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Expo Line to Santa Monica Hits Target Ridership 13 Years Ahead of Schedule


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

July 11, 2017 -- Thirteen months after opening, the Downtown L.A.-to-Santa Monica Expo line has hit a ridership target it was projected to reach in 13 years, also posting a 40 percent increase in passengers in June that left the rest of the Metro Rail system far behind, according to L.A. Metro.

Estimated average ridership on weekdays jumped from 45,876 passengers in June of 2016 to 64,164 last month, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) said.

“The initial success of the Expo Line is heartening,” said Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole.

Expo is a crucial component of the City’s plan to transform itself into a “multimodal” community where automobiles spend more time in the garage than on the streets as drivers turn to alternative transportation, such as trains, buses, car-sharing, biking and walking.

“What most people expect most is that we will see a permanent shift of some travel from the freeway to the train,” Cole said. “We have lots more work to do on that to make it safer, quicker, easier and more affordable to use the train, bus, bikes and walk to get in, out of and around Santa Monica.”

The 6.6-mile extension of Expo into Santa Monica from Culver City (which already connected to downtown L.A.) debuted May 20 of 2016 ("All Aboard Santa Monica’s New Light Rail Line," May 20, 2016).

Last month marked the expansion’s first full 12 months of operations.

Expo is also the first time since the demise of the Pacific Electric Red Car Line in the 1950s that the public can access the beach town by train. ("The Last Train to Santa Monica," May 23, 2016).

Officials originally thought the Expo line would not reach the 64,000-riders mark until 2030.

Expo’s popularity in June was a high point for Metro, which saw a slight slip in overall ridership for its rail lines from June of 2016 (less than a quarter of a percent), and a six percent drop in estimated average bus passengers on weekdays, or from almost 945,900 a year ago to 887,911 riders last month.

L.A. Metro added to its rail network in 2016, debuting highly-anticipated extensions of the both the Gold and Expo rail lines.

Train ridership surged, but was not enough to overcome an estimated 9 percent drop in bus riders.

Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (BBB) has also seen a significant drop in ridership, from about 18.7 million riders in fiscal year 2014-2015 to 16.5 million passengers at the end of the 2015-2016 fiscal year last July, a decrease of almost 12 percent.

Santa Monica’s bus system has been losing riders every year since 2010, when it peaked at slightly more 22.35 million passengers ("Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus Continues Losing Riders," November 8, 2016).

According to Metro’s website, systemwide the estimated average ridership totaled 1,249,414 passengers in June on weekdays, 820,001 passengers on Saturdays and 622,499 passengers on Sundays.

All three totals were down from June of 2016, from 1,308,379 passengers on weekdays, 846,710 passengers on Saturdays and 676,753 passengers on Sundays.

The heavily-used Red Line, which travels Union Station in downtown L.A. to North Hollywood, slipped about 2.4 percent from June of 2016 to an estimated average of 143,445 weekday passengers last month.

In addition, the Green Line -- from Redondo Beach to Norwalk -- experienced an 11 percent drop of weekday riders in the same one-year period. And the Blue Line, running from the downtowns of L.A. to Long Beach -- plunged from an estimated 83,426 weekday passengers to 68,689 riders in the same period.

However, weekday ridership rose 6 percent on the Gold Line, which reaches from East Los Angeles and Union Station into the San Gabriel Valley.


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