The unsocial Metro

The number of Metrolink riders has decreased in the recent years. Last month the purple and red line had 142,319 weekday boardings opposed to the 158,086 it had two years prior in the same month according to the Metro’s ridership statistics.

To see why people are not taking the Metro as much, I decided to ride the Metro from Ontario to Union Station in Los Angeles with my Metro-experienced friend Matthew Rickett.

At the Ontario station there were only six people waiting to catch the train including my friend Matthew and I, as well as two cyclists. I did not know what to expect nor how or where I was supposed to purchase my ticket. The only idea I had of the Metro was watching it pass at railroad crossings.

Metrolink contractor Bill Albert had fixed the ticket vending machine minutes before the Metro arrived. As I walked up he was extremely helpful and walked me through the purchasing process while informing me about newbies like myself.

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Ticket vending machine at East Ontario Station.

“You have to know the system. A lot of people don’t want to ask for help, but you notice and when I am here to service the machine I am always there to help,” said Albert.

He explained how it all functioned and gave me insight on a method that regulars have as they run down the clock and arrive close to the departing time to slip on the train without taking the time to purchase a ticket.

Unfortunately for them if they are caught, they could be fined 1,500 dollars or more because of the California penal code 640. I would much rather pay the 16 dollars as a student for a round trip ticket than pay the fine. Individuals might think it is too expensive and might be a reason for the decline in metro riders, but paying for gas to fuel a car can be the same amount or more.

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Penal Code CA 640 posted on walls at Union Station.

I was looking forward to listening to my surroundings on the metro, but on the two hour ride to Union Station and back, the only noise I heard was the air conditioning and footsteps as people passed by to use the restroom.

 

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The almost empty Metro

It did not take long for me to understand that my expectation to hear people socializing on the Metro was unlikely to occur. Later I met Bill Mcgoff who informed me that the Metro is not a social ride nor a place to find tourists.

“Usually you just give that nod to hello to somebody and maybe you chat up one person. But it’s not like the AM Track where you walk around and you go to a bar cart and meet people. It’s more of a commuter train not a traveling train,” said Mcgoff.

Mcgoff informed that the Metro is a better form of transportation compared to driving, but stated, “you have to plan your days.” Planning may seem stressful because there are so many trains  with different set schedules, but the Metro website simplifies it by providing a way to plan a trip.

The two cyclists who boarded with me in Ontario appeared to be enjoying the peaceful train ride, so I waited until we got off at Union Station to approach them.

Cholada and David from Burbank, who did not state their last names, are familiar with the Metro and other public transportation as well.

“We live in Burbank. We did a bike ride today. We took the Gold line to Azusa to the new station in a Azusa at Citrus College and we rode out to Ontario and took the Metrolink back,” said David.

Cholada stated that they take these trips twice a month and that it is a good way to travel. When I asked them if they meet a lot of new people on their adventurous trips I was surprised to hear they rarely did.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the region’s largest carrier, lost more than 10% of its boardings from 2006 to 2015, a decline that appears to be accelerating.”

Money, planning, and fear of trying new things may cause the Metro to continue losing riders in the near future since there were not many people that appeared to be new to the building full of many terminals. Individuals passing by shared a common appearance of knowing exactly where they were traveling to with the exception of a few individuals asking security for directions.

Ironically the Metro seems to be an individualistic form of public transportation with passengers focused on a newspaper, phone, or tablet. Although it is not a typical place to meet new people as you get from point A to point B, it is a form of transportation that is quick and beats driving in traffic.  

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