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Gold Line extension raising questions of competition with Metrolink

FILE: The Azusa downtown station is part of the Foothill Gold Line extension. As the line pushes into San Bernardino County, Metrolink officials worry that it will draw riders away from their line.
FILE: The Azusa downtown station is part of the Foothill Gold Line extension. As the line pushes into San Bernardino County, Metrolink officials worry that it will draw riders away from their line.
Foothill Gold Line

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The next extension of the Gold Line will break ground this October, sending the light rail further east through the San Gabriel Valley and into San Bernardino County.

But officials are worried the new rail could siphon riders from the existing Metrolink service that stops not far from the Gold Line's stations.

When you look at a map of the future Gold Line route, the problem jumps right out at you: The final leg with three stations are right on top of the Metrolink San Bernardino Line, the heavy-rail service that runs longer distance routes through Southern California. It's overseen by an inter-county regional agency. The heavy-rail trains are faster than light-rail ones but less frequent and more expensive to ride — and it's already losing customers to the Gold Line.

"At this point we are seeing people driving to a Gold Line station and reaching Los Angeles on an alternate route," said Metrolink spokesman Scott Johnson. He said Metrolink's West Covina station has lost about a quarter of its ridership since the Gold Line opened four miles away in Azusa, and ridership is down on the entire San Bernardino line, which ends at L.A. Union Station, as does the Gold Line.

Metro and Metrolink are working together to craft a plan to make service more complementary than competitive.

Metro is considering commissioning a study to look at ways to reduce redundancy, such as making the Metrolink more of an express service with fewer stops and creating a low-cost transfer ticket between lines.

The Metro Gold Line extension to Montclair will add 12.3 miles to the line with a budget of $1.37 billion, mostly funded by the voter-approved sales tax increase, Measure M. San Bernardino County will need to put forth the funds for the final leg to Montclair, which is outside L.A. Metro's jurisdiction.