Metro announces service adjustments due to COVID-19 crisis

Much lighter midday crowds than usual on the subway at Union Station on Thursday. Photo: LA Metro.

A Metro online press briefing held this morning just concluded — watch it here — with several important announcements about steps the agency is taking during the COVID-19 crisis to provide mobility and to provide for the safety of the riding public and Metro’s workforce.

And this briefly: a huge thank you to Metro’s front line staff who have selflessly kept our buses and trains rolling this week and to all riders using Metro. On behalf of all of us at the agency — thank you many times over.

Here’s the news:

•To paraphrase Metro CEO Phil Washington, this is an unprecedented event and we understand the devastating effect COVID-19 is having on families, schools and universities, individuals, small businesses, nonprofits, restaurants, the service sector, big business, places of worship and just about every aspect of our society.

However, while we operate with an abundance of caution, we are not and will not operate from a position of fear.  Please follow the state stay-at-home orders issued Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom unless you have a legitimate reason to be out.

That said, Metro will continue to run service to be a lifeline and support those who need to get to work, seek care and shop for vital supplies.

•Metro is the third busiest transit system in the United States and ridership earlier this week was down to 60 percent due to school closings, people staying home from work and the closure of restaurants, bars and entertainment/sporting venues. The agency still saw more than 550,000 daily boardings on both Monday and Tuesday this week — compared to about 1.2 million average weekday boardings in February.

•As a result, Metro is adjusting bus and rail service to meet on-the-street reality while also being sensitive to the health of Metro employees, some of whom are staying home due to childcare needs or because they are in groups more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.

•Metro Bus service levels will be reduced 15 to 20 percent and we will try to strategically adjust select trips across the system to minimize inconvenience to riders and continue to provide good service on our busiest lines that riders depend on. To emphasize: we’re trying to reduce a bit of service across the board but do so in a way that won’t result in long waits for riders. We do recommend that you allow some extra time. 

•On the rail side, service will also be adjusted with trains running slightly less frequently during peak hours, meaning riders may have to wait a few minutes more for trains. There will be no late night service on Fridays and Saturdays. 

More specifically:

–Starting Friday night and until further notice, last trips departing terminal stations will be at midnight on all trains.

–Starting on Monday, March 23, trains on the B (Red), D (Purple), A (Blue), E (Expo) and L (Gold) Lines will run every 12 minutes between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. with 20 minute service at all other times. We will try to run as many three car trains as possible on these light rail lines to maintain social distancing for riders. D (Purple) Line trains will have four cars and B (Red) Line trains will have six cars.

–Starting Monday, the C (Green) Line will run ever 12 minutes from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then run every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 12 minutes from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and then every 20 minutes between 6 p.m. through midnight. Those trains will be two-car trains, as per usual.

•Overall, service will be a hybrid — something between regular weekday levels (our busiest times) and weekends, when we typically scale back service.

•We’ll be keeping an eye on ridership in the days ahead and may make other quick-strike adjustments to reflect current demand, deploy service to areas most in need and to protect the agency’s financial resources (more on that below).

•Union Station has undergone a partial closure with continued access for all bus and rail riders, including ticketed riders for Amtrak and Metrolink. Access to ticketing will be in defined areas and riders are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance and online if possible. Riders using the Metro B Line (RED), D Line (Purple) and L Line (Gold) and bus service in and out of Union Station will also be guided to those services by security and station personnel. All others without station business or valid ticketing will be denied entry.

•Metro also will begin installing sanitation stations and hand sanitizers at major transit stops and stations to allow riders to wash their hands, one of the best safeguards against the COVID-19 virus. Metro is also exploring and researching how to equip buses and trains with hand sanitizer dispensers to help control the virus.

•Metro has already strengthened its cleaning regimes within buses, trains, stations and facilities, and Metro employees are requested to stay home if sick. Metro’s Headquarters building was closed to the public effective Wednesday, March 18, until further notice. All Metro Board of Directors meetings in March were also cancelled with all agenda items pushed to the next meeting.

•As we said earlier in the week, Metro continues to follow the orders and recommendations from the L.A. County Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Metro’s primary direction to is for employees to protect themselves and others through good personal hygiene practices, work/social spacing and other precautions.

•The COVID-19 virus has had an unprecedented effect on the global and regional economy. Metro has multiple funding sources and one of those is local sales tax revenue, which will take a massive hit due to people staying home and businesses closing down. We don’t know the totality of the effect yet, but we’re preparing and bracing for it. Metro is speaking with the FTA and lawmakers in Washington to explore the possibility of a federal reimbursement of COVID-19 costs. We know other transit agencies are doing the same.

