Last year, the number of riders on Los Angeles County’s bus and rail network fell to the lowest level in over a decade. Last year, riders on Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses and trains took 397.5 million trips, which is a decline of 15 percent over the last five years. Specifically, Metro’s bus system, which carries about three-quarters of the system’s passengers, has seen a decline of almost 21 percent. According to the Los Angeles Times, experts and officials don’t know why the ridership has been declining, but have attributed the decline to a combination of the following factors: changes to immigration policy, competition from Uber and Lyft, more people buying cars, and the perceived problems with existing transit service and security. At a Los Angeles City Council’s public safety committee meeting last month, Councilwoman Nury Martinez stated,
I don’t have to see the data collection to know that if I feel unsafe to ride the train with my kid, that I’m just simply not going to use it. I know a lot of people who feel the same way, and it’s simply not acceptable.
In a 2016 survey, about two-thirds of former Metro riders told the agency that they stopped riding because transit service was inefficient, inconvenient or difficult to reach. The survey also revealed that 29 percent of the respondents felt unsafe or uncomfortable on buses and trains and stopped riding them. Metro officials have commissioned a study on how to improve their service and the results are expected to be available in April 2019. Metro officials also say that they have taken steps to address riders’ concerns about security by having the transit system patrolled by a combination of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments. Ridership on Metro should increase when Los Angeles hosts the 2028 Olympics, but hopefully Metro officials will figure out how to fix their declining ridership problem long before then.