Three days after Saturday’s Women’s March drew nearly unprecedented crowds to Downtown Los Angeles, Metro has revealed the day’s ridership numbers. Not surprisingly, given the size of the crowds that packed into trains throughout the day, the agency says its rail network transported more than double the number of typical weekend riders.
Overall, Metro estimates that 592,000 passengers boarded trains throughout the day. That metric does not account for repeat riders or return trips.
The busiest stations were in the Downtown area, though Red Line stops at North Hollywood and Universal City were also among the most crowded.
On a typical Saturday, about 232,000 riders use Metro’s rail system, with that number increasing to almost 360,000 on weekdays. Saturday’s crowds blew those averages away, stretching the transit network to its absolute limit.
Metro initially expected just 75,000 marchers to travel Downtown, based on early estimates from march organizers. When it became clear that actual turnout could far exceed that number (organizers now estimate that more than 750,000 demonstrators turned out), Metro upped its normal weekend service. As crowds poured into stations Saturday, the agency also added cars.
“The result,” Metro says, “was a 60 percent increase in car capacity, compared with a typical Saturday.”
Metro also placed additional staffers at stations to assist riders as the day went on, Metro Public Communications Officer Anna Chen tells Curbed. Of course, even with these adjustments, riders still had to cram into trains nearly overflowing with passengers.
“We did add trains as the day went on,” says Chen, “but at a certain point we could have had trains every two minutes like Tokyo and it still would not have been enough.”
The size of the crowds forced many riders to board trains going in the opposite direction simply to ensure a seat on the return trip. Meanwhile, a rumor that Metro was offering free rides Saturday may have contributed to the dramatic spike in ridership.
Many of those who boarded trains Saturday were likely first-time riders. All told, more than 40,000 new TAP cards were purchased over the course of the day.
Chen says she hopes that, despite the chaotic introduction, many of those passengers will be encouraged to ride again.
“[I]f we want to continue making improvements and building more capacity, people should definitely ride on a regular basis,” she says. “Otherwise the system would be like a parking lot: massive and empty, only to fill on certain days."