For Metrolink It’s a 6% Fare Hike vs. Major Service Cuts

12_4_09_interior.jpgThis was one of four cars on an Orange County Line run leaving Los
Angeles Union Station to Orange County and Oceanside. It gets busier in
Orange County.  Photo and description: LA Wad/Flickr

Two weeks ago, I celebrated that the Metrolink Board agreed to "look into other options" rather than raise fares by 6%.

Maybe I was premature.

Earlier this week, Metrolink announced a series of proposed service cuts that would eliminate service on some weekend lines and curtail service on lines across the board.  The cuts would replace the fare hike, but for many activists the cuts go way too far.  You can read Metrolink’s official announcement of the proposed cuts here.  The Metrolink Board will vote on their budget, including either fare hikes, or service cuts, or both, on December 11.  If you’re interested in this story, be sure to read on until the end as some of the information provided by Transit Coalition volunteers is must-read material.

Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition, complains that while the lines that are on the chopping block may be some of the least used lines, they provide start or end of trip connections.  In other words, eliminating or reducing these services will reduce ridership across the service.

If you drill down into the numbers, you will find that the weak trips that are on the chopping block still carry between 80 to 125 riders. Many of those riders are completing a final leg of their trips. While at Union Station today, I actually saw a number of riders get off the Orange County and San Bernardino trains and transfer to the Moorpark bound Metrolink. Many got off in either Burbank or Glendale. If the trip segments are cut, Metrolink becomes worthless for many more riders, as their trip corridor can only be completed by auto.

Ryan Stern, a volunteer board member for the National Association of Rail Passengers, notes that many of the large trip generators served by Metrolink would see a sharp decline in service, to the point of neutering the service at certain times:

If all the cuts go through as proposed, Northridge Station (which
services Cal-State University Northridge as well as the large
Northridge Medical Center) would see a total of TWO morning trains from
Los Angeles (one of which would be the dual-personality Amtrak #799)
and only ONE inbound afternoon/evening train.

Burbank Airport would see its service cut almost in HALF.  Downtown
Burbank (which is utilized by employees at Disney, Warner Brothers, and
NBC Studios, among others) would see a reduction of 10 trains– mostly
morning trains originating in Los Angeles and afternoon/evening trains
heading "inbound" toward Union Station.

It has been my observation that many passengers who ride "outbound" in
the morning actually begin their trips heading "inbound" from points on
other lines.  I often wonder if Metrolink fully comprehends how Union
Station has become a way-point for a substantial number of their
passengers.  Even though it may be preferable to dismiss the morning
outbound frequencies as "re-positioning" moves, these short "reverse
trips" are vital to those who connect at Union, enabling these
passengers connect to "long" trips elsewhere in the system.

While the Southern California Transit Advocates are still working on a formal position, it’s a bit of a tight deadline to have cuts announced one week and a vote occurring the next,  but they seem to be leaning towards a position supporting a mix of the cuts and hikes to balance the budget.  They note that a 6% across the board increase would effect all riders, while targeted cuts would effect a much smaller minority.  While there are some cuts that are more troubling than others, the SoCATA Board Members I spoke with are concerned on the impact that a second fare hike in the last year would have on riders while noting that ridership has dropped by nearly 20% on some of the routes expecting cuts.  Dana Gabbard writes:

I guess in this circumstance I would think some service cuts (maybe not
all they outline here) are called for. Some of these runs are running
nearly empty, from what I hear. Well intentioned as it is to provide
reverse commute service, etc., in an era of limited resources I think
priority has to be serving established demand.

Furthering the argument that just increasing the fares is the way to go is work done by economist Zach Gutierrez.  Gutierrez does the bulk of the writing for the Transit Coalition’s weekly newsletter, for which I also write:

As of 2005 the median household income of a Metrolink rider was $72,232. 84.5% own a car. The majority of riders are not transit dependent and can probably afford to pay a little more, especially when you consider that even in the middle of winter gas prices continue to hover just below $3 per gallon, still 75 cents higher than a year prior. Who knows what will happen to gas prices next summer? Should a recovering economy or instability in the Middle East cause gas prices to hit $4 or $5 per gallon, Southern California commuters will be glad no service cuts were made. It is in the public’s interest to retain service for this very probable scenario.

