Metro programs that work toward racial justice

LA Metro, quite understandably, has been fielding questions recently about our agency’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. People want to know what we’re doing to improve racial justice and fix longstanding inequities in the communities that we serve — and within our agency.

The good news is that LA Metro, in fact, has many initiatives that have been underway. Some key ones are of a more recent vintage but others date back to the 1990s. We’re proud of that but with this caveat: Metro recognizes there is still plenty of work to do. This is especially the case in historically and currently marginalized communities where many residents are people of color. 

Before looking at individual Metro programs, please see the graphics below which shows the majority of our riders are Latino and Black, and that the majority of our riders are from low-income households. 

 

The graphics below show the ethnic makeup of Metro’s nearly 11,000-member workforce and who is being hired and promoted at Metro. The third chart shows the demographic breakdown of L.A. County as a whole. In terms of diversity, Metro’s workforce is as diverse, if not more so, than L.A. county as a whole.

Above is the US Census Bureau breakdown for L.A. County.

The following is a look at some of the many programs underway at Metro that are working to end racial injustices and to make our communities more equitable:

The Metro Equity Platform was written and conceived by Metro staff and adopted by the Metro Board in 2018 and seeks to ensure that access to opportunity will be a core objective of Metro’s decision making, investments and service decisions. The Platform acknowledges that vast disparities exists among neighborhoods and individuals in L.A. County in their ability to see and seize opportunity — whether it’s jobs, housing, education, health, safety or other measures of successful life outcomes. It also provides a basis for Metro to actively lead and partner in addressing and overcoming those disparities. In January 2020, Metro hired its first Executive Officer, Equity and Race, KeAndra Cylear Dodds, to lead implementation of the Equity Platform.

Metro’s Office of Civil Rights & Inclusion ensures that Metro meets or exceeds all local, state and federal civil rights requirements by promoting universal equity for customers and employees. Among the duties of the department: 

  • Evaluate services, programs, and facilities.
  • Educate employees and customers on Civil Rights.
  • Monitor and advise on Civil Rights.
  • Conduct investigations and make recommendations on corrective actions.
  • Eliminate barriers in employment opportunities and ensure equal access and participation in the Metro transportation system.

One key Civil Rights & Inclusion effort is the Mystery Rider program, in which independent contractors appear as riders to determine Metro’s performance when it comes to serving riders with disabilities. The Office has also worked to help customers with limited English proficiency get the answers they need at Metro Customer Service Centers, rewritten job specifications to remove gender bias and encourage more people to apply for positions at Metro and developed a “Level Up” program to encourage Metro employees to report acts of discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

Metro’s System Security and Law Enforcement’s (SSLE) mission is to use a community-based policing model with a focus on customer service. Policies in place to lower the risk of altercations between law enforcement and riders includes:

  • All racial bias complaints are immediately reviewed and followed up on by Metro’s Office of Civil Rights & Inclusion.
  • Metro requires all contract law enforcement staff to be free of any personnel records or history of disciplinary action related to bias.
  • Metro will remove any contract law enforcement staff determined by investigation to have not acted in accordance with their departmental guidance related to equity while on Metro property.
  • We have decriminalized the fare compliance process and replaced law enforcement with civilian personnel to check all fares. Law enforcement DO NOT write fare compliance tickets (on occasion during a criminal investigation with legitimate probable cause, our officers may address Metro Code of Conduct violations). Citations for fare evasion have also significantly decreased. 
  • Metro has also established a transit court outside of the criminal court system to address code of conduct issues and we have created a position within transit court to resolve code of conduct issues that are not punitive
  • We issue warnings to violators under the age of 18.
  • We committed to working with the court system to refer eligible offenders to a diversion program.
  • All-Metro Contracted Law Enforcement & Security Officers receive training in de-escalation techniques and implicit bias.
  • Metro encourages all riders to use the Transit Watch App to report any suspicious activity on Metro which gets handled by Transit Security.
  • Metro SSLE staff continue to receive enhanced training in sexual harassment prevention as a direct result of concerns raised by riders. Metro will be enhancing its next law enforcement contract proposal in 2022 in coordination with the new Metro Equity and Race Executive Officer to ensure a community-based approach.
  • Body cameras will be part of the contractual scope to increase transparency.

Metro’s Homeless Outreach Program, known as PATH/C3, is a key part of our security efforts. The goal is to connect unhoused people with social services and shelters. To date, 1,708 individuals have attained interim housing resources and 262 individuals have been permanently housed. 

