Will more train cars really help relieve Expo Line crowding?

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More train cars are gradually joining the rotation on the crowded Metro Expo Line, but will adding more space solve the problem? KPCC took a look at the proposed solution for sardine-can Expo rides and wasn’t so sure that the new cars would offer permanent relief.

Ridership on the Metro Expo Line has boomed since the line’s extension to Santa Monica opened in May, but some riders aren’t so happy about the popularity, saying that the train is uncomfortably crammed.

It’s true there is a shortage in available cars. Due to delays caused by switching train car manufacturers when then cars were first ordered years ago, there weren’t enough train cars to accommodate Metro’s opening of the Expo extension and the Gold Line extension to Azusa, which happened within two months of each other this year.

@metrolosangeles – still packed like sardines on #ExpoLine to DTLA pic.twitter.com/ck8p15anwa

— Tony Scudellari (@tvmxsup) August 5, 2016

Metro’s actively getting new cars now, testing them, and putting them onto trains. The agency received 41 new cars and is still running tests on 13. Late last month, Metro CEO assured riders that relief would come “very, very soon,” as more and more cars were added to the fleet; more train cars would mean that passenger wait times between trains would be reduced from 12 minutes to six minutes by this December.

More trains means less crowding, right? Maybe not, transit planning consultant Jarrett Walker tells KPCC. Walker says, “What actually happens when you put out more service or relieve the crowding in any way is that more people start riding and so the crowding comes back.”

In the same way that widening the 405 Freeway didn’t really alleviate congestion (one study found that commutes were actually a minute slower after new carpool lane opened), adding more space might not offer a permanent solution to train crowding. “[P]opular train lines will support as much crowding as people will endure,” says KPCC.

In response to the concern that crowding might be here to stay, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero tells Curbed via email, “What’s the solution? Go back to solo driving? That’s not a logical or sustainable solution in the long run.”

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