Economic recovery is slowly but surely happening. The DOW hit a 14-month high on Tuesday, December 1st. The unemployment rate, which is currently ravaging Metrolink’s ridership counts, lags behind recovery according to most economists. Rehiring by recovering companies cannot be far away, which means a future increase in riders taking Metrolink, providing the service is still there.

While the debate will probably end up being between a fare hike and the service cuts, Transit Coalition member Nicholas Ventrone has a other ways for Metrolink to save some money.

One idea is changing the weekend train departure times without shortening the service span. Since weekend traffic on this freeway is very heavy in both directions on weekends, SCRRA should conduct a demand analysis study of the line for weekend and holiday travel between LA/Orange Counties and the Inland Empire followed by the service modifcation (using the current resources in addition to possible public/private partnership funding). This would stimulate ridership and better farebox recovery revenue without having to resort to cuts or fare hikes. SCRRA should also explore the feasibility of other weekend fare products such as single and family weekend passes lasting from Friday afternoon through Sunday and other family fare products to stimulate ridership and make rail travel more competitive. SCRRA should also consider adding a "transfer to transit" fare option for the existing Friends & Family 4-Pack, allowing families to transfer to Metro Rail, the SPRINTER, and other connecting transit. This should also further stimulate ridership.

As I mentioned above, the Metrolink Board will vote on how they’re going to balance their budget at next week’s Board Meeting.  Streetsblog will let you know the outcome as the news breaks.

  • My thanks to Mr. Newton for trying to sort out a rather complicated situation.

    An October report by Riverside County Transportation Commission staff on the second to last page has Aug. 2008-Aug. 2009 ridership numbers by month for all the Metrolink lines

    Fairly grim reading. Streetsblog readers may find it helpful to get a feel for the ridership losses that are partly motivating the proposed cuts.

    I have heard at least one report of a recent afternoon weekend Orange County Metrolink train being packed. And I worry cancelling all weekend OC service would result in some folks being forced on what are often already crowded Surfliner trips. A 4 hour gap between trains Saturdays in the evening on the San Bernardino line seems excessive.

    I think Mssrs Reed and Stern are overstating the extent of trans-train travel. It happens but it is hard to believe to the extent that the cuts would have any appreciable impact on ridership of any magnitude. Talking points based on trains with “80 to 125 riders” isn’t a winning one, given current circumstances. And the riders have made strong pushback against a second fare increase so anyone pushing “Increase the fares and leave the service alone” is likely going to fail. I think a mix of cuts and a small hike to balance the budget is the most reasonable course.

    All of this is regretable and certainly in the long run the shortchanging of transit is shortsighted. We should be preparing for the future but many officials persist in praising transit while robbing it of the means of being able to handle a surge of demand when gas prices spike again. So frustrating!

  • Hank Fung

    There has certainly been vigorous debate among SO.CA.TA board members. I, for one, endorse the service cut as a means of Metrolink to not only balance its budget, but also focus its operations on a fewer number of trains. With the recent discovery of yet another engineer running a red light, it is clear that Veolia staff is stretched too thin in monitoring the behavior of engineers. Cutting service will allow resources to be marshalled and management focused on running a tighter operation. A fare increase now, when riders are already staring at a “hidden” fare increase next June with the closure of the fare gates, elimination of transfers to MTA service, and requiring all monthly and 10-trip pass holders to purchase TAP cards for transfers, is foolish and will only strain parallel bus services and freeways more.

    The 11:30 pm train to San Bernardino gets a few dozen passengers. Although it may provide some benefit to riders going for a night out, a few dozen passengers does not justify spending the roughly $700 it costs to operate that train (based on current Metrolink cost per hour).

