Friday, April 15, 2011

Changes Coming at Metrolink

It hasn't made a huge splash in the blogosphere (likely overshadowed by CicLAvia), but Metrolink has been up to all sorts of stuff lately. There are schedule changes coming May 9th, which bring not only expansion but a few long-awaited express trains. (None serving Riverside, but I've always said that the Riverside Line felt like an express anyway.) The agency has apparently caught both Dodger and Angel Fever, providing special service on several lines to both teams' home games. Lastly, the Board is looking for feedback from customers on a shakeup in fare policy, which would eliminate the 10-Trip pass and enact several measures to improve weekend ridership. Let's take a look, shall we?

Service Changes
On Monday, 9th May, Metrolink will be implementing some service changes. Most of these are minor schedule modifications, and there are (thankfully) no service cuts. Among the items affecting Riverside:
  • Train #408 on the Riverside Line will run 5 minutes earlier, presumably to accommodate one of the new morning express trains at Union Station.
  • Beach Train service, adding an extra round trip on the IE-OC line on weekends, will be published in the schedule. Service will run 2nd July-9th October.

Of course, the big news is the introduction of express service on the Antelope Valley and San Bernardino Lines. On the SB line, one train a day in each direction will run express from San Berdoo, stopping at Rancho Cucamonga, Covina and Los Angeles in the morning- and the same in reverse in the afternoon.

Beyond the express service, there are also two more local-stop round trips being added to the SB Line next month. Of course, schedules have also been re-jiggered extensively, both to accommodate the screaming-fast express trains (60m SB-LA!) and to improve transfers at LA Union. If you ride the SB Line- and you should, it's awesome- you should get a new schedule book or pamphlet.

Fare Policy Changes
Metrolink has been thinking creatively about ways to reduce the costs of providing service- and it shows. One possibility they've come up with is the elimination of the 10-Trip Ticket. You may say that this doesn't sound terribly cost-saving, but if you've seen a Metrolink 10-Trip ticket before you can probably follow this logic. First, the 10-trippers are printed on thick, specially-cut paper stock, which is entirely different from every other ticket they sell. This special (and expensive) ticket stock is then fed into the little validator machines you see on the train platform- each and every train platform. Those machines then have to be maintained, emptied of paper clippings, filled full of ink, repaired, etc. Metrolink estimates that they could save $300,000 a year by eliminating the tickets.

What, then, happens to 10-trip riders? Well, if you're like the majority of riders with a 10-trip, you use it to ride the trains for one (work) week- 5 days x 2 trips daily. In lieu of the 10-trip ticket, Metrolink would offer a 7-day pass, which would not only provide a savings over a weeks' worth of round trips but would also allow riders to enjoy a stress-free weekend getaway at no additional cost. Also, since the 10 tripper is currently the cheapest way to get a student discount ticket, Metrolink would extend student discount fares to all ticket types.

Unfortunately, those who (like me in the past) ride infrequently but still like getting a discount would be left out in the cold, especially if they're not (like me) college students. Metrolink estimates that this is a very small percentage of their ridership, who would take a very small 5% fare increase. In my opinion, it's a pragmatic solution- but Metrolink wants your opinion as well. You can submit comments via the web, or in person at the May 13th board meeting. (Click the link for details.)

Baseball Service
Lastly, Metrolink has caught baseball fever, big time. Special service will be provided for most weeknight Dodger games (excluding Memorial Day and the 4th of July) on the San Bernardino, Antelope Valley and Ventura Lines. Train fare and tickets start at $20. An express bus connection at LA Union Station is free with your Dodger ticket (and charges standard LA Metro fares otherwise.)

If you'd prefer your baseball in the American League, Angels trains will be provided for all weeknight games that start at 19:05. Trains will run along the Orange County Line, from Los Angeles and Laguna Niguel, terminating at Anaheim before the game and reversing the trip afterwards. The Anaheim train station is at Angels Stadium.

Note also that REGULAR METROLINK TICKETS ARE VALID on these special trains- so if you happen to need a late-night ride home from Los Angeles during baseball season, you might get lucky and catch a Dodger train.

No comments: