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As Gold Line Ridership Plateaus, Metro Looks to Add Speed

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Metro just posted ridership numbers for January and many of the rail lines showed increases, including the Pasadena-to-East LA Gold Line, which notched a few hundred more riders per day from December up to 42,476 for an average weekday. While increased numbers are good, the ridership is leveling off after nearly doubling a year or two after the Eastside extension opened in 2009, adding new stops in Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights, and East LA. Metro is apparently concerned that the extension peaked, because they outlined ideas last month to bring more riders to the train. A memo from the transit agency, linked to on a forum at The Transit Coalition, indicates the extension only carries 13,700 riders a day, meaning the bulk of the Gold Line ridership is on the Pasadena segment.

The first strategy to increase ridership on the extension is to get the train moving faster. The GLEE includes an underground segment with two subway stations in Boyle Heights, but the majority of the six-mile extension runs at street level and must interact with street lights (it also moves pretty slowly as it curves over the 101 on an elevated bridge). "Metro is working with City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) to look at the potential for increasing speed on the MGLEE and Expo Lines. This will include possible adjustments to traffic signal timing at key intersections. A simulation of full signal pre-emption was conducted on the Metro EXPO Line. Part of the analysis included identification of minor intersections where full signal pre-emption would be useful in increasing speeds. The list of intersections has been provided to LADOT and follow-up meeting is scheduled on January 10th."

But back to the Gold Line--Metro is looking at Indiana/First Street, Mission/First Street, Alameda/First Street, and other intersections for possible traffic light pre-emption. "Indiana/First appears to be the primary challenge in the afternoon, with a 5-phase signal cycle with 30-seconds attributed to each phase. The time variance travelling through this intersection can result in up to a 2 minute difference in arrival at Union Station. A simulation test on the MGLEE will be completed by January 25 to identify specific signal phasing improvements. Upon completion of the testing, we will meet with LADOT and/or Los Angeles County Public Works Department to review findings and determine actions going forward."

Metro is also considering working with Montebello Bus Lines for more feeder service directly to GLEE stations, as well as allowing MBL day pass users free access to the Gold Line (they currently have to pay to transfer). A shuttle from the Little Tokyo station into the heart of Downtown is also being floated, as is a new marketing campaign. The agency is also working on a multi-million dollar project to increase bike- and pedestrian access around the GLEE's eight stations.
· Combined Light Rail Ridership [Transit Coalition]