The Success of the Gold and Expo Lines Has Taken a Toll on Bus Ridership

Bus lines face cuts as riders switch to trains

The new Expo and Gold Line light rail extensions are successes, bringing tens of thousands of new riders to the transit system every day. There’s a side effect to all that winning, though—bus ridership continues to decline, especially on lines that run parallel to the trains.

Foothill Transit, which provides bus service in the San Gabriel Valley, is now proposing slashing, eliminating, or restructuring numerous bus lines that duplicate the Gold Line’s route from Pasadena to Azusa. The agency’s popular 187 bus line could be split in two and re-routed to reach destinations further east than the Gold Line currently goes (an extension of the train line will bring light rail to Montclair in the 2020s, though).

“With regards to Line 187 as it relates to the Gold Line, the Azusa to Pasadena ridership has really fallen off,” Kevin McDonald, deputy executive director of Foothill Transit, tells the San Gabriel Tribune. “We are keeping the eastern portion, which will go to the Los Angeles County Arboretum and the Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia.”

Reworking the bus lines in light of the Gold Line’s surging ridership—which recently clocked over 52,000 daily riders—could be a good thing, Foothill Transit says. The agency hopes to save about $550,000 with the cuts and restructuring, money that can be used for upgrades that could include better shelters and signage.

While train ridership is growing in L.A. County, bus ridership is dropping—a trend seen around the country. Even Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, which worked aggressively to restructure their system to better integrate with the Expo Line extension, has dipped 12 percent. It’ll be interesting to see how Metro will address bus service in the Crenshaw Corridor once the Crenshaw Line light rail opens in 2020. Also, the subway extension on Wilshire will undoubtedly affect how many huge 720 buses are rumbling up and down the boulevard when that opens in the next decade.