LA Metro recently released an interactive map of its best transit services. It includes information on the number of parking spaces at each rail/busway station. This got me wondering what relationship there might be between the number of car parking spaces on each line and its ridership. Metro publishes the relevant ridership estimates here, and I've assumed that they are accurate.
I totaled up the car parking spaces on each line. It's important to keep in mind that spaces are double counted if they occur at a stop where two lines intersect. This happens at Union Station (2,697 spaces), Imperial/Wilmington (335 spaces), and North Hollywood (951 spaces). I don't include the Silver Line, because it doesn't have convenient weekend service like the others.
Here are the results (click on the table to see it all):
I think several things are interesting here. First, the line with the highest number of spaces (Green) doesn't have the highest ridership, and the line with the lowest number of spaces (Blue) doesn't have the lowest ridership. Second, the line with the highest ridership (Red/Purple) has most of its parking spaces at Union Station in Downtown LA, where you have to pay to park. Third, the number of spaces per boarding varies widely from line to line. Finally, the line with the highest spaces per boarding (Orange, which is also a busway, not a rail line) also has the lowest ridership.
We should be careful about jumping to conclusions about this. These data don't reveal the whole parking situation around each station, just Metro-owned parking. I also don't want to suggest that car parking isn't important for rail stations in some situations. People in car dependent areas with poor connecting bus service and limited opportunities to walk and bike will likely be more sensitive to the absence of parking.
I suppose it just goes to show you that parking isn't a magic bullet for achieving high transit ridership in LA. Many other factors can affect ridership, from density, to demographics, to prices, to the quality and reliability of the ride itself. If transit is going to step up its game in LA, it will have to do so on many fronts, and it will have to carefully consider the tradeoffs of building parking near stations versus building actual transit-supporting urban places where people live, work and play.