    Metrolink’s core competency is that of the peak hour commute. It helps provide added capacity during the peak hours and reduces air pollution due to long commutes on weekdays. Weekend service is nice to provide mobility for those without cars, but the cuts in off peak bus service in places like Orange County are more detrimental to the mobility of those without cars. If there is a need for midday service to places like Northridge, operate a shuttle for $20 a trip from Chatsworth to Northridge, rather than sending a train out that costs $500. For the person that has to go to Burbank from Union Station, it’s called the 794. Use it. You’re no different than the person who travels to Century City from Union Station. If Amtrak needs to add more cars on the Surfliner, than Amtrak can operate more cars. The taxpayer subsidy for Amtrak is less than that of Metrolink, so it should not be a problem.

    Taxpayers deserve a service that is safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly. The service cuts help refocus Metrolink on those goals, instead of operating wasteful service that either runs empty or duplicates existing transit.

  • Spokker

    “Although it may provide some benefit to riders going for a night out, a few dozen passengers does not justify spending the roughly $700 it costs to operate that train (based on current Metrolink cost per hour).”

    I have a theory that an 11:30PM train increases ridership on the trains immediately before it.

    One of the biggest fears about transit is getting stranded. A person is much more likely to take the 9PM train home if they know that there is an 11:30 train if the worst happens. It’s a long wait, but at least they’ll get home. Adding a train at 10PM or 10:30 would amplify the effect.

    Again, it’s just a theory.

  • If that’s a problem, then SANBAG can pay for a bus on the Omnitrans 66 and 14 to connect to one of the Silver Streaks leaving Montclair, and Foothill Transit can run a later trip on the 492. (Covina and Baldwin Park stations are covered by the MTA 490/190, which operates past midnight.) Total cost: $200.

    You could run service all night if you wanted to. The question is if it is a good deal for taxpayers, who subsidize Metrolink to the tune of $300 per revenue service hour. I have grave concerns over evening service cuts at OCTA because it eliminates all service options for riders who have no options. I have less of a concern for Metrolink because their demographic is different. If you are a choice rider and still want to take the train, and are worried about getting stranded, my advice is to park at Montclair station. The Silver Streak runs all night.

  • Spokker

    I’m not worried about taxpayer dollars going to Metrolink when so much is wasted on automobile infrastructure. You have a problem with the ridership on late trains, and that’s fine, but those trains, and all trains really, would do so much better if the playing field wasn’t so heavily tilted in the direction of cars. Just the past 50 years of highway building has contributed tremendously to that.

    So I say keep taxpayer dollars going to empty trains. It’s just as efficient as what we are currently spending it on.

  • Spokker

    Empty trains and empty rural highways. America has got it all :)

  • Jason Harris

    As a Metrolink commuter who’s taken the weekend line 1-2x before, honestly, I’d MUCH rather see them focus on improving the commuter service than some throwaway lines.

    For most people, the weekend line is a convenience at best, but it’s a near-necessity for the commuters to get to work. If I want to get to downtown LA at 8:30AM and I *DON’T* take a train, it’s HOURS of horrific traffic. With this service getting increasingly unreliable and expensive, what’s the commuter to do?

    I strongly doubt that much of the off-peak ridership is of the no-cars set….Metrolink isn’t the bus, and it isn’t exactly a budget option. Spending $18 per person to get to LA on your weekend out is more expensive than driving, but I’ve seen higher income folks use it as convenience to avoid traffic/parking. When my monthly pass is pushing $300/mo, I think those people can get in their car to save the rest of us commuters a couple hundred more per year.

  • Spokker, the question is that if taxpayer dollars are finite, why increase fares 6% and then run lightly used train sets on weekends and middays? If you raise fares by 6%, standard fare elasticity tells you that 1-2% of riders will switch elsewhere. That might not be a lot, but that’s an extra few dozen cars per hour on the freeway that will make congestion even worse. When your one-way fares are already the highest in the country on a per mile basis outside of New York and Boston, there’s not much further you can go.

  • Spokker

    calwatch, my point is that the train was never even given a fair opportunity to compete with roads and highways.

    From the book Autophobia by Brian Ladd.

