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Gas sends Angelenos flocking to mass transit

February 29, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Whether he's riding the subway or taking the bus, Christopher Jones says public transportation is his option these days, due largely to the dramatic spike in gas prices.

Jones said he makes his way through Los Angeles' mass transit system on a daily basis, and says he's noticed a pronounced increase in ridership.

"It's always been convenient for me and economical for me, especially when I'm on a low budget as it is," the 50-year-old Compton resident said. "When I first started riding there wasn't nearly this many people as I see now."

Marc Littman, spokesman for Metropolitan Transportation Authority, says Metro is averaging about 1.4 million riders daily as people try to minimize the pain at the pump.

"Back in 2008, we saw a 15 percent increase in our ridership. We're exactly where we were four years ago," Littman said. "Our day pass is only 5 bucks. That's what the price of a gallon of gas is going to be."

The average price of a gallon of regular gas has risen for a 22nd straight day. The Auto Club reports Wednesday's average in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area hit $4.36 a gallon, up two cents since a day earlier.

Angelenos are paying about 25 cents more a gallon than last Wednesday and 58 cents more than this time last month.

Increased demand for public transportation is expected to continue into the spring. That's when Metro will open the Orange Line's extension from Canoga Park to the Metrolink station in Chatsworth.

Also this spring, Metro will unveil its Expo lIne from downtown L.A. into Culver City.

Passengers who ride Metrolink trains are also seeing an increase in ridership

At least three times a week, Jahiem Baker makes an 80-mile commute to downtown L.A. from his home in Victorville.

"A gallon of gas is too much. It's too much. I'd rather take the train," Baker said.

Baker says he spends about $18 roundtrip on trains every day, but that it's cheaper than gas.

Officially, Metrolink isn't seeing a statistical increase in ridership. They expect the numbers to climb when they review the numbers again in a few weeks. But passengers are seeing more crowded stations and more cars in the parking lots.

For other passengers, mass transit isn't only cheaper, it's just more convenient.