And Now the Reason Foundation Is Completely Wrong About Expo

Good news for everyone that doesn't do transit writing for a certain oil industry funded think tank. Image via ##http://thesource.metro.net/2013/09/11/metros-august-ridership-two-rail-lines-reach-new-all-time-highs/##The Source.##

I wonder what it is about the Expo Line that makes conservative muckrakers lose their collective minds?

Earlier this week, Fox and Hounds published an op/ed by Los Angeles Business Journal Editor Charles Crumpley’s attack on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by telling an imaginary story about job loss because of a CEQA lawsuit against Phase II of the Expo Line. There was no job loss as a result of the lawsuit.

But that’s not the biggest whopper that’s been told about Expo. Last year, the Reason Foundation, an oil industry funded think tank that pretends to espouse Libertarian principles, declared the Expo Line a failure after sending two people to ride Phase I of the light rail line on its opening week and complaining that it wasn’t meeting its ridership projections for 2020. The line averaged 11,000 weekday boardings. Expo’s 2020 projections was 27,000.

After just about anyone that has ever examined a transit project laughed at Reason’s surreally lame attempt to examine ridership; the Foundation fired back a couple of weeks later with a whiny post that Expo still wasn’t meeting its 2020 ridership projections in its second month.

If major politicians and news outlets didn’t treat the Reason Foundation’s findings as though they were fact, we could all just laugh at them and walk away. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Fortunately, it’s really easy to show the Reason Foundation is completely and utterly inept when it comes to examining transit projects.

Yesterday, Metro announced that the Expo Line averaged 27,280 boardings every weekday, meeting its 2020 ridership projections a mere seven years ahead of schedule.

This is hardly news for anyone that’s ever read a Reason transit analysis. As Streetsblog.net’s Angie Schmitt noted last year, Reason Foundation reports on rail are predictable, they all say the same thing. “Ridership will be lower than expected; costs will be higher.”

Now it’s completely understandable that maybe Reason made a mistake and didn’t realize the 2020 ridership projections were in fact for 2020; but after they were informed that many many times after their first attempt they stuck to their guns. Now the line has made those estimates seven years early.

Reason owes either an apology or an explanation. Anyone want to take a bet on whether or not one is coming?

  • westculvermonicaside

    I predict Reason will simply say it’s taken YEARS for Expo to just reach it’s ridership goals, and barely that at considerable expense and delay….

  • Bryan M

    Nice work!

  • Anonymous

    Reason is a load. Any apology or explanation will be just as divorced from reality. I’m sure it’s a rhetorical device but why even ask for what’s owed here? That said, Metro set the bar pretty low for their projections. I’m excited for the line, half-built as it is. I’m sure when it’s complete it will be a terrific asset to the city but there’s an awful lot back-patting going on with this press release. Expo is doing fine but these aren’t crazy-good boarding numbers. — look at the graphs, ridership may be incrementally climbing these days but in the big picture it has plateaued.

  • Anonymous

    The Expo Line weekday passenger boardings per mile have now passed all of the Metro light-rail lines except the Blue Line.

    Weekday passenger boardings per mile:

    Blue Line________3,981
    Expo Line________3,128
    Gold Line________2,247
    Green Line_______2,133
    Orange Line BRT__1,508

    I would say that these ARE crazy good numbers for a light-rail line that has been open for a little more than a year. Imagine what they will be when its extended all the way to the city of Santa Monica.

  • Anonymous

    Dennis, I’m curious to know, why do you choose a ‘boardings per mile’ number rather than a ‘total boardings’ number when comparing the lines?

  • Anonymous

    I took the total weekday boarding numbers for a line and divided that by the total number of miles that it has. Here is a link to the number of miles for each line on Metro’s website:

    http://www.metro.net/news/facts-glance/

    Its rather unfair to simply compare the total weekday boardings of the Expo line with its 8.6 miles of track to the total weekday boardings of all the other Metro light-rail lines that are 20-22 miles long.

  • Niall Huffman

    It tells you how well or poorly the line is utilized in the neighborhoods it serves. Since the expense of building the line is roughly proportional to how long it is, riders per mile will give you an idea of how much bang the train offers for the taxpayers’ buck.

  • M1EK

    It’s legit – a good way to compare costs versus people served (Houston’s light rail line, BTW, blows the doors off almost everybody else when using this metric).

  • Guesty McGuesterstein

    Why anyone pretends that Reason is an honest broker about anything at all is one of the mysteries of the ages.

  • Anonymous

    It’s certainly a persuasive way to skew the numbers. Thanks. I wonder why Metro doesn’t report such a metric?

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone else get the boatloads of irony in the name “Reason Foundation”?

  • ranzchic

    The more they use descriptive words on thier names, the less accurate it actually is. Just look at all the People’s Republic countries out there.

  • Anandakos

    The south end does and did. The north end line is an excruciatingly slow-running joke. There’s no “there” along the route — it’s essentially an area of very low-income bungalows with little yards — and the reasonably nice bus transfer facility at Crosstimbers is served by far too few connecting lines.

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