Business & Economy

Metrolink experiments with discounted fares to boost ridership

BURBANK, CA - JUNE 24: A Metrolink train stops to pick up passengers at a train station next to the Burbank Water and Power natural gas-fueled power plant on June 24, 2013 in Burbank, California.
BURBANK, CA - JUNE 24: A Metrolink train stops to pick up passengers at a train station next to the Burbank Water and Power natural gas-fueled power plant on June 24, 2013 in Burbank, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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Regional rail service Metrolink is doubling down on discounted fares as a tactic to reverse flagging ridership in recent years.

Metrolink runs through six counties and primarily serves long-distance commuters. It saw ridership steadily grow until about 2008 but it has fallen almost 10 percent since then.

To reverse that trend, the rail authority has decided to create a permanent 25 percent student and youth discount and extend a temporary 25 percent discount on the Antelope Valley Line between Lancaster and downtown Los Angeles.

"We are always looking for that sweet spot to both increase the ridership and increase the revenue," said spokesman for Metrolink Scott Johnson.

The agency began a pilot discount program in July and saw ridership gains of 10 percent on the Antelope Valley Line and 13 percent among students and youth.

Still, the gains were not enough to offset the losses in revenue from discounted tickets.

Metrolink will continue to study how the discount affects the bottom line in coming months and could possibly extend the lower fares systemwide.

As for keeping new riders happy, Johnson notes the agency is getting a brand new fleet of locomotives to replace the aging trains that break down and cause delays. He said they will be in service by 2017.

Metrolink also recently announced it will be adding a second locomotive to the front of trains as an added safety measure in the wake of a fatal crash in Oxnard last year. The heavy locomotive cars provide a buffer to protect passenger cars in the case of a collision. The trains are also equipped with Positive Train Control, a GPS system that can automatically prevent two trains from colliding, as happened in Chatsworth in 2008, killing 25 people.