LA Metro continues to increase ridership with weekend riders driving growth. Also, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board of Directors approves new fare structure and equity analysis; ridership on the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority’s (VPRA) Amtrak Virginia service reaches all-time high; an early decommission of Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT) line is possible following derailment; and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) recognizes HDR with 2023 Sustainability Commitment Award.
LA Metro on July 25 shared that in June the agency had a 13.3% year-over-year increase in ridership with nearly 24 million boardings, marking the seventh consecutive month of year-over-year ridership growth. LA Metro’s rail and bus ridership is now at 81% of its 2019 pre-pandemic level, according to the agency. Average weekend ridership is now at 91% of pre-pandemic level and 76% for average weekdays.
According to LA Metro, in June, the agency had 23,824,620 passengers board its rail and bus services. An average of 866,670 rides were taken each weekday, with Saturday boardings averaging 646,743 and Sunday boardings averaging 542,727. Ridership recovery continues to be stronger on the weekends than the weekdays, with average boardings on Saturdays, reaching almost 89% of their (June 2019) pre-pandemic level and average boardings on Sundays reaching almost 94% of their (June 2019) pre-pandemic level.
More than 5 million (5,145,536) trips were taken on the rail system in June, an increase of 14.2% over June 2022. Rail ridership growth was led by gains on the B Line (Red)/D Line (Purple) subway. Average weekday ridership on the B Line and D Line is up 15.5% year-over-year, and up 5.6% since January 2023. Average Sunday ridership on the B Line and D Line now exceeds its level in June 2019, before the pandemic.
Weekend ridership, LA Metro says, was driven in part by special events on the weekends, such as the Pride Parade, Pride Night at Dodger Stadium, Pride in the Park, and CicLAvia South L.A. The opening of the Regional Connector stations in the Little Tokyo/Arts District, Historic Broadway and Grand Av Arts/Bunker Hill also generated some excitement, with more than 100,000 riding the new A and E lines on opening day. More than 82,000 people continued to ride the new lines over opening weekend.
Bus ridership, LA Metro says, continued to lead overall with 18,679,084 rides taken during the month, and total bus ridership in June 2023 was almost 84% of its level in June 2019, before the pandemic. The agency says it has made a “concerted effort” to restore bus ridership, which accounted for 78.4% of its overall ridership in June. The agency has hired more than 1,000 bus operators since declaring an operator shortage in February 2022, and it fully restored its pre-pandemic level of service in December 2022. In addition, the agency, in partnership with the City of Los Angeles, has installed more than 30 miles of bus priority lanes, the most recent of which opened on Venice Blvd. in June.
“I’m excited that people continue to return to our buses, trains and rideshare services,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Karen Bass. “With the opening of the Regional Connector last month, Metro has made it more accessible and affordable to travel by public transit across the region, and the benefits of this new connectivity are translating into increased ridership. I look forward to seeing ridership continue to grow as we work to expand the system and make it safer and move welcoming for all.”
“Metro’s three new downtown stations stitched together the A, L and E lines, and made getting around Los Angeles easier and more fun,” said LA Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins. “Our riders can now easily visit downtown restaurants and events, and travel through three beautiful art filled stations which are quickly becoming destinations in themselves.”
Additionally, LA Metro says it has taken proactive steps to ensure its transit service is safe, friendly, fast, and frequent by:
- Implementing a new multi-layered public safety approach to increase the visible presence of both armed and unarmed security and customer care personnel on the system.
- Executing a Drug-Free Metro campaign focused on drug-related crimes with increased enforcement by law enforcement partners targeting the hotspots throughout the system resulting in cleaner, safer transit experiences for riders.
- Engaging more than 300 Metro Ambassadors to help customers navigate the transit system and improve their experience.
- Hiring more than 1,000 new transit operators to ensure adequate staffing levels for buses and trains.
- Fully restoring bus service making many lines faster and more frequent.
LA Metro also continues to provide more accessible and affordable transit through its fareless and reduced-price transit pass programs. The agency’s GoPass program offers free transit passes to K-12 and community college students in participating schools, and Metro’s Low-Income Fare is Easy (LIFE) program, gives free rides and discounted fares to people with low incomes.
The RTD Board of Directors on July 26 approved a new fare structure, policies and programs that will “provide lower costs for adult customers and one year of no-cost transit for youth throughout the district.” The fare changes, according to the agency, were developed as part of RTD’s systemwide fare study and equity analysis, a yearlong review aimed at creating a fare structure that is more “equitable, affordable and simple.”
Approved changes to the fare structure include:
- A new Standard fare ($2.75 for a 3-hour pass; $5.50 for a day pass; $88 for a monthly pass) for full-fare customers to all destinations except Denver International Airport. Airport fare, for SkyRide and A Line trips that begin or end at the airport, is $10.
- A single Discount fare ($1.35 for a 3-hour pass; $2.70 for a day pass; $27 for a monthly pass) that provides access to any RTD destination, including the airport, for seniors 65 and older, individuals with disabilities, Medicare recipients and individuals enrolled in LiVE, RTD’s income-based fare discount program.
- Zero Fare for Youth, a 12-month pilot program allowing youth ages 19 and under to use RTD services at no cost.
- Simplified pass programs, bulk purchases and a grant program that will give employers and other organizations more opportunities to provide transit benefits to clients and employees.
- An expansion of the LiVE program that would increase the number of customers eligible to enroll, based on higher income limits and removal of in-district address requirements. In addition, income-eligible customers using paratransit services can enroll in and receive LiVE discounts on Access-a-Ride fares ($2.25 standard fare; $9.50 airport fare) for the first time.
