COVID-19 update and headlines, Tuesday, Nov. 10

•Metro ridership numbers for October have posted and show another uptick in boardings to average of 632K on weekdays — a little more than half the boardings we were carrying pre-pandemic.

•COVID-19 cases are on the rise again locally — please be careful if out and about. If riding Metro, face coverings are required. To learn more about other precautions that Metro is taking to slow the virus’ spread, click here.

Source: L.A. County Department of Public Health.

•As you may have heard, several Board Members and/or Metro officials have had their names tossed around for either Cabinet posts under President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and/or the soon-to-be open U.S. Senate seat in California. My crystal ball is currently in the shop and I’m not going to add to speculation. But I will say this: a lot of the work we’re doing at Metro continues to be closely watched around the country. It’s definitely great to see California — with almost 12 percent of the nation’s population — regain some seats at the proverbial table.

•State Sen. Holly Mitchell will join the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and the Metro Board of Directors after winning her race last week in the 2nd district over L.A. Council Member Herb Wesson. She replaces Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who won his race for the L.A. City Council. And…the five members of the Board of Supervisors will soon all be women – a historic first. Duarte Council Member and Metro Board Member John Fasana is also retiring, which will open a seat on the Board to a representative of the San Gabriel Valley.

•Here’s a list of five smart takeaways from last week’s local elections in L.A. Magazine. The most welcome, I think, was the city of L.A.’s recent shift to holding their elections in even numbered years — like many other cities do. The odd number year elections in L.A. resulted in lousy turnout and gave another boost to incumbents, who usually hold an edge in terms of fund-raising and visibility. As someone who once upon a time covered the L.A. City Council, it may not be such a bad thing if incumbents had to glance over their shoulders every so often.

•Good analysis in the Washington Post onProp 22, which allows the likes of Uber and Lyft to continue to treat their drivers as contractors instead of employees. After the companies opened their wallets to the tune of $200 million  to campaign for the measure, it won handily last week with 58.5 percent yes votes. Uber and Lyft stock shot up thereafter, not surprising given that companies will likely be able to keep costs and fares down.

Many transit activists have argued the ride sharing firms are putting too many vehicles on the road, profiting too much from publicly-funded infrastructure and taking riders from transit.

Good interview by Move LA with Metro Chief of Staff Nadine Lee that covers a lot of ground, including bus rapid transit, bus service levels, NextGen and social distancing. Excerpt:

NextGen comprises a network redesign – making sure that our routes are running where people want to go and at their optimum speed by straightening out some of the lines, consolidating some of the bus stops, etc. In addition, NextGen set a vision for desired service levels on the redesigned network. For the first phase of implementation, we’re putting the new network in place, and we will build service levels from there. As the ridership grows, we will have even more reason to add service.

•Four hundred new apartments are coming to Old Pasadena via the 100 West Walnut project; Urbanize LA gives an update. The apartments sit on what were parking lots and are a short walk to the L Line’s (Gold) Memorial Park Station. This is one of many big residential projects rising around the county — with many near rail lines or busy bus corridors.

On the eve of Veteran’s Day, here’s something to read or listen to whilst transiting or wondering when you might be transiting again: the amazing story in the NYT of the hunt for a U.S. aircraft carrier that sunk in the South Pacific during World War II. One of the sailors who perished that day wrote a deeply moving letter to his five-year-old son about carrying on and American ideals before the ship left San Diego.

And from Twitter: 

The Draft Environmental Impact Report for the project was released in late October. You can read it here and see some of the routes under study. The public comment period is open through Dec. 10.

 

11 replies

  1. Steve, i realize you are supposed to hype the MTA and other transit properties during this health crisis but let’s be real. Most likely public transit at this time is not the safest environment to be in. While buses and trains are cleaned more thoroughly at night supposedly, With the vast amount of passengers, not all exercise proper grooming and cleanliness, during just a eight hour and most likely more scheduled time a bus or train is in operation each day the risk of the virus being transmitted is extremely high. I surely don’t want to avail myself of the service even though I can do it at no cost since I’m retired from the MTA. A few weeks ago I was forced to use the service and at no time did I sit down or hang on to grab bar using my many years bus experience standing up for my entire trip.

    It is my opinion that Service Attendants be stationed at the many layovers to clean the buses and trains at each end of the line. If insufficient Service Attendants are available then employees from the MTA Headquarters be pressed into service. The health of MTA passengers should take precedence over what ever project they are engaged in which can be delayed until this health crisis is over.

    I request feed back.

    • I hope Steve replies to your message. I personally think there should be at least random enforcement employees monitoring passengers enforcing mask wearing. My husband is a current driver and it’s terrifying. Even though they don’t have to pay, unmasked riders STILL approach the driver, and the plexiglass partition isn’t going to offer much protection from an unmasked person. Chains keeping passengers back are only partly helpful, as stroller riders and elderly still need access through the front door, thus requiring more time than a driver has to be fussing with a barrier chain frequently throughout the day. Right now, drivers actually need on-board assistants. During this time, it wouldn’t be a luxury.

