The above progress report is the first from Metro’s Recovery Task Force, formed this spring to develop a plan on how Metro can best serve the public moving forward from the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The report includes a dozen early action recommendations.
Before we go further: we understand the terrible impacts the virus has had on people lives’ and on our local economy. Metro, too, has also been profoundly affected. Employees have fallen ill, ridership has plunged, bus and rail service has been reduced and our finances eroded.
But, like everyone else, we also have seen byproducts of the safer-at-home orders that have shown progress on some of our region’s most intractable problems. Specifically, there has been far less traffic congestion, much improved air quality and safer conditions for walkers and cyclists.
The Task Force’s mission is to help Metro respond to and recover from the pandemic while also finding ways to smartly preserve these gains – and to help guide Metro on how to truly best serve those who need us the most. A final comprehensive report will eventually be issued by the Task Force.
Decisions on whether and how to implement recommendations will be made by a combination of the Board of Directors, Metro’s Senior Leadership Team and responsible departments. The task force will track decisions and steps taken on these recommended early action items and will include updates in future progress reports.
I highly encourage you to check out the entire report – it’s not a long read and it includes some ideas that could net the kind of results many of this blog’s readers have long wanted to see.
Here are the Task Force’s 12 Early Action Recommendations:
•Survey Metro customers on their transportation needs and experiences. The idea is to get a handle on what ridership will look like in the coming months, figure out what customers want and best understand what would make customers feel safe using our services now and in the future.
•Authorize cities that received 2020 Open Street Grants – i.e. for events such as CicLAvia – to use that money for projects to slow traffic and/or expand walking and biking opportunities on local streets. The Metro Board approved this in late May.
•Test and implement new cleaning practices to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus and other germs on our transit system. We’re currently relying heavily on disinfectants, but the agency will be looking at the use of ultraviolet light as well as cleaning frequencies.
•Find ways to provide face masks to our riders. We’re requiring face coverings to ride, and the vast majority of riders seem to be wearing them as far as we can tell. As long as the requirement is in effect, we want to help riders access masks to avoid enforcement becoming an issue.
•Partner with local cities to accelerate projects that speed up buses – for example, bus lanes or projects that help buses get quickly through intersections. The goal is to make transit more appealing and useful in the future so people don’t feel they have to drive everywhere.
•Matching our service levels with demand. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been running about 70 percent of our pre-pandemic service levels for about 30 percent of our pre-pandemic ridership. The plan is to restore bus and rail service in stages and keep rear door boarding on buses to improve service, allow for physical distancing and – beyond the pandemic – help reduce overcrowding. Once upon a time, that was a common complaint.
•Begin engaging major employers to allow more telecommuting or to stagger work hours to reduce traffic. This includes modifying Metro’s telecommuting policy to set a good example. Pretty simple idea here: less traffic is good for everyone, including those who still must commute to work.
•Put a contactless payment system in place as part of the Transit app – the agency’s official app. This is a good way to reduce touchpoints and make transit more convenient to use.
•Re-imagine projects. It will be difficult for Metro to recover all the costs of the pandemic and our funding – which is heavily dependent on sales tax revenues – will likely be down for quite some time. The Task Force thinks this is a good time to take a look at the many projects in the planning phase at Metro and think about how they can cumulatively deliver the most positive impact to our region.
•Study options to improve the Metro Bike Share program – specifically to increase the number of locations.
•Expand social services to help find housing for homeless who use the Metro system.
•Testing new ways to help people get around – for example, through on-demand vehicles that provide rides in particular communities or to and from transit stations.
What do you think readers? Please leave a comment!