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Or they could be walking or biking - or deciding not to travel.

The transportation association partly credited an expansion of bus and train networks for the growth in ridership.

Ridership on Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority light-rail trains increased 6 percent over 2012, as the public took advantage of an expanded network of lines. Overall, LA Metro gained 9 million trips to reach 478 million in 2013, the transportation association said.

Standing on a platform at Union Station near downtown, Kaylen Gordon said she has seen trains get more crowded since she started her commute to school across Los Angeles four years ago.

“Now they’re really packed,” Gordon, 18, said of the two light rail and one subway lines that take her from South Los Angeles to the city’s northeast, a ride that typically takes an hour and a half.

If the high school senior had a car, she said, she wouldn’t use it every day to get to class. The time she has on the train to catch up on homework, text, read or relax is a nice way to unwind.

Among the other transit systems in California with record ridership was the Caltrain commuter rail service that connects San Francisco with Silicon Valley.

Houston, which has been more notable for its sprawl than its public transportation offerings, had a large ridership gain. So did Seattle, Miami, Denver and San Diego.

The New York area’s behemoth transit network saw the greatest gain, accounting for one in three trips nationally.

In Seattle, Jim Jarosz said his family got rid of their second car five years ago. As a teacher, he uses downtime on the bus or light rail to plan class lessons and check his phone.

“I found it a lot more convenient,” he said. “A lot less hassle than driving and trying to find parking. Plus I like the feeling of being a little greener.”

Jason Shumaker, of Salt Lake City, uses the light rail nearly every day traveling to and from work in the suburb of Sandy, about 20 miles south.

“It’s clean, it’s reliable, it’s efficient,” said Shumaker, holding the bike he takes with him on the train. “A big push this year is to clean our air and a big portion of that solution is public transportation.”

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Contact Justin Pritchard: https://twitter.com/lalanewsman

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