latino and black and are dependent on transit. They want Metro to put in more bus-only lanes and implement all-door boarding to decrease travel times, and they want to see more buses on the streets.

Still, the challenges to increasing ridership on buses in Los Angeles are immense. "When someone buys a car, they become less likely to take transit and more likely to drive, studies show. Non-car owners now have more alternatives than ever, including Uber and Lyft, car-sharing services like Zipcar, and rental bikes and scooters," notes Nelson.

Thursday, June 27, 2019 in Los Angeles Times

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

View of 110 freeway with downtown Los Angeles buildings in background.

LA Freeway Ramp ‘Quietly Canceled’

A 2018 lawsuit forced Metro and Caltrans to do full environmental reviews of the project, leading to its cancellation.

February 29, 2024 - Streetsblog LA

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Blue and white Pittsburgh bike share bikes lined up at a station with a red city bus on street in background.

Micromobility Operators Call for Better Links to Transit

For shared mobility to succeed, systems must tap into the connectivity and funding potential offered by closer collaboration with public transit.

March 4 - GovTech

New York MTA Bus

Retaining Transit Workers Is About More Than Wages

An analysis of California transit employees found a high rate of burnout among operators who face unpredictable work schedules, high housing costs, and occasional violence.

March 4 - Streetsblog California

View of Hollywood Reservoir with palm trees in foreground and Los Angeles neighobrhoods in background.

California's Stormwater Potential

A new study reveals that if California could collect and treat more stormwater in cities, it could provide enough water to supply a quarter of the state’s urban population.

March 4 - Cal Matters

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.