METRO RAIL RIDERSHIP RISE CITED.
Ridership on Los Angeles County's growing Metro Rail system has doubled in the past two years, exceeding the ridership in 12 other major U.S. cities, according to a report Friday by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
``This latest statistical evidence proves that Los Angeles rail ridership figures stack up nicely with our counterpart systems,'' said MTA Chief Executive Officer Joseph Drew. ``If these ridership trends continue, our Los Angeles rail system will one day become a model for the rest of the world.''
But critics said the MTA's figures are inflated, misleading and a cause for concern because of the burden on taxpayers.
MTA officials said 99,100 passengers are using the system's Blue, Red and Green lines on an average weekday, up from 50,450 passengers who used the Blue and Red lines two years ago before the Green Line opened.
Several systems that are much older exceed the MTA's ridership. New York City's rail system is used by 4.3 million riders daily.
But, the MTA's six-year-old system of 48 miles of rail compares favorably with lines that are less than 20 years old, according to a statement released Friday by Drew.
Among the newer lines, the MTA system has more daily riders than the systems in Denver, San Jose, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, N.Y., Cleveland, Sacramento, Portland, Ore., St. Louis, San Diego, Miami and Baltimore, the report said.
The Blue Line's ridership of 45,500 daily passengers is slightly lower than St. Louis' light-rail line, about equal to San Diego's trolley and twice the ridership of lines in Sacramento, Portland, Buffalo and San Jose, MTA officials said.
MTA critic John Walsh, however, said the 99,100 trips reported by the MTA counts many of the same passengers two to six times. A passenger is counted twice if he or she takes the train to work and then back home again in the same day, Walsh said.
In addition, the same passenger may transfer from the Green Line to the Blue Line to the Red Line and is counted once for each line, Walsh said.
Walsh said any success the MTA has had in gaining riders has been the result of a decision to provide massive taxpayer subsidies that inflate ridership in comparison to other agencies that provide smaller subsidies.
He said the fare from Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles is $1.35 (or a token costing 90 cents), while a similar trip in Washington, D.C., would cost $3.
``This is the least expensive system in the country for riders but we, the taxpayers of Los Angeles, are subsidizing this to the point where they can get 100,000 passengers,'' Walsh said.
``It's a bad thing because eventually they're going to go broke. They won't be able to afford it,'' Walsh added.
Tom Rubin, a private transit consultant who was the controller for the MTA's predecessor agency, the Rapid Transit District, also said taxpayers are paying dearly to get ridership up.
``If your objective is to achieve a certain amount of ridership and you are willing to throw any amount of money at it then, yes, you can achieve that,'' Rubin said. ``They are just paying a fortune for those riders.''
Rubin said the taxpayers' operating subsidy for bus riders during the 1995-96 fiscal year was 99 cents each, while the operating subsidy was $3.36 per trip for the Blue Line, $5.03 for the Red Line and $8.12 for the Green Line.
The operating subsidy does not include the $3.4 billion cost to taxpayers to build the 48-mile rail system so far, an amount that would double or triple the operating subsidy, Rubin said.
MTA spokesman Gary Wosk said the information he was given by MTA officials indicates that the operating subsidy is much lower than what Rubin claimed - $1.46 per passenger for the Green Line, for instance.
Wosk declined to comment in detail on the subsidy issue, saying it would have to be addressed by others in the agency who were not available Friday because of the long holiday.
In the report released by the MTA, officials attributed the high ridership figures in part to a change in the attitude of commuters, many of whom are less likely to chose ``freeway gridlock over the convenience and comfort of a train.''
MTA Board Chairman Larry Zarian said the ridership figures are encouraging given the attitude of commuters.
``Clearly, the people of Los Angeles are not as attached to their automobiles as is commonly believed,'' Zarian said.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Article Type:||Statistical Data Included|
|Date:||Nov 30, 1996|
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