Los Angeles “finds a way to get people out of their cars,” reports the Washington Post. What way is that? Light rail!
According to the article, Los Angeles opened an extension of the Expo light-rail line in 2016 that cost a mere $2.43 billion. With that extension, weekday ridership on the line grew from 46,000 to 64,000 trips. So, for a mere $135,000, the region got, at most, one car off the road each day.
According to the Southern California Association of Government’s long-range transportation plan, the region sees more than 62 million trips per day. So, for only $8.4 trillion, the region could build enough light rail to get all of the cars off the road. That’s assuming constant returns to scale, which is unlikely.
What the Post didn’t mention is what’s happened to bus ridership. As the Antiplanner noted last week, the growth in the region’s rail ridership has been more than offset by a decline in bus ridership. In fact, Los Angeles has lost almost four bus trips for every new rail trip.
That means that, for a mere $37,000 per daily trip ($74,000 per daily round trip), Los Angeles light-rail construction has been getting people off of transit and into cars. That’s bad for transit, but good for the people since the car offer them a lot more mobility.
It is too bad that, instead of wasting the money building light rail, Los Angeles Metro can’t just give its transit riders $37,000, or a substantial fraction of that amount, if they promise to stop riding transit. It’s also too bad media outlets like the Washington Post can’t do a little research to see if government megaprojects are really all they are claimed to be.