•At this time, Metro’s construction projects are not impacted by COVID-19 and Metro has asked all contractors to fulfill their contractual obligations and continue work. This is, of course, a fluid situation, and that could change. Metro will remain in close coordination with its contractors to determine any potential impacts on labor availability and supply chain.

•Metro will be offering frequent updates about service throughout the COVID-19 crisis. We encourage the public to visit for the latest information.  Please also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for updates.

19 replies

  1. Dear, Metro
    My husband is a veteran contracted Tech. We are also expecting a baby in the next four weeks. His request for time off, was denied. Even given the circumstances of going home to a pregnant wife and young toddler. Every day he heads out is absolutely nerve wrecking. EVERY DAY! His company has stated, they just can’t afford to give time off, because of the demand that Metro is asking. The drivers are in danger, the train Techs are in danger, and not even Hazard pay has been offered. Isn’t it time you shut down, before there aren’t any employees left? The amount of concern is heavier then the earth at this point. Please, please, stop that Merry go round.

  2. Deleting certain trips without publishing some kind of timetable and updating Nextbus, as calwatch points out, is a problem particularly on low frequency lines. My suggestion would be to run a Saturday (or Sunday/Holiday) schedule on weekdays to better match demand and so that there is some schedule predictability, with lines that do not normally run on weekend running on a normal weekday schedule. I am glad that full length trains are being run, though. I think that makes a lot of sense.

    • Hi JR;

      Understood and fair point. We’re trying very hard to avoid canceling trips on the low frequency lines. We’re not going to be printing new timetables as this is a fluid situation and the buses that roll out depend on staffing and who is available and where — we are trying to meet demand that is still there and also allow employees tend to their own families and loved ones. Again, we’re very much trying to spread out the service evenly and ensure that no riders wait too much longer for a bus.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. can you be specific about how bus service is being adjusted, like which routes did you adjust? You only mentioned that “Metro Bus service levels will be reduced 15 to 20 percent” that’s very board and we as the customer have the rights to know how and when are you adjusting bus service so we can plan and adjust our own schedule.

    • Hi Metro Rider;

      We’re trying to spread the reductions out evenly and in such a way that we don’t over extend waits for a bus. In theory, all bus lines may be impacted at some point but we’re trying not to cancel trips on low frequency lines. We still have a lot of service out there, particularly during the peak periods and day time. Please give yourself some extra time is good advice.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. As many of our healthcare providers are on the buses and trains, these methods of transportation are spreading this illness 100% times over!

  5. If healthy younger riders were to stand, elderly and disabled riders would not have to be seated so closely together.

  6. Hi has Metro considered back door boarding only and stop fare collection I used to live in LA but not live in a suburb of Richmond VA and they stop collecting fares and moved to an all back door boarding on local and bet buses

    • Hi has Metro considered back door boarding only and stop fare collection. I used to live in LA but now live in a suburb of Richmond VA and they stop collecting fares and moved to an all back door boarding on local and BRT buses.
      *** Fixed Grammar issues***

      • Hi RVA;

        We are considering a number of scenarios. I understand the visual appeal of backdoor boarding but we still want people to spread out and social distance once on the bus — not just collect in the rear half near the rear doors.

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

  7. Still isn’t enough for the operators.
    Have Phil Washington rose the bus with the public. If he’s really about the people he’s be on the bus with everyone.
    Operators shouldn’t suffer alone.
    They need better equipment to protect them.
    And I hope Metro doesn’t retaliate against the operators who take so much time off and suspend them.

    Get it right like every other agency is doing.
    Metro’s falling apart right now, operators are in fear of their health.

    • Hi Ron;

      I was on the system with him yesterday and he’s a regular rider.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Both the buses I used when I got on earlier were only back door entrance/exit only and the drivers block off about 3 meters of the front of the bus completely. Ultimately it is really up to the bus drivers. Some are willing to take a bit of a risk, some are action being proactive about the situation.

  8. “Starting Friday night and until further notice, last trips departing terminal stations will be at midnight on all trains” – this is different than the 10pm in the Wednesday memo. Could you clarify?

  9. The problem with this adjusted service is that trains may not show up properly on Nextbus; also on some of the less busy lines reducing a bus that runs every 20, 30, or 40 minutes would lead to even more unreliability.

    • Headways and wait times are being factored into decisions being made about bus service.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source