The above progress report is 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 progress report includes the 18 recommendations made thus far and the framework for the final recovery plan that aims to be issued in the early fall.
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, improved air quality and higher rates of walking and cycling.
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.
This third progress report previews the types of recommendations that will be included in the Task Force’s final recovery plan. In addition to early action items, the final report will contain core recommendations, which are important but less time-sensitive ideas to advance recovery. The Task Force will also recommend a small number of transformative recommendations, i.e. the kind of big ideas which could lead to major improvements in mobility and equity.
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.
•Allow Mask Vending: Supplement mask distribution by licensing vendors to sell masks and potentially personal hand sanitizer at some of our stations. As a face covering is now required on Metro, it makes sense to make masks as available as possible to our riders.
•Virtual Connections: Refresh, share and follow protocols for online public meetings and take wifi-hotspots to communities. In-person meetings will likely not resume for some time, so it’s important we make sure our riders and stakeholders can stay connected and informed.
•Fresh Air, Safe Travel: Assess options to improve air-flow and filtering to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission. This could include keeping bus windows open and enhanced cleaning and filtering of HVAC systems on vehicles, in stations and buildings.
•More Biking: Promote quick roll-out of more bike infrastructure and bikes. Biking is a good way to get around and easily allows for social distancing.
•We’re Here For You: Communication campaign on safe use of services as Safer at Home orders are relaxed.
•Customer Ambassadors: Deploy non-security staff at stations as customer service agents and ambassadors to encourage safe riding (mask usage, distancing, etc.). This aligns with Metro’s goal to reimagine safety and security on our system.
•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, while sticking within the parameters of the Measure M and R ordinances.
•Study options to improve the Metro Bike Share program
•Expand social services to help find housing for homeless who use the Metro system.