The SEED School of Los Angeles County is scheduled to break ground this fall in South Los Angeles. The partnership between Metro and L.A. County aims to prepare youth – including at-risk youth – for career and college pathways in the global transportation industry. The SEED Foundation was selected as the school’s operator and will develop an interdisciplinary curriculum that gives students a deeper understanding of the infrastructure we all rely upon. The school will also be the centerpiece of a development at the site at Vermont and Manchester that will include 180 units of affordable housing, community-serving retail, a transportation-focused job training center and a plaza that will open to the future rapid bus line on Vermont Avenue.

NextGen and Bus Improvements. Metro’s buses carry nearly 75 percent of our riders, the majority of whom are people of color and/or from low income households (see the graphics above). Under the draft NextGen plan released earlier this year, buses would arrive every five to 10 minutes for 83 percent of current riders compared to 49 percent today. The number of L.A. County residents who could walk to bus lines running every five to 10 minutes would more than double to almost 2.2 million people. We’re hoping to begin implementing NextGen in December and we have other plans in the works to speed up buses and make bus stops safer and more comfortable. 

The Women and Girls Governing Council. Metro has taken a proactive approach towards gender equity in the transportation sector since 2017 with the establishment of the Council, which analyzes how Metro’s programs, services and policies impact the lives of women and girls in L.A. County. To date, 20 initiatives have been implemented or are in the pipeline, including one that that led to increased hiring of women as Service Attendants. Last year, Metro published its Understanding How Women Travel report, a broad effort to identify and eliminate barriers and challenges faced by women using the Metro system. Metro will next be developing a gender action plan that will ensure our policies and programs include a gender perspective. 

The Metro Leadership Academy was created in 2017 and is aimed at developing the next generation of transportation leaders. The year-long program provides Metro employees with the framework and tools to create a stronger corporate succession plan. The Academy works to ensure participants are diverse and represent a cross-section of Metro’s workforce — and that 50 percent of participants are women. Participants to date have been 28 percent Black, 36 percent Latino and 14 percent Asian.

Metro CEO Phil Washington at a Faith Leader’s roundtable event.

Faith Leaders Program. Metro’s engagement with religious leaders and faith-based organizations plays a role in our commitment to racial justice. The faith leaders we engage and partner with administer programs that help those in most need – the impoverished, the formerly incarcerated, small minority business owners, folks struggling with affordable housing and homelessness and others looking for good jobs to support their families. Due to racial inequities of our society, those in most need of these programs are often people of color. Our relationships with faith leaders strengthen our ability to provide Metro’s resources for these vulnerable communities and to integrate their voices into Metro projects and programs.  

Women Build Metro Los Angeles (WBMLA) works with union-sanctioned training programs to address barriers to women applying for construction apprenticeships — i.e. concerns over childcare, sexual harassment and life at a job site where other women can be scarce. In the three years since the program began, several hundred women have attended WBMLA sessions across L.A. County. Names of attendees are given to potential employers for follow up.

Workforce Initiative Now – Los Angeles (WIN-LA) is Metro’s workforce development program started under CEO Phil Washington in 2017 to create career pathways for local residents in operations/maintenance, administration and professional services at Metro and the transportation industry. The program provides support for participants in areas such as life skills development, skill set enhancement and educational attainment services. WIN-LA also increases the resources needed for training and placement for hard-to-fill positions.

Project Labor Agreement/Construction Careers Policy (PLA/CCP). The Metro Board approved this program in 2012 to encourage construction employment and training opportunities on Metro projects for workers residing in economically disadvantaged areas and for Disadvantaged Workers (individuals that have barriers to employment, i.e. homeless, welfare recipients, unemployment, a history with the criminal justice system and veterans). As of March 2020, more than $295 million in wages have been paid out to targeted workers and over $56 million in wages to disadvantaged workers.

Metro Art is L.A. County’s cultural connector. We seek to provide increased and equitable access to arts and culture for our diverse ridership and to move people through the arts. Our projects and programs reflect our communities because we actively, intentionally and proudly pursue a path of inclusion. Metro Art commissions artists at all career levels, and we have created technical assistance initiatives and career pathway opportunities that have led to broader diversity at our own agency and within the field. Over half of the artists Metro Art has worked with represent Black, Indigenous and people of color communities. While we partner with arts and community-based organizations and continue to place community voices at the forefront of our work, there is still more work for us to do. We invite you to learn more about Metro Art’s impact and join us on this journey at metro.net/art and on Instagram @Metro.Art.LA.

Detail of “City of Dreams/River of History,” by Richard Wyatt in collaboration with May Sun, artists.

Metro’s Diversity and Economic Opportunity Department helps firms that are economically and socially disadvantaged win contracts with Metro. Since 2015, Metro has awarded more than $900 million to small, minority, women and veteran-owned businesses. Within this program, Metro has teams assigned to help firms win the certification they need to bid for contracts — Metro has more than 2,000 certified firms. The MetroConnect program also helps small businesses learn how to work with Metro via events such as “How to do Business with Metro” workshops and informal Coffee and Conversation meetings. The MetroConnect Calendar of Events can be accessed at Metro.net/connect. Your success is our success!

