LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Metrolink ridership is down nearly 600,000 passengers since 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The drop in ridership has caused revenue losses, which have left the rail line debating between cutting back services or boosting fares, the paper said.

Agency officials blame the downturn on the worst recession since World War II.

The train system serves six counties and more than 20 million people across the Los Angeles metro area.

“Ridership should be growing, given the size of the area Metrolink serves,” Richard Katz, a former state legislator and longtime board member for the railroad, told the newspaper. “Though we have been attracting riders, we’ve had a hard time holding on to them.”

During the recession, the unemployment rate ranged from 8 percent to 13 percent across the region and the number of annual boardings dropped from a peak of almost 12.33 million in 2008 to 11.14 million in 2011, according to The Times.

By 2013, after more emphasis was placed on customer service and building ridership, annual boardings had recovered to just over 12 million. Since then, ridership has dropped to 11.74 million, The Times reported.

The dip, along with rising costs for fuel, operations and safety projects, prompted the railroad to trim service this year and seek more money from the five county transportation agencies that help fund the line.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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