More than two-thirds of riders on the recently opened Expo Line Phase II to Santa Monica are new to the train line and more than 40 percent of them switched to transit from driving alone, according to a survey released this week by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The new Expo Line section opened May 20, bringing a ridership surge of about 20,000 new rides per weekday and double the number of Sunday riders on the entire line.
The line's ridership, in the new section's first two months in service, has already hit 70 percent of the rider projection made for 2030, though some experts and officials have said the long-term projection was too low.
Metro surveyed about 1,000 riders at the Expo Line's seven new stations and found 70 percent of them were new to the Expo Line. Of the new riders, nearly half used to drive alone while 23 percent had switched from bus service.
While existing regular Expo Line riders mostly traveled east to destinations around downtown L.A., about two-thirds of the new riders surveyed traveled west to Santa Monica. New riders were most likely to ride occasionally or two to three times a week.
The most common ways riders surveyed arrived at the stations were by walking, biking or skating (50 percent). That was followed by those driving (16 percent) and those taking the bus (15 percent).
The results are in line with Metro data on riders of the whole system that show the vast majority (79 percent) walk or bike to catch the bus or train. Recent research from the nonprofit Transit Center, shows transit located in walkable neighborhoods encourages higher ridership.
Riders who access the Expo Line by driving alone to stations do so at a higher rate, 16 percent, compared to Metro riders as a whole at 5 percent.
But those who do drive to catch the Expo Line have not overwhelmed the three new parking lots along the line as was feared. Metro reported in July the new lots are only 30 to 50 percent full on most days.
Survey respondents reported feeling safe on the train overall, but complained of the low frequency of service that has led to overcrowding.
Metro has been struggling with a train shortage on the Expo Line due to manufacturing delays. But officials have promised that enough new cars will be in service by December to allow trains to run every six minutes during peak hours. They now run about every 12 minutes or more.