Public transportation usage rises

The Associated Press
Wednesday May 16, 2001

LOS ANGELES — The rising cost of gas appears to be prompting many Southern California motorists to find alternative ways of getting around. 

Subway ridership rose 5 percent last month, with the number of passengers on the Red Line subway in Los Angeles jumping from 119,000 in March to 125,000 in April. 

“While we’ve been seeing increases of one or two thousand per month, an increase of) 6,000 people on a daily basis is significant,” said Ed Scannell, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “It’s clear that a significant portion of that ridership was due to those gas prices.” 

Since March 23, the average price of regular self-serve gasoline has gone from $1.58 to $1.90 cents per gallon in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, analyst Trilby Lundberg said. 

The MTA also has seen an increase in bus ridership. 

Ridership increased from 1,161,490 in March to 1,196,042 in April. However, Scannell is less inclined to attribute most of that increase to the cost of gas. 

“A significant number of our bus riders are dependent on us because they don’t have cars, and while many of those who ride the rails also do not have cars, there are more people who have a choice,” he said.  

“There are more discretionary riders on the Red Line.” 

On Monday, the MTA unveiled a proposed $2.7 billion budget that would put more buses on the streets and more rail cars on the tracks. The spending package calls for adding 117 more buses along with more cars along the Blue and Green light-rail lines. 

The new budget would increase MTA spending by 6.7 percent, or $183 million a year. It anticipates that significant numbers of commuters will continue to move from cars to trains or buses. 

This summer, the Blue Line between downtown and Long Beach will increase the length of each train to three cars. Plans also call for the Green Line, which now runs one-car trains between Norwalk and El Segundo, to add an extra car. 

Rising fuel prices are also included. In the new budget, the transit agency’s bill for fuel is expected to jump 169 percent — or $17.5 million. 

Still, MTA officials believe they can stay within the budget without increasing fares.