    “Choices are always constrained by the available circumstances, and people are often complicit in creating those circumstances. Even if most commuters did, at crucial moments, prefer cars or buses to streetcars, they were choosing among the limited and imperfect alternatives available to them. Streetcars suffered not only from the limitations of their technology, but also from a political deadlock that left the transit companies, lacking the resources of a General Motors, unable to improve that technology. Healthier relationships between cities and transit companies would probably have preserved streetcar service in some places. ”

    Change “streetcar” to “Metrolink” and perhaps read it again. You remove the service and you tilt the tide toward the car even more. You remove the service and people forget about it, making it that much harder to rebuild in the future.

    If we’re going to go through this cycle with transit service every few years, then we’re not going to get anywhere. We expand the service in good times and knock it down in bad times. We’re running in place.

    “When my monthly pass is pushing $300/mo, I think those people can get in their car to save the rest of us commuters a couple hundred more per year.”

    At $300 per month your per mile cost is probably around 12-14 cents per mile! How low do you want it go?! What kind of car do you drive that it costs 12-14 cents per mile to own and operate it?

  • Spokker

    “We expand the service in good times and knock it down in bad times. We’re running in place.”

    To add, this cycle goes on and the 5 is still there in bad times and good times. The 105 is still there. The 10 is still there. Why not cut maintenance on the 105? Shut it down to save money. Shut it down to plug up some budget holes. Drivers are never called upon to make such sacrifices.

  • Spokker, then advocate for greater funding provided to trains over highways. I can’t support raising fares yet again, when the cost of living or transportation has not increased, and the primary reason for the increase is the cost of liability and insurance. Contractors are allergic to Metrolink’s liability protection requirements, and their failure to instill a safety culture is manifest in the multiple incidents of human operator error. Maybe Amtrak does a better job of covering these incidents up, but I have never heard of so many incidents of red light running from Amtrak.

    Incidentally, I will tell you that it is very possible to drive an automobile for 14 cents per mile, even given today’s gas prices. The key points are to purchase a used quality American car (the Ford Focus is often used) or an lower-mileage old (10+ year old) Japanese car (Nissan Sentra, Toyota Tercel/Corolla, Honda Civic); stick with liability coverage; and drive at the speed limit, but not over 55 mph, to maximize fuel economy. You have to consider that Metrolink riders generally DRIVE to the station, so they can’t subtract the cost of the car completely – only the difference in depreciation caused by the miles that would have gone on the road instead being used by Metrolink. And for high mileage vehicles, the delta for driving each additional mile in terms of the hit on its value is less at 150,000 miles than it is at 50,000.

  • Spokker

    Well, it was certainly unlucky that an engineer decided it was more important to text young boys than operate a train. It was also unlucky that a suicidal maniac decided to deliberately derail a train. Also unlucky was BNSF running a freight train into a Metrolink train in Placentia. Last but not least, it was unlucky that the new locomotives were crap.

    I don’t think Metrolink can win. It may be time to dissolve the service and hand it over to a new agency entirely. Nobody who currently works at Metrolink or sits on its board of directors could participate in the new agency, including Connex. That’s what I would ultimately do.

  • Jason Harris

    Spokker, your logic would work great if Metrolink covered ALL of my transit needs, and not just driving to work. Nevermind that I have to drive to the Metrolink station itself, I still need to go places that aren’t downtown LA. This requires me owning a car. My car payment isn’t going anywhere, Metrolink is just an added payment on top of my car.

    Gas and parking are about at the break even point for the Metrolink right now. I have to keep asking myself if it’s worth dealing with being late 2-3x a week and having near misses like my train almost smashing into another train (and waiting 4 hours for a fix!) to save a few bucks on deterioration on my car.

    I get that you’re apparently an extremist train advocate, but while I wait around for the new Fontana Subway to take me to the store to get groceries (I guess I’ll carry them home in a shopping cart) my car gets me where I need to go. The Metrolink is horribly inconvenient for going anywhere that isn’t downtown LA….so rather than making it’s one strong point worse, let’s focus on the one thing it’s good at rather than a few dozen people who decided it’d be a hoot to take a train to LA instead of drive for their Saturday out.

