While officials across the United States struggle to attract passengers back to their beleaguered bus and rail systems, one Southern California transit agency seems to be bucking the trend of nationwide ridership declines.

Last week, Metrolink announced that its commuter rail system logged its highest annual ridership in its nearly 27-year history.  Metrolink saw nearly 12 million boardings in the fiscal year 2018-2019, an increase of almost 250,000 from the previous year, and a total which eclipses the former high water mark of 11.8 million boardings set in 2008-2009.

Metrolink officials attributed the 2.1 increase from 2017-2018 - the fifth straight year of ridership increases - to increased marketing, an improved economy, and discounted fares on some lines, and free trials for Earth Day and Bike Month.

“Last year the Board, with support from our Member Agencies, made a substantial investment in our marketing and communications budget to speak directly to our customers and that investment has clearly paid off,” said Metrolink CEO Stephanie Wiggins in a news release. “My goal is to double Metrolink’s ridership by 2023; these numbers show we are on our way.”

Systemwide, Metrolink averages approximately 40,000 weekday boardings.  To double that mark, officials have proposed a sweeping array of improvements to the 538-mile system - including partial electrification and the addition of new stations, grade separations, and segments of double- and triple-track - with the goal of improving service frequencies to a minimum of 15-to-30-minutes on each line.