Metrolink Expanding, But Where Are The Riders?

The following commentary was sent to us by a friend who is concerned about a questionable Metrolink service expansion from Fullerton to Laguna Niguel.

A fourth track is currently being built at the Fullerton Station, exclusively for Metrolink’s new Orange County service — dubbed Metrolink Service Expansion Program (MSEP) by the folks at OCTA. I believe the concept is flawed from the start, and last I heard it is costing taxpayers at least $417 million.

Anyone up for a ride to Laguna Niguel?

I’ve asked numerous people at Metrolink how OCTA justifies the demand for this service. Nobody has an answer. Since it will run between Fullerton and Laguna Niguel only, it’s totally useless for commuters needing to get to Los Angeles. In my experience riding Metrolink, there are very few passengers riding such short distances in Orange County. If a person can afford $14 for a round-trip ticket Fullerton to Irvine and back, there’s a very good chance they already have a car and won’t bother to ride the train.

Furthermore, this service won’t appeal to bus riders unless OCTA drastically reduces the fares. That won’t happen… they just raised the fares again on July 1st. OCTA’s pipe dream to operate this service “every 30 minutes” makes a stupid idea all the more ludicrous.

There’s an angle to this which will affect the Fullerton Station (and the surrounding area) in a big way. Since the northbound trains terminate at Fullerton, the station area will become a layover terminal (akin to an airport) for people needing to get to Los Angeles. Suppose somebody takes the wrong northbound, thinking it goes to Los Angeles, and finds themselves in Fullerton having to wait HOURS for the next train to Los Angeles. There will be people sleeping on benches, sleeping on the ground, leaving their trash all over the place, etc, etc. The local restaurants will have to deal with freeloaders using their bathrooms. It just won’t be a good situation.

18 Replies to “Metrolink Expanding, But Where Are The Riders?”

  1. And what about the lose of half the parking lot on the south side of the platform? Just another situation where the government impacts a neighborhood and doesn’t hold itself up to the same (actually none) standard of development that any private party would be stuck with. No new bathrooms, less parking, no handicap accessibility, no traffic analysis, no noise impact, no diesel fuel emissions impact on the residences that are a few feet away from the new tracts, no …….Yeah but they sure created more government jobs, a new expenditure sinkhole and more reasons to indefinitely perpetuate the 1/2 % Measure M sales tax burden.

  2. There are at least 6 or 7 people who would pay $16.50 to ride from Fullerton to Laguna Niguel on a daily basis. $420,000,000 is a drop in the bucket. Think of the future!

  3. At least we elected Chris Norby, a solid conservative, to fight these boondoggles for the last 8 years.

    Wait… What’s that? Norby voted for the $420 million Metrolink expansion to nowhere?


    1. Norby should respond to this post, and explain his vote (e.g. it could have been a choice between voting “Yes” on this ridiculous train or something far more outrageous).

      Please note, I am essentially permanently pissed off at Norby for voting in support of Able Moldanado the tax increaser and tax money waster “Republican” for Lt Governor (thus setting up Gavin Neuson to be elected Lt Gov in November), but I would still like to believe that Norby was not just brain dead or bought off in voting for this stupid Fullerton-Laguna Niquel train.

  4. Also, that Metrolink salesman looks like the love child of Matthew Cunningham and his blog boss, Chip Hanlon.

  5. Well as someone who actually uses Metro link to go to LA this idea… seems pretty dumb. From Fullerton to Laguna Niguel? Hmm. Nowhere to nowhere. How about something more useful like a few more trains spread out over the day between LA & Fullerton (or Anaheim or Irvine) and maybe a later night train.?

  6. Specious reasoning all over this story. Really deserves a whole new post to rebut, but let’s just consider the flippant claim that anyone who can afford the fare can also afford a car, and will therefore drive instead. Many people use the train for the convenience of avoiding traffic. Who owns all of those cars in the station parking lots?

  7. Savage, this post is about the expanded service to Laguna Niguel, and so is the speculation on low ridership. Those cars parked at the station belong to commuters traveling to LA.

    Metrolink travel to LA is driven by the Red, Blue and Gold line connections. Where are these figurative Fullerton riders headed to in south county?

    I’d love to see the ridership projections that this expansion was based upon.

  8. I’ve ridden southbound a few times. Anecdotally, the trains appear have moderate ridership with people travelling south from LA to Orange County. Very few of them start their journey in Fullerton or Anaheim. Metrolink riders tend to go longer distances, probably because of the pricing scheme and the difficulty of making connections.

  9. The schedules are impossible.
    What’s needed is more regular rides into downtown L.A. to connect to the red, gold, blue or green lines to get people to all points of the southland.
    I agree –if they want a metrolink culture, they’re going to have to greatly reduce the fees and make it as easy as using the subways in other big cities have done.
    I love taking metrolink, and I take it as often as I can. But the other missing piece to this is the lack of all day parking in Fullerton. Get to the garage much past 7 AM, and it’s already full.

    I do think mass transit is an important key. It might not be for the 30 year olds and the 40 year olds etc, but for those who are just entering the job market it’s key.

  10. I have heard that a lower pricing structure is in the works for a regional model if transit. Haven’t seen ridership projections either, but I have heard that a lower fare structure is in the works for this more local model of transit. I will check on it.

    Meantime, what’s so awful about Fullerton becoming even more of a layover? People spend money in layover towns.

  11. I am curious about the stops it makes in between. I commuted from Fullerton to Costa Mesa for years and would have LOVED to take the train. Then I could at least have read a book instead of getting a charliehorse regularly from pumping my breaks on the 55 South.

    1. Katharine, that train ain’t stoppin’ in Costa Mesa. You would have to take a bus or have a car waiting in Tustin.

      First you gotta drive and drop off your car in F-town.
      An then more charliehorsin’ around.


  12. If we’ve learned anything about government, we’ve learned that can’t run businesses for a profit. USPS is announcing more cuts in service. Freddie and fannie are being bailed out again. I guess what I’m saying is why are tax payers paying to expand metrolink? Last I checked metrolink is a private company that is contracted to provide service. If metrolink wants to expand, let the board vote and spend their profits on expansion not my money.

    Secondly, if we have to pay to improve metrolink’s service, why don’t we make it a dedicated line to LA?

  13. Those are some great questions, Andy. Metrolink could never exist without huge subsidies. Even if they’re worth it, subsidies almost always generate boondoggles.

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