COVID-19 update — project funding, bus service, news; Wednesday, April 22

Buses in a lightly-trafficked DTLA this week. Photo by Joe Lemon/LA Metro.

Dept. of Good Funding News (Non virus news!)

On behalf of the agency, a big thank you to the California High Speed Rail Authority Board, which earlier this week approved $423 million in funding for Metro’s Link Union Station project, which will allow trains to enter/exit Union Station from both the north and south.

That will increase the station’s rail capacity, cut down on travel time for Metrolink and Amtrak trains and reduce idling time for trains — all good things.

Another big thank you goes to the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) announced today that it has awarded $222 million in grants for transformative transit and rail projects in Los Angeles County. The money will be used to improve service on Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line (including demonstration of zero emission rail service), acquire 30 zero emission buses for muni operators (Antelope Valley, Long Beach, Torrance and Santa Monica) and to help fund a people mover in Inglewood that is planned to run between the Crenshaw/LAX Line and SoFi Stadium. 

I know it’s hard to see beyond the ongoing pandemic. But there will be a beyond the pandemic — and it’s good to see these kind of projects moving forward. They’ll help mobility and they’ll help the local economy recover, too.

Dept. of Service Changes

As you likely know, Metro is now running Sunday service every day of the week in addition to some bus lines that don’t normally run Sunday. We’ve been collecting feedback from riders and are making the following changes:

Line 108 (Slauson): Replacing most 40-foot buses with larger, 60-foot buses to promote social distancing

Line 152 (Roscoe) Westbound: New early morning trip departs North Hollywood at 5:40am on weekdays only

Line 166 (Nordhoff) Westbound: New early morning trip departs Osborne/Glenoaks at 6:45am on weekdays only

Line 603 (Rampart-Hoover): Replacing 32-foot buses with 40-foot buses to promote social distancing

J Line (Silver) 950 Northbound: First trip departing San Pedro at 5:33am will use a larger, 60-foot bus to promote social distancing

All new trips will NOT be reflected in the Trip Planner, Google Transit or Nextrip due to technical limitations.

Also, FWIW, I was out shooting photos in South L.A. on Wednesday between 9:15 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and keeping an eye on bus service — mostly on Crenshaw, Western, Vermont, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Slauson.

I know those aren’t the peak commuting hours but bus service looked solid to me — buses weren’t crowded although people were definitely riding. Nextbus real-time arrival info worked very well and the majority of riders were wearing face coverings or masks, as we recommend. Bus frequencies were consistent.

We’ve received relatively few complaints (nearly all involved the number of people on buses) and the number of missed trips has fallen now that we’re on a schedule that best matches our available staffing during the pandemic.

We welcome your feedback — please leave a comment on the blog. And, of course, thank you as always for riding and reading.

•The latest from the L.A. County Department of Public Health with another day of 1,000-plus positive cases reported. Testing, thankfully, continues to increase and L.A. County safer at home orders continue through May 15.

•Metro bus and rail service continues for essential trips only. We recommend that all riders wear a face covering or mask while riding transit. On buses, enter and exit using the rear doors with the front door reserved only for wheelchair users. You do not need to use the farebox, but please be in possession of a valid Metro fare.

•What’s an essential trip? Work to essential jobs (and there are many jobs considered essential), visiting a doctor or vet, obtaining medical supplies or medication, grocery shopping for yourself or others,  providing care for minors, seniors, dependents and persons with disabilities or other vulnerabilities, legally mandated government purposes and to comply with law enforcement or court orders.

In the news….

LAT op-ed on the yoyo that has been local air quality in the past year in our region: from filthier and more disgusting than we realized in 2019 to some of the cleanest among major urban areas in the country. Excerpt:

When the world emerges from its lockdown, the temptation will be to jump right back into our hermetically sealed transport bubbles. So, while you still can, step outside. Take a breath of fresh air. Take a quiet walk in the street. Or a bike ride with your kids. And think about how nice it would be to have clean air and safe streets as our new normal.

Hard not to agree with that. The challenge, of course, is that a lot of people depend on driving for their livelihoods. Although the majority of workers can’t telecommute, perhaps enough will to help increase traffic speeds and take the edge off the worst of the congestion. Discuss, please.

At Investing in Place, Scott Frazier argues that Metro should make fares free during the pandemic. On the bus system, we’re asking that riders use rear-doors and be in possession of a valid fare (wheelchair users can continue to enter via the front door) to create extra space for our bus operators.

NYT looks at the controversy over a pair of studies in California that suggested the coronavirus infection rate is higher than it was believed to be — and that many cases are relatively mild. Critics worry that could serve as fodder for opening the economy before it’s safe.

•Lewis MacAdams, a true local hero for his activism on behalf of restoring the Los Angeles River, has passed away at the age of 75. Here’s the obit in the LAT, featuring these two awesome paragraphs:

He found his calling one day that year when he and a few friends, fortified by coffee and brandy, used wire cutters to snip a hole in the fence that separated the concrete flood control channel from the city.

Walking along a stretch of the L.A. River just north of downtown, they asked it for permission to speak on its behalf, MacAdams recalled, adding: “We didn’t hear no.”

One of Metro’s key Measure M-funded efforts is the Los Angeles River Path Project to close the eight-mile gap in the L.A. River bike and walking path between the Elysian Valley and Maywood — which includes the stretch through DTLA.

It takes a lot of vision to look at something that most people ignore — or believe is an intractable problem — and see something else. Our deepest condolences to Lewis’ family, friends and the many he inspired through Friends of the Los Angeles River.

4 replies

  1. Hi, my name is Sandra, I ride to 232 bus in the morning you may said that the buses running naked Sunday to prevent social distances. for my point of view, that’s not good, all this bus is to learn the schedule of Sundays, this bus is good for morning and afternoon and some passengers get mad because we have shared the seats with other passengers. They always have to still always saying that we have to keep my distance 6 feet. I don’t think it’s fair for some passengers to be pushed because they want to sit I was a passenger yesterday at 232 bus and I said when this native push another lady, that’s not right, she was telling her if she had to move because she we had to be 6 feet apart. I understand the weird are in a horrible situation.

    • Hi Sandra;

      Thank you for the info about crowding on the 232. I’ll let our bus planners know.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. There are definitely more riders on the busses since the change of schedule last week. Could be a combination of people just tired of staying at home, plus limited service. Either way, it’s less safe for the operators to have more bodies on the bus, especially now that it’s hot and they will have to run the air conditioner and recirculate all exhaled breath of those who do not wear face coverings (of which there are many since it’s not mandatory for riders to wear a mask.) Will there be another change in schedule (for the operators, particularly) once the “safer at home” order is lifted?

    • Hi JenOFLA;

      Metro CEO Phil Washington said during yesterday’s Metro Board meeting that the plan is for an incremental increase in service after the safer at home orders are lifted. We’ll take a look at what ridership is and try to match it with service levels. Phil also said, and I agree, that not everyone is going to rush back to work at once. The current safer at home orders are until May 15. The number of coronavirus infections, as of this morning, appear to have plateaued but they aren’t going down either. So a lot of questions going forward.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source