Metro’s Living Wage Policy was approved by the Metro Board in 2014 and raised the minimum pay for the workforce on Metro’s service and maintenance services contracts. Better wages provide employees with a higher standard of living and the ability to pay for health care benefits — and over time gives more workers and their families the chance to raise incomes above the poverty line. Among the contract jobs impacted by the Living Wage Policy are facility and building maintenance, janitorial and custodial, landscaping, laundry services, trash collection and office and clerical work, among others.

Business Interruption Fund (BIF) and Business Solution Center (BSC) provide support to small businesses, including those in underserved communities, impacted by rail construction. Metro’s BIF provides financial assistance to small “mom and pop” businesses directly impacted by construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Regional Connector in Little Tokyo and the Purple Line Extension. To date, Metro’s BIF has granted more than $27.9 million to over 400 of these small businesses. The BSC has to date provided hands on business development and support services to more than 300 small businesses in the Crenshaw and Inglewood communities impacted by work on Crenshaw/LAX Line. To learn more, please visit metro.net/bif and metrobsc.net/crenshaw. Both programs were approved by the Metro Board in 2014.

Fare Relief and Fare Study. The Metro Board voted in May to provide a 50 percent discount for all Metro day, weekly and monthly passes (the discounts will begin later this summer). Prior to that Board action and continuing, the agency is in the midst of a Comprehensive Pricing Study (CPS) that will look at how Metro prices all of its services — including transit fares, Metro Bike, parking, ExpressLanes tolls and VanPool — to better ensure equitable pricing going forward. The study aims to be inclusive and transparent, and we will be seeking meaningful participation from our customers, the communities we serve, elected officials, transit partners, and other stakeholders, throughout the process.

Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects

4 replies

  1. I am a white, retired Metro pass holder. I commuted to work on Metro during most of my career. I was so sick of seeing sheriffs deputies arrest African-American persons in the subway system for fare-evasion. The sheriffs deputies handcuffed these low-income minor offenders and treated them as if they were major criminals.

  2. With the exception of the Bus Riders Union in the 1990s, I’ve never heard the MTA or it’s predecessors accused of a lack of inclusion, diversity, etc. Even then, the BRU’s arguments were considered thin and their interest in and commitment to transit was questionable. Some of the training initiatives listed sound promising but I feel like we’ve had quite a few of those over the years and they seem to peter out over time. I’ve always thought that the MTA should have a permanent institute at Trade Tech that would develop skills and train the future Metro workforce.

    I do have to completely disagree with the MTA policy on fare enforcement. As a bus rider and occasional attendee of MTA meetings, I’ve never heard anyone say that fare enforcement was too strict, unfair or racially biased. In fact, complaints from other riders (almost exclusively people of color) consistently state that this is the biggest problem that the system faces and the root of many issues that plague the system. Sadly, I’ve seen a number of incidents over the years on buses and every time it involved a person or persons who did not pay the fare. Basically, the MTA does everything it can to hamper fare collection in the interest of “protecting” its passengers from bias and unfairness when those it’s “protecting” almost unanimously want more fare enforcement. It’s similar to a couple years ago when riders begged for more security/police but the MTA didn’t want to add any for fear of alienating those who were begging for more security/police.

    This week’s MTA meeting was a prime example of this problem. Bonin’s public safety motion was commented on by 100 people who said the same thing word for word – just in a different order. If I had to hear “I am a frequent transit rider who travels downtown a couple of times a week” in another “public” comment that was obviously taken verbatim from advocacy group handouts I would have gone mad. This is not the way to make policy. Survey your riders. If they say they want less fare enforcement or similar then act on that. And directors, maybe take a bus once in your life.

  3. I support the programs above. HOWEVER, Metro needs to actively acknowledge and adjust its planning and service patterns to reflect job and housing segregation. Areas that do not zone for transit (ie multifamily residential along major corridors) should not receive light rail stations. Bus routes with high ridership should have reliable service and buses that are as clean and upholstered as the low-ridership routes Metro subsidizes on Foothill Transit and other municipal operators. Ideally, Metro should absorb the municipal operators. They should accept each others’ passes, rather than force riders to pay extra. The Silver Line should be $1.75 like the Orange Line.

    What are you going to do to balance “public input sessions” for projects like the NoHo-Pasadena BRT line? The people who attend those sessions hardly ever ride transit and feel entitled to speak on behalf of transit riders. They don’t want transit improvements, then complain of traffic and lack of parking for their cars. They are loud and obnoxious, but if you give them the lack of bus infrastructure and train stations with single family zoning they want, you will lose more riders and waste more money.