  • Metrolink by its enabling legislation, the structure of its board, its “contracting” model, etc. is aimed at a commuter service orientation. The OCTA 30 minute service that is supposed to start next year was the first manifestation of any substantial regional transit role a la Long Island Railroad. And note the first thing offered to be cut now when the budget crunch hit are the weekend, off peak, reverse commute aspects that were the nearest thing it had done to edge toward anything like being a provider for “ALL of my transit needs”.

    This is not just a situation of budget and ridership but also differing visions. Some folks want to take Metrolink in a direction that as an organization it doesn’t see as its role. And I don’t think the 5 JPA member organization have that vision either beyond what OCTA has been working on. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

  • Spokker

    “I get that you’re apparently an extremist train advocate, but while I wait around for the new Fontana Subway to take me to the store to get groceries”

    Hahaha, Fontana. Yes, whine about your monthly pass and how Metrolink can’t take you through low-density communities into Downtown LA for 5 cents a mile. You moved out there and are surprised that your transportation budget is out of control. By all means, get off the train and continue driving. Apparently it’s the best deal in town. When $5 per gallon gas hits your train service will still be there. Fuck everyone else who has a reverse-commute or has to work weekends.

  • Just so you know what Metrolink’s weekend ridership is like, take a look at my photo of the IEOC Line at San Bernardino Station:

  • Steven, that photo is misleading. It should two train sets, so one of those sets could have been a San Bernardino train. In addition, the IEOC Beach Train will continue as it did prior to service expansion. Many of these passengers will continue to be able to take the train to their destinations.

    Spokker, by the same token, why should taxpayers like myself pay for reverse commute or off peak service and subsidize these individuals to the tune of $50 or more per trip? I recently corresponded with a regular rider of the 11:30 pm train, and he confirmed my observations when I rode it that the ridership is 30-40 people. Do the math: that’s $35 per trip. Given the average weekend fare, that’s the government spending $20-$30 on subsidizing their ticket. At least Jason’s train, which is mostly full, is paying somewhat closer to the $700 cost of running that train. “Fuck everyone else” who happens to be a taxpayer and doesn’t want to pay for wasteful service, especially for people who have choices.

  • Dana, I agree that Metrolink has grown outside of the boundaries of a JPA. It needs a revenue source that is more than the payments of the local transportation commissions. I am thinking of the Capitol Corridor model, with local control but state funding. The local transportation commissions have tough budgets ahead. From 2008 to today, OCTA has cut over 20% of its bus service, yet has left Metrolink within Orange County intact. It’s time for Metrolink riders to feel some of the pain too.

  • Spokker

    Why have weekend bus service? Why have off-peak service? It’s all wasteful.

  • Spokker

    My point is that all those changes we want, which primarily consist of shifting away from cars, doesn’t happen if you cut the service.

    Consider this. A recent study determined that in the South Coast Air Basin, polluted air costs us $1,250 per person. Much of that is caused by cars and light trucks. How do we combat this health epidemic if we can’t do the following:

    1) Take capacity away from roads and highways and give it to transit.
    2) Keep the service we have (and not just Metrolink).
    3) Flip the incentives a little bit so that it isn’t so lopsided toward drivers.

    Jason Harris laments that his monthly pass is getting too expensive and doesn’t want his tax dollars going to wasteful trains. But the only reason he lives in Fontana of all places is because of federal, state and local policies that favored suburban development over urban development. He doesn’t want to lose his free parking subsidies, parking policies that require a certain amount of parking in front of each store, his mortgage subsidies (if he owns a house), his road subsidy, and his highway subsidies, and many more. No, you can’t take those subsidies away, no matter how much they promote an unsustainable lifestyle.

    What he prefers to cut is train service for people who don’t want to risk their neck out on the freeway, who maybe don’t have the most reliable car to get to the only job can find in Los Angeles. Those subsidies aren’t okay with him.

  • Spokker

    Jason Harris, do you have a front lawn and do you take showers and if so how are you enjoying those expensive aquaducts, pipelines and water treatment systems to pump water all the way out into the boondocks? If you were a fiscally responsible taxpayer maybe you would abandon the suburbs and live somewhere denser that wasn’t such a burden on taxpayers.