    • Hi fine7760;

      I’m not sure that I gave “hype” to our service or told everyone to go hop on a bus or train. Since the beginning of the pandemic our message has been we’re here to provide essential trips and we’ve avoided the kind of “Go Metro” messaging that we’ve used in the past. Even with a big drop in ridership (currently about 50 percent) we’re running about 80 percent of our pre-pandemic service to help prevent crowding. Prior to the pandemic we aimed at providing enough service so that on average buses and trains didn’t exceed 130 percent of seated capacity. That number has been lowered to 75 percent. We do know that some bus trips have exceeded 75 percent — overall a small percent of our daily trips. As part of the Dec. 13 service changes more trips will be added to our busiest lines.

      As for the cleaning issue, we are looking into cleaning buses and trains more often — but there are issues of staffing and funding. That issue will likely be discussed as part of the agency’s customer experience plan that will soon go to the Metro Board for their consideration. We all agree that cleaning is important (as it was prior to the pandemic) and we also stress that wearing a face covering is extremely important according to health officials.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Steve, just FYI in the Western / Hollywood station there is a biiig family of mice all over the tracks and I’ve seen not one and two huge cockroaches on trains.

        Excuse my French, but our cars and often buses (have you boarder 207/757 lately?) look like trash-piles 🙁

        Gentleman’s suggestion of a mobile cleaning units at layover is actually something long overdue – forget the corona, no normal person likes to ride in filthy bus/train. I realize a lot of riders behave like “animals” and leave mess behind, obviously you can’t deny them boarding, so please clean behind – we have no other option.

        Another thing is, since they are building ad testing the Purple line extension, is InSite wireless already contracted, so we have in-tunnel service as of the opening, not close the line when the rains are already using it?

  2. I hope you keep ramping up weekend service– it looks like Saturday and Sunday ridership are almost at 75 percent of normal

  3. I read the service councils meeting agendas and minutes out of curiosity, and saw the Dec 13, 2020 service changes listed, but they are not yet announced on The Source.

    Considering NextGen contains major service changes, please announce them early so that we can be more prepared. We don’t want to wake up on Dec 13 morning just to find out the bus stops, and bus lines, literally vanished!

  4. I really hope Metro is actually paying attention in regards to NoHo-Pasadena Express. Once this line opens people from both ends might be enticed to accept work or commute at either sides of the Valley only to find the bus will still take an hour. No excuses, there needs to be both a Line that makes all stops plus an Express Line at least during Rush hour, that way commute time from end to end can still stick close to its current run time.

  5. We all now know that this disease is no where near as bad as at first feared. However govt officials will not sway from the rhetoric of preventing out of hand transmission, despite the proven low hospitalization/death rate amongst the infected population. Unless govt changes it’s tune, if cases keep going up, they’re going to lock us down and shut business completely. This is no longer about protecting others from an overblown cold virus, but saving our economy from authoritarian govt action.

    • Hi Khanh;

      The last I read, health officials in L.A. County are not recommending any further restrictions on businesses. They are, however, recommending people be very careful. While the vast majority of people who get COVID-19 will not die or need to be hospitalized, we’ve seen that enough people can get sick enough to fill up hospitals — and some people, especially with underlying conditions, are very vulnerable to the virus and could perish. I disagree that this is an “overblown cold virus” — I think it’s serious and we should take common sense measures. Much of our economy has reopened, which I think is a good thing. I’d certainly like everything to stay open, but I think that depends on people being careful. And I’m going to keep encouraging people to be careful.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. My doctor today didn’t think that covid19 was as big a problem as TV and politicians make it out to be but his hands are tied and he is forced to follow directives. While I was waiting in the lobby, an older lady was denied treatment and staff called an ambulance for her to go to the ER. Big money there! Her temperature was 97.1. She had breathing problems. She said that she had covid19 before and that it wasn’t like that. These authoritarian medical dictates are destroying society and people’s health.

  7. METRO NEEDS TO TAKE SOME SERIOUS ACTION TO CORRECT THINGS ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT.

    Just in the last few days its really gotten out of control. People are coughing a lot more on buses and trains. I always pay careful attention to this and have noticed a lot of people now coughing. Everyday the last 5 days has been more and more coughing. Often times these people coughing seem as if they are stuck on public transportation because we give them no where else to go (homeless). They are sitting on the train or at the station for hours and obviously are not going anywhere let alone anywhere essential.

