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

SNOTY PIMPIN / Flickr

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.

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