    “The expense to build roads and utilities further and further from the urban cores not only drove costs to unsustainable levels, it created an imbalance in who paid for growth. Over the past 50 years, Krusee argued, the federal government used tax money that came by and large from cities to subsidize roads to areas without access otherwise.

    “City dwellers have subsidized the land purchases and the development costs out in the suburbs,” said Krusee. What’s more, the gas tax, which city dwellers pay when driving on city roads, but which goes to freeways largely outside of urban cores, is “a huge transfer of wealth from the cities to the suburbs to build these rings.””

    I don’t want to pay for your goddamn power lines anymore. Let’s compare population densities, mother fucker, and see what happens! ITS ON!! I AM THE ULTIMATE LIBERAL SCUM!!!

    lol Seriously though.

  • People can shift away from cars, but they NEED TO LIVE CLOSER TO WORK. Running Metrolink service to midnight does little in that regard, and actually supports the “sprawl” that you think is a problem (and I think is a choice that people make, as evidenced by the “sprawl” that you find in countries in Europe and Asia).

    I have more of a problem with late evening bus service being cut because many people can’t drive, because they’re too young, too old, or too poor. Even so, OCTA just lopped off Sunday bus service to several suburban communities. Yet Metrolink service in that county is untouched (until this current service cut).

    By the way, all of those subsidies were voted in by our representatives – in Washington, in Sacramento, and at the local city and county level. If you want to try to tilt the highway bill to be more transit friendly, go right ahead, and I’ll agree with you. But please try convincing a representative in Texas or Alabama that sprawl is an issue too. Don’t attack people who are your natural allies.

  • Spokker

    You should note that the “attacks” are jokes. Read the end of my last comment.

  • Spokker

    “Running Metrolink service to midnight does little in that regard, and actually supports the “sprawl” that you think is a problem”

    Not nearly as much, though. Streetcar suburbs, for example, certainly supported sprawl, but it actually wasn’t as bad as it is now. Remember, Metrolink started in 1992. Sprawl already happened.

    “By the way, all of those subsidies were voted in by our representatives – in Washington, in Sacramento, and at the local city and county level.”

    And those processes are always on the up and up, nary an influence by tire makers, oil companies and automobile manufacturers to be found…

  • No, that’s not a misleading photo. I was on a Saturday IEOC line train, and we all had just disembarked when I decided to take that photo. My point is that the IEOC line is slated for elimination on weekends.

  • DJB

    No matter what the vision for Metrolink is, or whether it makes more sense to raise fares or cut service to balance the budget, I sure wish we cared as much about transit as we care about our bloated military budget (ca. $600 billion per year, the largest in the world by far) and waging war (cost since 2001 for Iraq and Afghanistan: $915 billion and climbing according to the National Priorities Project). We have ample documentation just from this blog that American streets kill many more people EVERY YEAR than terrorists did in 2001.

    We can’t fund basic needs like transit adequately largely because our national priorities are messed up. Boardings, not bombs!

  • Actually, the IEOC line will retain beach train service, as it was prior to the service expansion. Since the photo was taken in August, and it is obvious that some of the people are coming from the beach or other recreation, they could take the beach train, which will run in August. So the statement that there will be no service on the IEOC line is incorrect.

  • Spokker

    Okay, I have no idea what’s going on with Metrolink weekend ridership. Help me out here.

    The following two photos are of the third car of Metrolink train 658 service to San Juan Capistrano taken from the middle of the car. It’s a full load. 1) 2)

    Then I move to the next car, the fourth. 3) Empty 5 minutes before departure, though four people ended up sitting on the top and two on the bottom level.

    Why is one car so full while another one is empty? Maybe they should just lop off the two empty cars, as the first three had pretty good patronage.

    Also, here’s Metrolink train 653 Orange County service to Los Angeles just before 8AM. It was taken between Norwalk and LAUS. Outside of the frame there are eight people who were sitting next to where I took the photo that the camera didn’t catch.