- The approved fare structure design was informed by financial, operational, technical and Title VI fare equity considerations, in addition to feedback provided by thousands of customers and community members through virtual and in-person meetings, community events, surveys, focus groups and public comments.
Now through August, the agency says customers can use all RTD services at no cost as part of the Zero Fare for Better Air initiative. In September, the yearlong Zero Fare for Youth pilot will begin, providing no-cost transit for youth to coincide with the start of the school year. All other changes to the fare structure will be implemented in the first quarter of 2024.
“With the Board of Directors’ approval of this new fare structure, RTD is removing barriers to transit access and reconciling longstanding concerns from customers and the community regarding the high cost and complexity of fares currently in place,” RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson said. “I am grateful for the thoughtful, comprehensive and purposeful work by staff, and I extend my thanks to the thousands of people across the region who shared their thoughts and ideas over the course of this important project.”
VPRA on July 25 announced that 1.26 million passengers traveled on its Amtrak Virginia service during the state’s Fiscal Year 2023 (July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023), setting a record for FY ridership. The total—1,256,123—beat the previous record of 894,065 set during FY 2015.
According to VPRA, the month of June also set a record for travel during that month with 111,212 passengers. The previous record for June was set last year when 85,533 passengers traveled. All four Amtrak Virginia corridors saw increases year-over-year from June 2022 to June 2023. Overall ridership was up 30% over last June with the Newport News service seeing the greatest increase of 57.4% from June 2022 to June 2023.
“These record-setting ridership numbers reflect the need for more investment in passenger rail in the Commonwealth,” said VPRA Executive Director DJ Stadtler. “With planned infrastructure improvements from Northern Virginia into Washington, DC including a new bridge across the Potomac River, new investment will benefit not only Virginians but also, those traveling to and from our nation’s capital and along the east coast. It’s vital we continue to secure necessary funding for these projects to ensure rail is a viable transportation option in Virginia and beyond.”
VPRA’s Transforming Rail in Virginia (TRV) initiative is a generational investment in rail infrastructure that will build high-performance passenger and commuter rail service in Virginia. According to VPRA, TRV projects will:
- Increase the state-supported Amtrak service between Washington, DC, and Richmond, resulting in near-hourly service along this corridor.
- Increase Amtrak service to Roanoke, Newport News, and Norfolk.
- Extend Amtrak service from Roanoke to the New River Valley (Christiansburg).
These investments, VPRA says, will make Amtrak Virginia service an even more practical transportation alternative for thousands of Virginians.
Currently, Amtrak Virginia service offers three daily roundtrips between Norfolk and Washington, DC; two daily between both Roanoke and Washington, and Newport News and Washington; and one daily roundtrip between Richmond and the nation’s capital. The record for monthly ridership on Amtrak Virginia is August 2022 when 119,280 passengers traveled.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is considering decommissioning an east-end rail line months earlier than planned after a derailment on July 24 left several passengers injured, according to a Global News report.
According to the report, TTC said “an investigation is underway after the rear car of a train on the SRT system separated from the rest of the train Monday evening and derailed at Ellesmere Station.” Five people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
The rail line, which, according to the Global News report, “runs trains that have been in service 10 years past their design life,” is scheduled for decommission in November. However, the TTC said Tuesday that early decommissioning of the rail line is “a possibility.” Buses are meant to replace the line until the Scarborough Subway Extension is opened by the province in 2030.
“Re-opening the SRT will be informed by the investigation,” the agency wrote in a statement. “Early decommissioning is on the table.”
According to the Global News report, the TTC said about 40 buses are currently replacing the SRT line (also known as Line 3) during rush hours as the investigation into the derailment takes place.
“External reviewers coming in to assist,” the agency wrote on Twitter. “But this could be several days at minimum, so we have staff on scene to assist with options.”
According to APTA, the Sustainability Commitment program is “a voluntary initiative where public transit agencies and businesses pledge to implement processes and actions that drive continuous improvements in environmental, social, and economic sustainability.” Based on measurable achievements, organizations receive recognition at Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze levels. Since its inception in 2009, 138 public transit agencies and businesses have joined the APTA Sustainability Commitment, and currently 50 signatories have earned higher-level recognition.
According to APTA, HDR is the second business member and seventh organization overall to achieve Platinum recognition in the Sustainability Commitment Program, and provides clients with “economic, social, and environmental value through integrated solutions.” For example, HDR’s Regenerative Design Framework is an interactive, online tool that allows HDR’s multidisciplinary teams to design for a project’s connected ecosystem, looking at key performance indicators for carbon, water, air, biodiversity, nutrients, human health and community. This framework was honored as a Fast Company World Changing Idea.
Moreover, the employee driven and funded HDR Foundation awarded a record $1.44 million in grants to nonprofits in the communities where HDR employees reside in 2022. Since its establishment, the HDR Foundation has granted more than $6 million to more than 250 organizations aligned with HDR’s areas of expertise: education, healthy communities, and the environment.
Lastly, HDR joined more than 60 international architecture, engineering, and construction firms in 2021 to issue a communiqué to government leaders attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). By signing the communiqué, APTA says HDR “reaffirmed its commitment to the 2030 Challenge for reducing carbon emissions in the design and building professions, and to its internal commitment to reduce environmental impact through sustainable business practices.”
Additionally, the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) was awarded Gold recognition in the APTA Sustainability Program .
“APTA is thrilled to celebrate the exceptional efforts of HDR and CATA in championing sustainability in public transit and social equity,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “Their leadership in sustainability solutions, along with successful outcomes of their actions, is leaving a lasting positive impact on both our environment and communities.”