Ridership and revenue for Metrolink, the train service that links Orange County to Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, dropped again at the beginning of this year due to the poor economy, according to a report delivered Monday to the Orange County Transportation Authority.

However, the drop was not as steep as last year’s, meaning that the worst effects from the bad economy might be in Metrolink’s rearview mirror.

The OCTA staff report, which covered the first three months of 2010, said each of the three Metrolink lines that serve Orange County recorded decreases.

“The continuing effects of the current economic recession have resulted in a significant weakening of ridership demand,” the report said. It noted “other commuter rail agencies around the state and the nation have experienced double-digit ridership losses as a result of the economic downturn.”

Passenger fares provide about one-half of Metrolink’s operating expenses, according to the report, and those revenues were $6.2 million, down 2.7 percent from the same quarter last year. Ridership in January, February and March dropped 3 percent from the same months last year.

However, the report said that compared with the six months between July and December 2009, the ridership drop was “minor … indicating that the downward trend in ridership is beginning to level off.”

Last year, in the three months between July and September, ridership sank 13 percent and another 7.6 percent between October and December 2009.

The average weekday ridership of all three lines in the first three months of this year was 14,737.

Metrolink is a 400-mile system that connects Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. The three Orange County lines have 11 stations and offer 42 trains each weekday.


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