Metro’s Recovery Task Force releases early recommendations to improve mobility in wake of pandemic

pdf for download here

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!

13 replies

  1. Metro should implement a policy of having all windows open on buses per this information from The New York Times:

    Many infections have been traced to public transportation vehicles like buses and vans. Some experts have raised questions about the safety of enclosed public spaces, like office buildings, indoor restaurants and nightclubs.

    “When there’s stagnant air, the droplets could persist longer than you would expect, and there will be a lot of contamination on surfaces,” Dr. Cevik said.

    A flow of fresh air dilutes the virus, she added: “When you’re next to a good air flow source or by a window, your upper respiratory tract won’t be exposed to that much virus anymore.”

    Dr. Cevik referred to a study that traced a Covid-19 outbreak in China to a service at a Buddhist temple in Ningbo, in Zhejiang Province, in January.

    Some 300 people were at the service, which lasted two and a half hours and included lunch. It was held outdoors, and most of the worshipers were not infected. And of the 30 people who were infected, most had traveled on the bus to the temple and back with the first person who became ill, about an hour’s drive each way.

    On that bus, no one sitting by an open window got sick, with the sole exception of an individual who sat directly next to the infected woman.

  2. This is a great opportunity to expand the connectivity of the bike lane network, as more people will be looking to bike by themselves rather than risk transmission on public transport, or deal with the surging traffic as people rush back. When I bike, I move faster than rush hour artery traffic as I can lane split and maintain at least 12mph over the whole commute, but it’s certainly not for the feint of heart having such poor separation from vehicular traffic, and I always have close calls with cars edging into me. Some of our densest areas in the city are pretty unconnected with the rest of the bike network and not very safe to bike with all the traffic, particularly in the mid city. Hollywood is rough, as is Koreatown, and the vermont corridor that links the two regions has some of the worst biking infrastructure in the city, despite having some of the highest levels of traffic and ridership with other forms of transportation.

    I’d love to see the bike lane on Hoover directly linked to the bike lane on Virgil, and there are also plenty more opportunities to link regions via bike lane, like extending the Venice lane to downtown, the Santa Monica boulevard lane to Virgil, and building out the bike lane along San Vicente between Venice and Santa Monica boulevard. It wouldn’t hurt to extend the Fairfax lane down to Jefferson to connect Culver City with Hollywood. I would also prefer bike lanes to be built in the style found on main street in DTLA: a two way bike lane protected from traffic by a row of parked cars. Other designs just invite drivers to use the lane as a loading zone, or are filled with trash cans, requiring you to make a risky merge on a bike into traffic to avoid the obstruction, and the designs seem to take up about the same amount of road width no matter how exactly they end up being configured.

    Bike lanes make more people confident with biking in traffic, and improving the connectivity of the the mid city would connect the existing networks on the west side with those downtown, and improve the experience for everyone who bikes, as well as those who drive since they would have less driver with them on their commute contributing to traffic. We have the weather. The bike network just needs more nodes and connections if it is to become as attractive for Angelinos as the the vehicular road network.

  3. All good ideas but there seems to be a missing component. There is no mention on our frontline workers. How do we help them? What is there new role? This is critical to any change we are proposing.
    Bus design. We need a comprehensive and innovative re-design of the transit bus. Coronavirus teaches us this. I would propose that we create a cab for our operators with interior and exterior access. Reposition the front doors behind the front wheels with a fare system accessible to patrtons boarding and wheelshair patron seating directly opposite of the doors location. Operators should be able to activate the W/C seating arrangment from their location in the cab. There are other enhancements as well such as a seperate air cleaning system for the bus operator. Both internal and external customers are important to us, and they should be represented in any change to our system.

    • Getting new and redesigned busses is a long term thing. A bus can be built with staggered front wheels. Or, the driver position can be very front center and wheels either side (or even raised up like the monorail at Disneyland). Redesigning the bus with passenger and driver first design could lead to some dramatic changes. If the bus is electric (battery or fuel cell) there is no need for a shaft or axle. Also, the rear wheels might be moved further back. If the entrances and exits of the bus are flat and nearly at curb height, boarding is faster.

  4. I think that the path forward is headed in the right direction particular to ridership trust ways to get the public back on and agree that we can’t guess what they’ll want but be safe in knowing that safety precautions like some PPE, sanitizing stations w/wipes, will better equip the trains / buses for the immediate.

  5. I don’t understand why the bikes can’t be incorporated into the metro fares. 2 hour transfers should include bikes, especially at night, when buses are much less frequent. And the Via ride pilot program appears to only service areas with good transit service and only during the day. Is the purpose to show that eliminating transit is a good idea or is it to supplement service? Aren’t they more needed when most buses aren’t running and frequencies are low? I’m specifically referring to the El Monte Station area.
    I don’t have comments about improvements during the Covid-19 situation. People may feel like they have to drive everywhere not only because they think transit service is not good, but there’s also the additional reason that they may think transit increases the chances of catching the virus.

  6. Sanitation Stations so that riders can wash their hands and cut down on the spread of infectious bacteria and viruses like, say, coronavirus.

  7. If normal service returns to Metro, it will be difficult with so many people using the buses to enter and leave from the rear door only. At some point other arrangements will need to be made if you expect the bus operators to stay on a schedule.

    The idea of on demand transit is a good idea. Most buses in the South Bay run only every 45 – 60 minutes during normal service to and from the Harbor Gateway Transit Center. The municipal buses are even less dependable.

    • Why not have tap validators on the back door? The other idea is to have the front door be in only. And the back door be exit only (exceptions being made for those with physical needs otherwise). The dwell time by the driver would be much less than a front door exit.

  8. The primary goal for the MTA should be public transit, not a failed Bike Share program or other non transit ideas. To increase the speed of service two things should be done. Signal priority for all buses so when they approach an intersection the light briefly changes green to allow the bus to proceed and move all stops far side for three reasons. No delay when the bus is ready to depart, autos not blocked from making right turns behind buses and avoidance of accidents by autos attempting to make right turns in front of departing buses.

    • To increase the speed of service two things should be done.”

      This!!! Im sorry, but when I return to transit in a few weeks and realize the buses are still taking more than an hour to travel 10 miles when the speed of traffic is going much faster: Then no thanks, Ill stick exclusively to rail of which that itself is slow.

    • Both can be done. Bike share can be used by riders for ‘first mile/last mile’ reasons.

      Not *all* stops does it make sense to put the stop after the light. There are locations where there are driveways or on-ramps or other obstructions that would make it tough for the riders to get to their connection. I get irked by a Glendale Bee Line layover that is before the intersection in the worst place, can never tell if they are stopped for loading or layover. The light sync or bus prioritization is a city level issue. In LA City the Mayor’s office is the best place to complain to. He can tell the DOT to “make it so”. The General Manager of DOT serves a the pleasure of the Mayor.