Mailbag: Metrolink could make some changes

May 19, 2010

Your May 1 editorial "Few riders on Metrolink" hit the mark when it stated that attracting new riders has proved challenging to Metrolink. Ridership is down 13% on the Ventura County line, and 6% on the Antelope Valley line, the two routes that serve Burbank. However, the same edition of your paper reported that office vacancies in Burbank had gone up from 6% to 20%, so there is some correlation caused by the recession.

Nevertheless, Metrolink has failed in many respects to tap into other segments of the huge travel market in its five-county area. The original narrow focus of the operating plan was based on Los Angeles-centric thinking. True, this is the largest single market in the region, but it should not be concentrated on to the exclusion of all the other journeys that could be made by train instead of car.

Send a reporter to Los Angeles on a weekday morning to stand on one of the freeway bridges downtown and observe the traffic; he or she will see that more cars go through downtown than take any of the exits.


But to date, Metrolink has made no effort to address the cross-town market. The Rail Passenger Assn. of California, of which I am president, proposes that Metrolink join up its four major routes that run to and from Los Angeles into two through lines that will provide for cross-town journeys, for example from Burbank to Cal State Los Angeles or UC Irvine.

The same number of trains would be used, just rescheduled to make more travel options available. This more than doubles the number of station pairs served by through train or "single seat" service.

Another market poorly addressed by Metrolink is Bob Hope Airport. The terminals are walking distance from the trains, but Metrolink does a poor job of scheduling and marketing the service. There are long intervals between trains and no service weekends or evenings.

This does not work for most travelers or even for airport workers who operate non-standard shifts. One suggestion would be to extend the existing hourly service on the San Bernardino line from Los Angeles through to the Burbank airport or Chatsworth.

Fortunately, Metrolink has just appointed a new chief executive, John Fenton, who is supported by the imaginative and energetic chairman of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, Keith Millhouse of Moorpark.

We hope that these gentlemen will give Metrolink a new and more businesslike direction, and start running a service that is more responsive to the travel needs of the region.

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