This article originally appeared in the LA Daily News website on 3/11/2013.
More people taking public transportation, L.A.’s Metro system leading the way
By Christina Villacorte, Staff Writer
Record numbers of Americans ditched their own cars and took public transportation in 2012, resulting in the nation’s second highest annual ridership since 1957.
The American Public Transportation Association said Monday some of the largest increases occurred in Los Angeles, where the popular Expo Line opened last April.
Los Angeles’ light rail system saw an 18.5 percent spike in ridership, according to APTA. Most of that was attributed to the Expo Line, which stretches from downtown LA to Culver City.
The heavy rail system, meanwhile, saw a 3.7 percent increase in ridership.
Marc Littman, spokesman for the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said more people are taking public transportation because they can.
“Rail ridership keeps going up exponentially because it’s easier, more convenient,” he said.
And thanks to a half-percent sales tax for transportation projects that voters approved in 2008, Metro is continuing to expand its rail service.
“In several years, we’re going to have five rail lines under construction,” Littman said, including the extension of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica and the Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa.
APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said Monday that Americans took 10.5 billion trips on public transportation “” the second highest annual ridership since 1957.
“Two big reasons for the increased national transit ridership are high, volatile gas prices and, in certain localities, a recovering economy with more people returning to work,” he said.
Melaniphy said ridership spiked even though Hurricane Sandy temporarily knocked out public transit systems from Washington D.C. to Boston.
He said people’s attitudes toward public transportation are changing, pointing out that 49 out of 62 transit-oriented state and local ballot initiatives passed last year.
“There is a sea change going on in the way that people look at transportation,” Melaniphy said. “This is an important time for the public transportation industry as more and more Americans support and want it. ”
Littman said a growing number of Angelenos are turning to public transportation to avoid some of the high costs associated with driving one’s own car.
Many also use it to avoid traffic.
“We opened up the new express lanes on the 10 and 110 freeways, and public transportation can get on those express lanes for free,” Littman pointed out.
Littman said public transportation is also more attractive now, compared to before, because of all the retail development and other projects sprouting up along those corridors.
Moreover, he added, Metro has worked on increasing connectivity with Metrolink and municipal bus lines; created car pool, van pool and bike programs near its stations; and kept its fares among the lowest in the country.
“We work on different fronts and I think that all helps with our ridership program,” Littman said.