Metro’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force has released A Path Forward, their final report (see above), completing the work begun in April of 2020. The release is a chance to highlight the recommendations and final changes to them, clarify how the recommendations will be implemented (and shared back with the public), and reflect on a few lessons learned.
Recommendations in the report –- including accelerating bus and bike lanes, enhancing amenities at rail stations and bus stops, offering incentives to reduce car ownership, more seamlessly integrating services from the region’s many transit operators, and reducing construction costs —are meant to help advance better mobility and equity than before the pandemic.
The task force released a draft of the report in December 2020 for public input. More than 250 individuals and organizations submitted feedback. Some input led to adjustments to the final report, for example:
- The recommendation to expand networks of complete streets now prioritizes areas with the highest levels of injuries and deaths from vehicle collisions.
- The recommendation to integrate transit now encourages through-running regional rail and includes collaboration across county borders.
- The recommendation to accelerate joint development now seeks less vehicle parking at future Metro joint developments.
- The recommendation to share data better now calls for sharing in multiple languages as stated under Metro’s Language Assistance Plan or requested by the community.
- The recommendation to partner on green jobs and infrastructure now clarifies that this should include charging infrastructure to support bus electrification.
- The recommendation to conduct ‘We’re here for you’ communications now includes a suggestion to encourage customers and employees to get vaccinated.
Most of the feedback will be considered during implementation by departments leading the work on the relevant recommendations. A more detailed chart showing public input and how Metro will consider it is available here.
With the report complete, recovery work will move toward implementation of the 17 final recommendations. Some of these recommendations will end up being significant initiatives in and of themselves. Each of these concepts identifies an internal lead department or team of departments and includes a timeline with potential milestones for advancing and refining the recommendations.
It is also important to emphasize that if individual recommendations need a policy or program change, or additional funding, they will go to the Metro Board of Directors for discussion and public comment. In this sense, the task force report is the beginning of the story rather than the end. When there is progress to report or decision points that can benefit from public input, we will share back updates on implementing various recommendations.
Metro’s response to the pandemic and planning for recovery was an agency-wide effort. The recovery task force’s final report acknowledges many response and recovery actions taken over the past year. And it is dedicated to those members of the Metro family who lost their lives.
Task Force members and staff think it was valuable to bring together emerging leaders from across the agency on a report that could bridge departments. The task force combined short-term safety actions with recommendations for long-term mobility improvements that can help Metro and L.A. County recover and ‘build back better,’ to use a phrase that we frequently hear from the new federal administration.
Two lessons jump out from the task force’s work researching the impacts of the pandemic and recommending recovery actions.
First, COVID-19 has exacerbated existing social inequities. Black and Latino residents of LA County died at disproportionate rates. Mortality among those living in the county’s most impoverished areas was four times higher than among people living in the most affluent neighborhoods. These groups are overrepresented among essential workers and customers on Metro services. According to Metro’s October Customer Survey, bus riders who have continued to ride during the pandemic are primarily Latino (70%, up from 66% before the pandemic), and Black (18%, up from 15%), and 15% of riders have at least one disability. These insights guided the work of the recovery task force.
The crisis has highlighted the many ways that our pre-COVID “normal” is not something we want to recover to and make it more equitable.
The second is that the pandemic revealed in stark terms how vital public sector capacity is to people’s lives. The inner workings of government at all levels are usually invisible to the public. In the crucible of the pandemic, however, it became apparent that our lives and livelihoods depend in part on how rapidly and effectively the public sector can pivot and perform and communicate.
Metro did a good job overall in being responsive and adaptable. But we should learn from successes and challenges within and outside Metro. Why were some places and agencies able to test, trace and isolate to keep cases and deaths down? How did successful programs and policies maintain essential services and support lost income? What are the lessons of how vaccine development, approval, and distribution were sped up (or delayed)?
The Path Forward report can hopefully help Metro come back stronger. We thank task force members as well as those within and outside Metro who contributed to the report.
Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects
With “Skid Row” , Fifth St. between Central and Los Angeles St. , expanded now to both Sixth St. and Seventh St. in downtown Los Angeles it is very clear the homeless problem has to be addressed by the City, County and State. One way would be to create Transitional Housing using buses that are currently being sold by the MTA. These buses could be located on the vast network of vacant government land. Also transitional housing could be built on the undeveloped land at both Hill St. and Fourth and Hill St. and Fifth as joint developments with the City and County. Furthermore there are Red Line Stations at Wilshire and Alvarado, Vermont and Beverly and Vermont and Santa Monica , Universal City and North Hollywood Station that are ripe for joint development that could generate vast amounts of revenue that the MTA so sorely needs at this time.
MTA buses in many cases have become rolling Homeless Shelters late at night. I have observed Line 4 Articulated Buses almost entirely full of homeless people failing to even observe Social Distancing. I realize this is not a new problem but it has exploded into what it is today as opposed to the few that rode the buses I operated many years ago. Plus the few I carried were not offensive and ill kept. In fact one, Doris, had everyone believing she lived in Beverly Hills supported by her bags that came from the best and most exclusive stores in Beverly Hills. We hear of Homeless Outreach Programs. These passengers are an excellent source to address the problem. If not to get them off the streets and buses at least provide them with suitable facilities to groom and cloths themselves together with cancelling.
When and if the MTA addresses Homelessness ridership will increase. Passengers want clean and reliable service and without both potential passengers will seek alternatives.