It is no secret that American cities are struggling to put a cap on the number of cars on their roads. While some cities have been trying to boost ridership on public transport by addressing last mile issues, others have introduced bikeshare services as a solution to the rise in car ownership. And while cities like Seattle have seen an increase in bus ridership in recent years, this is by no means the case elsewhere. Despite expansion of public transport in Los Angeles, the City is struggling to increase ridership on the city’s light rail.
Since 2013, ridership on Los Angeles’ public transport system declined by 21 percent across two of the city’s light rail lines and bus system. And even though L.A.’s population grew by 42,000 people between 2016 and 2017, ridership on the Green light rail line decreased by 21 percent and on the Blue line by 26 percent. Overall ridership of the city’s light rail system, however, has increased by 3.6 percent over the past five years, leaving city officials scratching their heads.
The increase in ridership can be explained by the extension of the Expo Line to Santa Monica and the Gold Line to Azusa, but reasons for the decline in ridership on other lines is difficult to ascertain. Generally speaking, bus ridership has declined in cities across the United States – with the exception of Seattle – due to a number of reasons. The introduction of rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft in 2014 is one of the causes of the decline in bus ridership in Los Angeles. Ridership on Los Angeles’ light rail decreased by a staggering 72,000 between 2014 and 2015 when the platforms were introduced to the American city.
The reasons for the decrease in ridership can also be placed on the increase in car ownership due to low gas prices in the United States, as well as a 2015 change in immigration policy in California, which allowed undocumented workers to apply for driving licenses. And while car ownership remains one of the biggest challenges to increasing ridership of public transport in American cities, city leadership still isn’t doing enough to ensure passengers are safe, comfortable, and satisfied with the efficacy of public transport in Los Angeles.
In a survey conducted by the L.A. Metropolitan Transit Authority, the agency found that two thirds of passengers no longer rode public transport in Los Angeles because it was inefficient, inconvenient, or difficult to reach. In another case, 29 percent of riders stated they felt unsafe or uncomfortable on public transport in Los Angeles, which is why they stopped riding trains and buses. The majority of those interviewed by the Los Angeles MTA currently ride in their private cars alone.
Despite the decrease in ridership and the potential failures of the transport system, the City of Los Angeles has not lost all hopes of improving public. In late 2016, voters approved the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s ‘Measure M’ and the inclusion of sales tax dollars to improve transport infrastructure. Under the Measure, the city will allocate approximately $120 billion in investments over the next 40 years in an attempt to make public transport in the City of Angels as practical, efficient, and safe as possible for all.