  • I found a recent Metrolink ridership/revenue presentation that gives a picture of the situation:

    Note the statement “Latest figures suggest a revenue shortfall from adopted FY10 Budget of $7.7 million.”

  • Calwatch, there have been some recent discussions about a new governance structure for the LODSSAN corridor (the SB 457 process) modeled on the Capitol Corridor.

  • “Incidentally, I will tell you that it is very possible to drive an automobile for 14 cents per mile, even given today’s gas prices.”


    Gas prices are not the only part of owning and operating an automobile. Add in the cost of insurance, maintenance, a car lease/own payment, annual registration and parking, and then gasoline on top of that.

    I don’t see how factoring all of this in equals 14 cents per mile for anyone.

  • I wish the San Gabriel Valley and San Fernando Valley political players would show even a fraction of the energy they show for roads and the Gold Line expansion for upgrading and investing in Metrolink service.

    It’s very disappointing that the Gold Line to Montclair was not initially studied as a branch of the San Bernadino Metrolink Line from El Monte.

  • “It’s very disappointing that the Gold Line to Montclair was not initially studied as a branch of the San Bernadino Metrolink Line from El Monte.”

    The powers that be have been adament only light rail is acceptable. During the long period the Gold Line was in limbo they even had a bridge along the right of way over a freeway torn down to preclude any thoughts of the alternative you suggest.

  • TransitPlanner

    There is already a vision for the future of Metrolink. It came from us transit advocates of course. Let’s start advocating for it !

  • TransitPlanner

    There is already an excelent vision for the future of Metrolink. It came from us transit advocates of course. I couldn’t think of a better projects for ARRA funding. Let’s start advocating for it !

  • Metrolink MAX used to be DOA. Now a stake has been driven through its heart. Deader than dead. Its advocates are urging fare increases and no cuts. So out of reality it is beyond surreal…

  • Spokker

    With Los Angeles unwilling to widen freeways, especially those at the LA-OC border, and high gas prices, enhanced regional train service will be more important than ever in the future.

  • John Laue

    It’s a big mistake to lump the off-peak and weekend trains together in terms of operating costs. Most off-peak weekday trains, especially the so-called “reverse commute” trains that leave union station in the morning and return in the afternoon, are much cheaper to operate, because they use the same labor (engineers and conductors) that are used for the peak period, rush hour trains.
    The labor costs of operating these off-peak trains is very low. Since labor costs are the single biggest component of train operations, this needs to be taken into account when the decision is made about what trains should be eliminated. I’m not an advocate of eliminating any service, but it’s obvious that the weekend service is much more expensive to operate, because it requires that additional train crews be paid to operate the service.

    By the way, I agree with Dana that it was a huge mistake to turn the old Santa Fe rout through Pasadena into a light rail line when there could have been Metrolink trains operating on this right of way since the agency was first created in the early 90’s–what a waste of time and money!

  • Jason Harris

    Spokker, if you’re within LA county I don’t really see why you’d need to use the Metrolink at all. Your assertion that I should move out of “the boondocks” is silly, if I was commuting to downtown from inside LA I’d have plenty of alternate (far less expensive) routes.

    I’m complaining that the Metrolink is expensive compared to comparable services offered by various other communities throughout the country. It is at best slightly useful for weekend travel, but considering the vast majority of it’s ridership is for commuters, that should be the focus. Why should the 9-5 monthly pass holders all pay more for service to help out the guy who decided he didn’t want to drive one Saturday out of the year?

    That said, your posts are pretty borderline trolling so it’s getting harder and harder to take you seriously.

  • Spokker

    Why should the 9-5 commuters on Interstate 10 all pay for peak service to help out the guy who doesn’t want to join them in Hell on the freeway? Many of them would rather see the tracks paved over and the carpool lane removed so they could benefit from two more regular lanes.

    Your own ride on Metrolink is subsidized to the tune of 50%. I wouldn’t be complaining about the four round-trips to and from Orange County each Saturday and Sunday.

  • Jason Harris

    Also Spokky, unlike LA which is getting it’s water from hundreds of miles away, Fontana has it’s own water company that gets water from local sources.

