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Rail News: Passenger Rail

L.A. gearing up to accommodate increasing ridership


One of the biggest challenges in introducing a new passenger rail service is making people aware of its existence and what it can offer. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority seems to be hitting stride and gaining awareness momentum.

"We’re in such a different stage of development than other large cities," says Edward Scannell, MTA media relations. Particularly, he adds, compared with East Coast cities where most people have grown up with rail systems: "Our oldest line is 11 years old."

MTA in May saw ridership spike — primarily due to increased gas prices, officials believe. But that wasn’t the end of it: Average daily ridership on MTA’s Red Line subway grew from 134,000 in May to 150,000 in June.

"You can watch the growth before your eyes," says Scannell.

Some of the increase also could be attributable to the start of southern California’s tourist season. Tourists from areas long served by rail tend to more likely take trains to Hollywood, Staples Center, aquariums or any of the area’s other offerings.

But as quickly as ridership is growing, MTA is having to modify its system to accommodate more passengers.

"It may be a great car culture here in L.A., but getting around is much more difficult," says Scannell. "People are beginning to weary of that."

Crews now are wrapping up finishing touches on a project to extend platforms on MTA’s Blue Line, one of its two light rail lines. Then workers will need to reconstruct the tail track at 7th St./Metro Center/Julian Dixon Station. Once that’s complete, MTA plans to add cars to its trains.

Currently, two-car trains operate on the Blue Line. But MTA is in the process of accepting 52 new P2000 cars from Siemens Transportation Systems — 13 already have been accepted.

MTA officials plan to put those cars in service on the agency’s Green Line, then the Green Line cars would be added to trains on the Blue Line.

The transition will be gradual, first running three-car trains only during peak periods and not on every train. But by 2006, officials anticipate all Blue Line trains will have three-car consists.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/23/2001