Los Angeles (LA), for many years a city with limited rail transit, is substantially expanding its public transit system. This paradigm change in transportation policy and investment creates new requirements for monitoring. One area needing evaluation is whether new, high quality transit options, such as light rail, near existing transit services increase sustainable transportation mode shares and reduce car travel. Few studies have explored light rail’s role as a catalyst to increase overall transit use and achieve sustainability goals within an auto-oriented city like LA. Metro’s data show that trips taken on its bus and rail system dropped overall by 10.5% between 2009 and 2016, but its rail ridership grew 21% during the same period due to the debut of the Gold Line and Expo Line extensions. We analyze changes to bus service and associated ridership impacts that resulted from the opening of these two LRT lines in LA. The immediate effect of the city’s bus service changes along the Gold Line light rail extension appear to be associated with a net “bus plus rail” ridership decline in that corridor. In contrast, the Expo Line corridor experienced an initial increase in ridership during the two years immediately after its opening, possibly because the bus service was not reduced by the same magnitude as along the Gold Line extension. Our findings indicate that changes in bus service made to coincide with the introduction of new light rail transit (LRT) can negatively affect the overall transit ridership in the corridor. Planners and policy makers should closely monitor changes in bus service and ridership associated with new rail transit to ensure investments results in an overall net increase in more sustainable travel.
Jeongwoo Lee, Marlon Boarnet, Douglas Houston, Hilary Nixon, and Steven Spears. "Changes in Service and Associated Ridership Impacts near a New Light Rail Transit Line" Sustainability (2017). doi:10.3390/su9101827
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