    At this point you’re obviously a contrarian troll…you’ll argue that cars are evil one day, then that the Metrolink is bad in your next post and the guy in his car shouldn’t have to pay. You haven’t contributed anything constructive to the discussion whatsoever, so I’m through responding to you.

  • Spokker

    “you’ll argue that cars are evil one day, then that the Metrolink is bad in your next post and the guy in his car shouldn’t have to pay.”

    You missed the point entirely.

  • Just to clarify on John Laue’s comment, I didn’t make any judgement on the Gold Line light rail advocates making sure Metrolink wasn’t an alternative along that right of way, just noted the mindset and actions taken. I will admit I have contemplated whether DMUs at least on the part east of Azusa might be an option although I think the difficulties (and cost esculation) NCTD had with the Sprinter may have hurt interest in that technology for at least the moment.

  • Well… I haven’t followed all the comments, nor have I ever ridden an empty Metrolink train, nor a standing-room-only one. But I have one idea that I’d like to throw in the mix: parking.

    I don’t know if Metrolink owns/controls all of (or any of) its parking lots, but there seems to be quite a bit of free parking at the OC line stops I take the train to. Buena Park, Santa Ana, Tustin, Irvine each offer dozens if not hundreds of spaces of free parking. If they were to charge something minimal (perhaps something like $1-2/day) to park there, it could raise some money for the agency, encourage multi-modal trips (including bike/train) and wouldn’t hurt the commuters who could least afford it (the ones who can’t afford a car.) It’s not going to balance the Metrolink budget, but it could be a small step in a good direction.

    While we’re at it, this should be done by Metro, too. Why are transit agencies looking to raise fares while providing huge amounts of free parking at rail stations? Metro should meter its lots in North Hollywood, Universal City, Lincoln Heights, Heritage Square, Pasadena, Long Beach, etc.

  • Joe, I think that is a really good idea.

  • spokker

    Joe, good idea, but Metrolink is not responsible for the stations it services. The individual cities are. To implement your idea something would have to change.

  • cph

    To their credit, Metrolink is not touching their basic commuter runs, and is not changing their busiest off-peak line (San Bernardino) all that much. The late night train (11:30 on Saturday night ) was an interesting experiment, but it’s just not a priority.

    I’m more concerned about the fare increases, including the possible loss of transfer privileges to the MTA subway sometime in 2010. So many increases are are pricing people off the system, and in many cases there are not any acceptable substitutes. I live along the San Bernardino line and could theoretically drive to Montclair and catch the Foothill buses there. But imagine someone from San Bernardino doing that? Sort of defeats the purpose of a public transit system.

    Another $4+/gal gas episode like we had last year, and we could be in a world of hurt.

    Therefore, our job here, right now, in my opinion, is to limit the damage somewhat and keep the fare increase as low as possible, and keep as much service as realistically possible. “Metrolink Max” and other such wish lists, can wait.

    As far as some of the bigger picture issues brought up:

    * Substitutes or midday service: The San Fernando Valley gets decent coverage from the Orange Line and a reasonable local bus network. To get to Orange County, passengers not wanting to use Amtrak can take the MTA #460 (admittedly a bit slow going through Norwalk) and transfer in Anaheim to the #83 for Santa Ana and other points south. For trips to the San Gabriel Valley, there’s Foothill Transit, although the “Silver Streak” line east of West Covina can be hard to access.

    Going east of Montclair, however, can be a real adventure. You can go as far as Fontana with one change of bus. For Rialto and San Bernardino, you would have to change again in Fontana. I checked the schedules; a ride on Omni #14 and #66, then Foothill’s Silver Streak, would take about 3 hours and 30 minutes. And the first two hours are spent trying to get out of San Bernardino County!

    * Who rides the Midday service: While it is not as full as the rush hour trips, the San Bernardino midday runs are busy.

    * Living near your work: Nice if you can do it, and a good idea in general. It’s harder for estabilshed families to pull up stakes and move downtown for a variety of reasons, though.

  • Here is the letter the Transit Coalition submitted to the Metrolink Board, outlining their stance:


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