Expo, Orange Line ridership on a roll

August 16, 2012 

Panoramic view from Expo's La Cienega/Jefferson station. Photo/KCET Departures blog

Metro’s new transit lines are taking Los Angeles for a ride—in a big way.

The Expo Line, which opened April 28, has seen its ridership rise dramatically over the course of the past three months. The light rail line, which had 320,627 boardings in May, gave passengers 497,449 rides in July—an increase of 55%. Ridership on the line rose across the board—on Saturdays, Sundays and weekdays. Weekday ridership was up more than 60%, with 18,181 boardings last month, compared to 11,347 in May.

The surge is welcome news for the Expo Construction Authority, which built phase one of the project and is now at work on the line’s second and final leg to Santa Monica.

“We fully anticipate that ridership will continue to increase in the fall when school starts again and people realize there is a viable alternative to the congested I-10 freeway,” said Samantha Bricker, Expo’s chief operating officer.

It’s typical for new transit lines to get off to a slow start—but not this time.

“It’s very surprising,” said Metro’s chief operations officer, Frank Alejandro. “The Blue Line [ridership] jumped pretty quickly, but not as quickly as this.”

Part of the increase was spurred by the opening of two new stations—Farmdale and Culver City—in June, after the initial part of the line was already operating. In addition, some bus routes also were reconfigured to make it easier for commuters to transfer to the new line. And, in an unexpected but welcome development, the Daily News reported last month that many San Fernando Valley residents are taking the Red Line to downtown Los Angeles in order to pick up the Expo Line and travel to points west.

One of the newest riders is Hannah Burnham, who was starting a new job at USC as props master for its theater department Thursday and was taking her first ride on Expo to get to work. She had driven from Burbank to North Hollywood, where she picked up the Red Line to the 7th/Metro station and hopped aboard the Expo Line.

“I think it’s going to be great because I do not want to drive from Burbank to down here,” Burnham said. “Plus the pass is less than a parking permit at USC, plus USC will pay almost 40% of your Metro pass per month.”

In the San Fernando Valley, meanwhile, Orange Line ridership also reached new highs. The rapid transit busway, which on June 30 opened a new four-mile northward extension from Warner Center to Chatsworth, posted its best-ever Saturday ridership in July. The total of 16,999 Saturday boardings beats the previous record of 15,629 set in June, 2008.

Metro officials said 12% of the increase was directly attributable to the new extension. The ridership figures include only paid boardings. Thousands more rode for free on the line’s gala opening.

Even before the extension opened, the Orange Line’s ridership was surging. Boardings for the year ending June 30 were the highest ever on the nearly 7-year-old busway. More than 7.8 million trips were taken on the Orange Line; the previous annual record was 7.45 million boardings in 2008.

Of course, the Orange Line has been an overachiever since Day One, beating ridership projections its first month out, in November, 2005.

“Ridership out here in the Valley is tremendous,” said Karla Aleman, assistant transportation operations manager for Metro in the West Valley. “It’s amazing. A lot of people here depend on public transportation.”

Riders turned out in force for the opening of the Orange Line Extension. Photo/Daily News

Posted 8/16/12


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