This article originally appeared in railroad industry publication RT&S Magazine on March 24, 2021.
While many predicted COVID would be the death of commuting, a new Metrolink survey says otherwise.
Metrolink received more than 10,000 responses showing a staggering 85% of lapsed riders will return to the rails. As an economic bellwether for the region (and the country), the six-county SoCal rail system forecasts a healthy rebound and outlines plans to serve more essential workers and leisure travelers.
SoCal gets back to work
Before the pandemic, the majority of Metrolink riders were 9 to 5 commuters. While telecommuting, for the time being, a full 85 percent indicated they intend to return to some form of commuting. 32% are waiting for vaccines to become readily available 24% expect to return later this year and 23% will return when conditions normalize Metrolink will serve these riders with a new 5-Day Flex Pass, a discounted pass option for workers who commute less frequently.
Evolving to meet essential worker needs
Seventy-five percent of current Metrolink riders are in essential sectors. Throughout the pandemic, Metrolink has provided safe, reliable service to the workers who kept Southern California safe and functioning. Significant schedule changes over the last year have made it easier and more convenient for healthcare workers and others to get to work. Metrolink also launched an updated loyalty program focused on rewarding this new core ridership.
Building the leisure travel market
The survey also confirmed that non-peak and weekend ridership is growing, with visiting family and friends accounting for 25% of all trips. After spending a year at home, SoCal residents are less traffic-tolerant and more open to new travel options. Metrolink recently launched two leisure travel growth programs making Kids Ride Free on Weekends a permanent perk, and launching a new EXPLORE digital content hub focused on fun places to travel on Metrolink.
As California marks one year since stay-at-home orders were enacted Metrolink has begun welcoming back riders to its service. And, with insights from the rider survey, the agency is charting a clear path to recovery.
The full survey release is posted here, along with a timeline of Metrolink’s work over the past year.
Learn more about the 5-Day Flex Pass and Kids Ride Free.