Metro commits to national effort to ensure health and safety of returning transit riders

Metro has joined the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and transit agencies across the nation in committing to specific measures to help ensure the safe return of riders as the U.S. recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

APTA’s national “Health and Safety Commitments Program” seeks to show riders exactly what transit agencies are doing to help keep transit as safe as possible and slow the spread of COVID-19. Here’s video of today’s APTA press conference.

Under the partnership, Metro is expected to commit to:

  • Following official guidance on safe riding practices from health experts and agencies.
  • Protecting riders through cleaning, disinfecting, good ventilation, providing room for social distancing when practical.
  • The use of face coverings by employees and riders.
  • Sharing information that will empower riders to make informed choices.
  • Ensuring transit workers and passengers are healthy.

As part of this campaign, Metro will ask riders to do their part by wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing when possible, following best health practices and avoiding transit when not feeling well.

Transit agencies and their customers across the nation are facing unprecedented challenges due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite those challenges, riders have begun to return to transit with Metro currently up to 55 percent of its normal ridership, when compared to about 31 percent in April.

We recognize that transit remains a lifeline to healthcare professionals, first responders, grocery and pharmacy employees and to people who need us to get them to medical appointments, markets and other critical services. Keeping everyone as safe as possible on Metro is essential to Los Angeles County’s recovery from COVID-19, and here are just a few ways we’re doing that:

Improved Cleaning

Metro’s team of custodians cleans and disinfects high touchpoint surfaces three times per day at all rail stations, as well as all G Line (Orange) stations and both the El Monte and Harbor Gateway bus stations. Our cleaning crews also remove trash, clean spills and biohazards and spot-clean seats, floors and other surfaces. We use EPA-approved disinfectants that that can kill germs beyond their immediate application.

Buses are cleaned before and after they go into service on a route. Our team uses strengthened supplies to clean high touchpoint surfaces on every bus. Trains are cleaned each time they begin and end service along a line. Metro’s custodial team takes pride in meeting heightened cleaning standards for high touchpoint surfaces, which include handrails, railings, elevator call buttons, door handles and TAP vending machines.

Passenger Health

Metro is coordinating closely with the L.A. County Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on riding guidelines. We continue to urge riders to travel only to perform essential activities, which include commuting to an essential job; visiting a doctor or veterinarian; 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.

Face coverings are required on Metro, and riders should maintain social distancing whenever possible while using the system. In addition, we’ll continue to remind riders to follow best hygiene practices such as sneezing or coughing into a tissue or your arm, and hand washing frequently with soap and warm water.

Metro has installed hand sanitizer dispensers at major transit hubs and is exploring equipping buses and trains with these dispensers.

Air Filtration and Ventilation Safety

Our operations team has been working tirelessly to ensure that the air riders breathe is safe. Metro trains and buses use high-quality air filters that clean and recirculate air at a high rate. Our heavy and light rail cars use high-efficiency air filters rated at MERV-8 or higher that recirculate air between every two to four minutes. Metro’s buses use air filters rated at MERV-7 and circulate air every 1.2 minutes. The opening and closing of bus doors — which happens frequently — also helps circulate air.

Metro is exploring additional air filtration and ventilation options to increase safety — including UV-C light disinfection and higher MERV-rated filters — to further help clean air on transit vehicles.

Crowding

With social distancing of paramount importance during the COVID-19 crisis, we’re doing everything we can to avoid crowding on buses and trains.

Metro is currently running 81 percent of the service that we ran in February for about 55 percent of the ridership to help accommodate social distancing where practical. In late July, we added trips on busier bus lines to provide more room for riders.

Metro’s official smartphone app, Transit, can now help riders stay safe by predicting the crowding levels on Metro buses. Just tap on the bus icon and crowding levels will show up. The predictions are based on regularly updated data collected in the prior two weeks from automated passenger counters on Metro buses. That allows the Transit app to predict the number of riders on any Metro bus at a particular time, location and direction of travel, following the most recent ridership trends.

These predictions will help riders decide whether they want to ride Metro, wait for another bus or seek another way to reach their destination.

Metro has also added contactless fares for Apple users on their iPhones or Apple Watches, allowing riders a safer and more convenient way to pay their fares.

Recovery Task Force

Metro has formed a Recovery Task Force that is exploring ways for Metro to not only recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as an agency, but come back stronger.

This task force is charged with providing specific advice and recommendations for senior leadership and the Metro Board of Directors to decide on how best to recover from the pandemic. Examples include: encouraging more telecommuting; exploring temporary closure of some streets to encourage walking, rolling and biking, and; exploring new cleaning technology. In addition to recovering from the difficult conditions created by the pandemic, the task force is identifying opportunities for Metro to advance its mission and help create a new normal of mobility without the return of traffic congestion.

“This commitment is much more than just words. We intend to put intent into practice as we work to come out from under this pandemic stronger than ever in our efforts to move people safely around Los Angeles County,” said Metro CEO Phil Washington. “But we can’t do it alone. It requires a partnership with our riders and a similar commitment to helping keep everyone safe and healthy as we work to get through this situation.”

5 replies

  1. There is an elephant in this room that Metro never mentions. Since about a quarter of the length of many buses is reserved for the driver, the remainder on some routes is already as crowded as it was prior to COVID-19. And on many buses there is ALWAYS one or more passengers who refuse to wear a mask. Therefore many of the steps described in this article will be for naught unless mask wearing is STRICTLY enforced – every bus and every rail car. That means lots of conductors must quickly be brought on line as monitors who can call Metro security for a prompt response when needed, as it often is now!

  2. I agree with localist, wearing masks should not be optional. You can’t go into any store without a mask, why is an enclosed bus or train ok? And if you can’t go in anywhere without a mask, where would someone without a mask be going anyway??

  3. When will you reopen remaining Subway entrances? Pershing Square’s 4th street entrance is much safer (from harassment) but only the less safe, permanently homeless-occupied 5th street entrance is open.

    Not riding metro again until this is addressed.

  4. do buses and trains always clean and disinfect more inside every time when they reach at the end of the line? I would hope that both buses and trains would keep cleaning and disinfecting more at the end of the line before people would get in and ride at the beginning of the line to the end and then clean and disinfect inside and then let people get on and clean and disinfect every time at the end of the line as well.

    • Pre-COVID? No, the turnaround was so quick they can’t even do quick sweeping. Sometimes the turnaround will literally be about 20 seconds because the train arrived at the terminal station late. That right there is the main issue. While Terminals Like Azusa and Santa Monica had a 10-12 min turnaround time which is more than enough time to sweep and somewhat disinfect, terminals like Union Station and 7th/Metro which share lines its essentially impossible. Every train would have to be taken out of service with only a few minutes to fully clean out, and then put back in service, which to be honest I think it would take a lot longer.

      During-COVID? I haven’t ridden the system but I wouldn’t hold my my breath on the frequency.

      Post-COVID? As much as I want to say Metro cares, the truth is money talks.