    The police seem like they are nowhere to be seen. In the last few days I’ve seen only a handful of cops and they were standing at the entrance inside the pay area of the 7th street downtown stop (the business one by far). They were watching things but what they should be doing is kicking out the people who are sleeping in trains and potentially infecting many people because they come in contact with so many people as they sit on the train and travel across many miles as people come and go. They are absolutely not giving tickets for not paying or using any other means to enforce the essential travel only requirement. I personally think they shouldn’t be charging anyone to ride the train right now, and if you are going to do that then you NEED to provide hand sanitizer stations next to the pay stations so that people can sanitize their hands after being forced to pay. As proof that things have gotten totally out of control and there is no enforcement of anything let alone coronavirus measures, there have been tons of people coming onto to the Red line with shopping carts. They’re totally not allowed to and sometimes you can hear the voice over the loud speaker yelling at them but they don’t care they know there’s no one there to stop them so they meander from train car to train car and don’t wear masks.

    The whole “Clean buses and trains” thing that all of the pay stations read is the strangest thing to me for a few reasons. Who do they think the are fooling? The train stations are filthy and have always been and are no less filthy then ever. It’s a public transport system that millions of people use not the ritz Carlton. No one expects it to look polished, but don’t lie to people and say it is “clean” when it’s anything but clean and this could even mislead people into a false sense of safety. I don’t understand whenever I see someone doing cleaning work they are always just mopping up urine. Yes urine is disgusting and no one wants to step into a puddle of pee when they use the elevator, but last time I checked urine in the elevator isn’t killing 1 person every minute. These people should be wiping down high touch areas like pay stations, elevator buttons, handrails, inside trains, etc. Whenever I see the crews spraying the station down at night all I ever see them doing is spraying the ground. Yes the ground is disgusting, but again its not a surface that is spreading the coronavirus like handrails. The elevators inside the stations have no messages about maximum capacity like elevators at most other places do, and since people get off the train in large groups there are many times when the elevator is stuffed with people.

    On the bus I always open the windows near where I’m sitting and usually notice that not a single window on the bus was open. I just don’t get it. It’s not even hot outside but Metro can’t even implement this simple change of keeping the ALL windows open. In addition to this it seems like they are running the AC (although it runs less than when its hot) which makes no sense because its not hot outside, the coronavirus seems to do better when its cold, and being in enclosed environments is a known problem. Why on earth are you jamming dozens of people on a bus and then letting them keep the windows closed and breathing in each others air?? There’s no social distancing and the bus drivers understandably wants 0 interaction with the passengers but this is just wrong to let the people riding the bus run amuck like this. There is always at least 1 person not wearing a face mask on every bus and like I said last few days I’ve noticed a lot of people coughing. It really makes no sense, even if you don’t die from the coronavirus, you can still have other serious and troublesome symptoms that persist for long after the virus is gone and no one really knows what they all are because its so new. Even if you don’t take metro you can still get sick from someone who is spreading a virus they got while on metro when they go to the grocery store or elsewhere.

    Metro is the transportation system for LA and its how the virus is getting around too. Its absolutely the fault of Metro for their failures to do what needs to be done, yet still allowing people to ride on the train. It’s like everyone thinks that there aren’t any consequences to all this and that short term pain is simply not worth it. The economy seems like its heading towards some sort of catacylism with people not being able to afford rent and mortgages, not having work, and bills still being due. Does anyone remember the recession from a while ago? That entire thing was due to something much smaller than what is happening now: mortgage backed securities…judging by that we are in for a lot of pain based on the economic losses that have already occurred.

    My point is that even if the coronavirus doesn’t kill you, you’re still going to pay a heavy price. I mean you’ve lost a considerable portion of your life already sitting around in quarantine or doing other new activities. Metro simply isn’t doing enough to protect people and is certainly responsible for the transmission of numerous cases of the disease that could have been prevented by simple measures, like providing hand sanitizer, reducing the need to touch surfaces by making trains free, limiting capacity on buses, kicking out those who aren’t traveling anywhere at all and are just lingering and being disease vectors, providing free face masks to those who don’t have one or don’t have an adequate one, citing people not wearing masks, taking down the advertising space and turning it into informational posters about good hygiene habits related staying safe on public transit, requiring the bus drivers to enforce the rules more (which is for their own safety too). The drivers should just stop the bus and not argue if a passenger doesn’t comply, the pressure from the other passengers will get the to do what they are told or exit, in extreme cases call the cops if there’s really an issue. It’s no excuse that people have to be put at increased risk and die so that the bus isn’t a little late.

    They simply aren’t doing enough and we know lots of people are getting sick. LA is the worst place in the country right now and its turning into the new New York only potentially worse as it’s now winter and LA’s population seems way more clueless and also has less available resources/income than that of people living Manhattan.

    There’s a person lingering forever and essentially a disease vector who permanently resides on every train who can’t even wash their hands if they want to. People are crowding into buses and not even bothering to open the windows to get fresh air. People are not wearing masks. Either fix these problems or shut the Metro system down. People don’t need to be out and about as much as they are and it’s not worth the price that we will all soon have to pay or the loss of life. I know all of these people aren’t going on essential trips either and I too am guilty of usually not being on some essential trip but just have few other options. I shouldn’t have to put my life at risk because Metro is too big of a beauracry to do what they need to do to save people’s lives.