Despite heavy spending on public transportation projects and new proposed taxes, there has been a decline in users of public transit services in major cities across California in recent years. The state has recently spent billions upgrading its transit systems yet ridership in that region was in decline for years before gas prices plummeted.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times published Wednesday, The area’s largest public carrier, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, lost over 10 percent of its ridership from 2006 to 2015, and the pace of losses seems to be accelerating. The region spent $9 billion developing light rail and upgrading and extending other lines. Nevertheless, Metro reports fewer boardings than it had 30 years ago when buses accounted for the entire fleet of public transportation. Los Angeles is not the only area in California attracting less ridership in public transit. In Orange County public buses lost a whopping 30 percent of ridership over the last seven years while smaller transit lines report a nearly 25 percent decline.
Despite sharp drops in the amount of people using public transportation in southern California, politicians and transportation officials have proposed another half-cent sales tax increase to raise up to $120 billion for several new light rail lines and other transportation projects. The tax proposals come as experts warn that public transportation’s trend of recent years could be long-term. Some question such logic.
“I don’t know if this is long-term, but it doesn’t feel like it’s temporary when we’ve been dealing with 36 straight months of declining ridership,” said Darrell Johnson, chief executive of the Orange County Transportation Authority.
Violent crime committed against citizens who use public transportation may be one explanation. Suzan Mikiel who moved to Los Feliz, California from New York five years ago says she took transit for four years while auditioning for acting roles and working in often unrelated temporary jobs. She told the Times that Transit offered her “a chance to relax, people-watch or take photos during the day.” But at night, trying to get home was sometimes “horrible, if not impossible,” she added.
Mikiel complained that she was stranded in unfamiliar neighborhoods late at night and that connecting to another bus could take an hour. Ultimately Mikiel was robbed near the Culver City Expo Line station; that’s when she bought a car. “Driving has really opened up my experiences in L.A.,” Mikiel said. “I love my car. I’m keeping it.”
Another former public transit customer, John Durant, 36, stopped taking Metro buses after he graduated from Cal State L.A. Durrant said his commute was 45 minutes each way. Eventually he found employment in downtown Los Angeles after which he bought a car. Durrant said keeping a car on the road costs hundreds of dollars more than a Metro pass, but he can go where he likes and apparently thinks it’s a good trade off. “If taking the bus were faster than driving, more people would do it,” Durant said. “But it isn’t.”