Sunday, June 19, 2011

LA Metro Parking and Ridership

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.


  1. What would be interesting to find out is not only the amount of parking provided, but how busy each parking lot is. Parking lots along the Blue Line at Wardlow, Willow, Del Amo, and Artesia along with parking lots along the Red Line at North Hollywood and Universal City are always full, suggesting additional parking could attract more customers. Parking lots along the Orange Line at places like Sepulveda are, last time I checked, not particularly full.

    The Red and Blue Lines benefit from having excellent bus connections and high density environments. Orange, Gold, and Green for the most part have poor bus connections and have lower density corridors.

    In a place like Los Angeles, unfortunately, providing parking at stations is necessary for high transit ridership, but is not sufficient. Have you looked at the parking for Metrolink as well? I bet that would be interesting.

  2. The parking at Willow isn't full. I work right next to there, and have never had trouble finding a space there when traveling to LA. There is also a supermarket parking lot in front of the park-and-ride which is never full on week-days.

    I wonder how many people parking at Willow use the free spots and then walk over to my hospital, which charges $5 for parking (even for the first hour!) and is only 2 blocks from the park-and-ride.

  3. interesting... maybe it would be good to look at boarding statistics based on specific stations, too... see how they correspond to parking.

  4. The Metro parking facility I usually use is the Gold Line SMV terminal in East Pasadena. If I go there in mid-morning on a weekday, the only space left is on the top deck (in the sun, no fun on a hot day). It will be interesting to see what happens when the Foothill Extension to Azusa in opens, and passengers now driving in from Arcadia and points east will be able board closer to home. I should mention that there is a bus that stops about 0.6 miles from my house and goes to the Gold Line, but it only runs every 40 minutes or so.

  5. Thanks for the comments. I agree that it would be interesting to look at the extent to which the parking at each station is fully utilized and to compare parking and boardings on a station-by-station basis. That data would be harder to track down, but it's probably floating around Metro HQ somewhere.