CNS - In light of an estimated 20 percent jump in ridership on Foothill Transit’s semi-express line through the San Gabriel Valley, service has been beefed up for morning commuters the agency announced last week. Line 690 links Montclair to downtown Pasadena via the Foothill (210) Freeway, offering seven westbound trips in the morning and seven eastbound trips in the evening. With high gas prices changing commuting habits, ridership on Line 690 in 2008 has risen 20 percent over 2007 levels.
“This line travels along a corridor that doesn’t have any other (public transportation) options,” said Foothill Transit spokeswoman Felicia Friesema, noting that the proposed Metro Light Rail Gold Line Foothill Extension would travel roughly the same route if it were built.
Two westbound trips—leaving at 5:50 a.m. and 6:12 a.m.—from the Montclair TransCenter will be added to handle the demand. Friesema said that additional eastbound service would also be considered, but that more westbound departures were in higher demand because the timing of people’s morning commute was more varied.
“No matter what time they get to work, they all seem to want to get home by 5 o’clock,” she said. Line 690, which costs $2.50 each way, is described as semi-express, because it makes local stops around Montclair, scooping up commuters from a number of locations instead of just two or three park-and-ride lots. After making the rounds in Montclair, the bus takes the 210 Freeway car pool lane into Pasadena. The trip takes about an hour and 15 minutes, compared to the two hour ride one would expect riding the local Line 187.
Line 690’s success has not been reflected throughout other Foothill Transit lines which, despite high gas prices, are seeing roughly the same ridership as last year, Friesema said. A rash of foreclosures in the eastern part of the San Gabriel Valley, as well as in nearby San Bernardino and Riverside counties—which provide a portion of the park-and-ride patrons—have depressed ridership numbers, she said. Job losses throughout the area have also had an effect, she said. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently announced that high gasoline prices help boost rail ridership to record levels. Bus ridership, however, is down in year-to-year comparisons. Rail ridership was up 12.8 percent in June compared to June 2007, with about 335,000 riders compared to 298,000 riders the previous June, according to Metro officials.
Average weekday boardings reached record levels on every rail line, except for the Blue Line. Ridership on the Blue Line, the agency’s first light rail, was just short of the record, according to Metro statistics. The Orange Line busway running across the San Fernando Valley also saw record ridership.
Bus ridership, however, was down nearly 3 percent, with about 1.3 million bus rides this June compared to 1.34 million bus rides the previous June. About 80 percent of Metro ridership is on buses. Bus ridership dropped off after a fare increase last year that raised the day pass to $5 from $3, said Metro spokesman Marc Littman.
The fare hike had a greater impact on buses than rail because rail tends to be used by people commuting to work, while buses are often used for discretionary trips to run errands. Those trips were avoided once the price increased, Littman said. He said bus ridership has been rebounding and that over the past three months, ridership was down just under 2 percent, while it had been down by as much as 7 percent in previous quarters.
“It’s really started to come back,” he said. However, because of rising fuel prices, Metro will raise rates again next year with the day trip ticket going to $6 from the current $5.