Gold Line extension riders predicted
Pasadena-Azusa future light-rail use calculated
By Alison Hewitt, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
The Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority has predicted that people will get on the Pasadena-to-Azusa Gold Line extension 9,500 times a day - in the year 2030.
Ridership figures required by the Federal Transit Administration - the gatekeepers for federal funding - are pegged to far-off dates, not to opening day in 2012, Gold Line Extension officials said.
Gold Line supporters hope to extend the light-rail line 24 miles, from east Pasadena to Montclair and, eventually, L.A./Ontario International Airport.
Setting 2030 as the ridership year allows the FTA to consider how many people a transit project is likely to serve after becoming established, and to compare diverse projects on an even footing, an FTA spokesman said.
The Gold Line extension authority is still calculating how many riders to expect in 2012. How the extension authority came up with the 9,500 figure is complicated, project manager Mike Cannell said.
"That ridership number is a combination of assumptions and variables that are very, very confusing, based upon human factors such as age, income, how people look at the price of gasoline," Cannell said.
The model does not break down the incomes of riders, Cannell said, but does use residency figures from a forecast by the Southern California Association of Governments.
In 2030, residents near the Gold Line extension would be 39percent low income, 44percent medium income, and 17percent high income, according to SCAG.
A survey released in November touted the Gold Line's ability to attract higher-income riders compared to other light-rail lines in the county. The survey was designed to get the FTA to allow the Gold Line to count those people in the ridership model.
The ridership model predicting 9,500 boardings - about 4,750 riders - also predicts that the 12-mile extension will save riders 7,300 traveling hours per weekday. It will also get 5,100 cars off the road each commuting day, according to figures pulled from the model by Cannell.
The model also estimates that 51percent of Gold Line extension trips would be for work; 25percent would be for errands and shopping; and 15percent would be for school.
The FTA is still analyzing how the Pasadena-to-Azusa extension compares, on a cost-per-ride basis, to other projects vying for federal dollars. The overall cost is estimated at $400million, but still needs to be approved by the FTA.
The other Gold Line extension - from downtown Los Angeles to East Los Angeles - has received funding approval, Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Rick Jager said. The cost of the 6-mile line, expected to open in 2009, is estimated at $898million, with 17,000 daily boardings in 2020.
The existing Gold Line, a $750million project from downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena, runs 13.7 miles and had 18,516 daily boardings in April, Jager said.