As has been our tradition on The Source, let’s take a look back at some of the more notable highlights from the past year Metro-wise.
Before we go any further, the above video plays testament into what is inarguably the story of the across the transit industry: the heroic and unceasing efforts of frontline staff to stay in service.
Of course, 2021 was a year that began and ended amid a surge in COVID-19. Between the surges, vaccinations began — thus allowing the world, and our region, to begin to reopen.
As a result, Metro this past year returned to pre-pandemic levels of bus service in 2021 while putting our NextGen Bus Plan into action to offer more frequent service and adjust routes to reflect today’s travel patterns.
Not surprisingly, ridership on the Metro system climbed steadily throughout the year — see the graphic at right. By the time autumn rolled around, we were carrying about 70 percent of our pre-COVID ridership, a testament to how many people in our region rely on transit to get around.
Before we look back further, there is one very important note looking ahead to 2022: fare collection on Metro buses resumes on Jan. 10. Please see this post about ways to save money on Metro fares. We have steeply discounted low-income and regular fares and a new program offering free rides to K-12 and community college students at participating schools and districts.
As for 2021, here goes…
•In January, Metro received its 235th and final light rail car from Kinkisharyo, thus completing an order made in 2012. The Kinkisharyos are the most common type of rail car in Metro’s light rail fleet and if you’ve been on the A, C, E or L Lines, you’ve probably toodled about on one of these cars.
•Throughout the year, refinements and additions were made to the Transit app — Metro’s official app. It’s the best way to plan your Metro trips, including on Metro Micro and on other transit agencies in our region.
•Former L.A. Council Member and Metro Board Member Tom LaBonge, at right, passed away in January. To say he was one-of-a-kind person and pol is putting it mildly; I offered some words here. Earlier this century when the prospects for a subway extension to the Westside appeared dim, Tom was one of a few local pols who kept pushing the rock-up-the-hill. The Metro Board in February approved a motion to dedicate the Wilshire/La Brea Station on the Purple (D Line) Extension to Tom.
•In February, Metro released early concepts for its Traffic Reduction Study to manage traffic through congestion pricing (i.e. tolls) and provide more high-quality transportation options. Look for more info and analysis of these concepts in 2022.
•In March, the Metro Board approved contracts with two private sector teams for Pre-Development work on the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project.
Sepulveda Transit Corridor Partners – Bechtel will develop its proposed heavy rail concept while LA SkyRail Express will develop a monorail concept; the project will run between Van Nuys and the E Line (Expo) on the Westside. This is a very novel approach for Metro. Pre-Development Agreements (PDAs) enable early contractor involvement and encourage innovations in how the project is designed, built, constructed and operated.
•In April, Stephanie N. Wiggins was hired as the next CEO of Metro to succeed Phil Washington, who had been at the agency’s helm since 2015. Stephanie is both the first woman and first Black woman to become Metro’s CEO. She was previously the Deputy CEO at Metro before taking the CEO job at Metrolink in 2018.
•Throughout the spring, Metro worked with health-care providers to open COVID-19 vaccination clinics at several Metro stations — including Union Station, Harbor Gateway in the South Bay and North Hollywood — to make it easy for riders to get free shots.
•In May, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for Section 3 of the Purple (D Line) Extension in front of the VA Hospital in Westwood. Section 3 of the subway extension will run between Century City, a new station at Wilshire and Westwood boulevards and a station in front of the VA Hospital.
•Our Metro Micro on-demand service that launched in Dec. 2020 expanded to more service areas. There are now eight zones, including Westwood — where service began earlier this month. The new service is for short local trips and uses small vehicles (seating up to 10 passengers) — it’s perfect for short errands or getting to and from transit stations. How to ride here.
Sections 1 (Wilshire/Western to Wilshire La Cienega) and 2 (to Century City) are under construction and also reached key milestones in 2021. The current schedule has Section 1 opening in 2024, Section 2 in ’25 and Section 3 in ’27.
•Metro launched an adopt-a-bike program in May that distributes unclaimed bikes found on the Metro system to those most in need a chance to get a bike.
•Even as the pandemic wore on, Metro Art Presents continued to engage a wide variety of participants through online programs, livestreams and even a couple of in-person live performances — a nice reminder that arts and culture remain vitally important to our well-being.
Programs included, clockwise from left: a live poetry pop-up, Poetry O’ Clock; virtual art tours hosted by the Metro Art Docent Council; a dance film called Baggage by dancer/choreographer Jay Carlon; a filmed puppet performance (see below!), Bob Baker Day Meets Union Station; a series of soundscapes; and Versos y Besos, a filmed performance by Mariachi Las Colibrí.
•In June, a new peak hour bus lane debuted on Alvarado Street. In December, peak hour bus lanes opened on Olive Street and Grand Avenue in DTLA — a big help for J Line (Silver) riders. This follows the 5th/6th Street bus lanes that opened last year in DTLA. More bus lanes are in the works — all part of an ongoing effort to speed up bus service, offer more frequent buses and keep buses running on time.
•A groundbreaking ceremony was held in June for the Airport Metro Connector project at Aviation Boulevard and 96th Street. The station will be along the new Crenshaw/LAX Line tracks and will be the transfer point between Metro Rail, many local bus routes and the LAX Automated People Mover that will serve airport terminals. The station’s target completion date is 2024 — and should offer area residents a good alternative to sitting+stewing in airport traffic.
The first pic below shows a building on the site being demolished — and that’s the people mover structure in the background. The renderings show some features of the new Metro station.
•Metro joined Abode Communities in a groundbreaking ceremony in June for the La Veranda housing project at Cesar Chavez and Soto in Boyle Heights that will include 76 income-restricted affordable apartments. The units will be offered to households earning less than 20% of Area Median Income (AMI).
•Related to the above, the Metro Board adopted a new Joint Development policy that highly prioritizes the development of 100 percent income-restricted housing on unused Metro-owned land. The vast majority of apartments built in our region are market rate and very expensive — the reason this policy is vital in addressing our region’s housing crunch/crisis. More info here.
•The project to revamp and rebuild the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station was officially completed in August. The list of upgrades to one of Metro’s busiest bus and rail stations is long — including a new plaza with a Customer Center and Bike Hub, an extended rail platform, a more spacious connection between the A and C Lines, new bus bays and numerous safety features.
As part of the project, a series of sculptural parasols by Jamex and Einar de la Torre, called Second Line, joined a collection of artworks at the station commissioned by Metro Art. See below and click here for more pics of the artworks.
•In August, the scoping period began for the Sepulveda Pass ExpressLanes project, which aims to build ExpressLanes on the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways.
In government speak, scoping is the first step in the state and federal studies required for the project. The idea of scoping is to identify the purpose and goals of a project, list early alternatives and determine what should be studied. Another ExpressLanes project is being planned for the 105 between the 405 and 605, btw.
•Throughout the year, work continued on Metro’s next light rail project, the Crenshaw/LAX Line. We haven’t yet announced an opening date but the project is very far along. See the pics below.
As work progressed, the Metro Art team this year oversaw installation of three artworks for the Crenshaw/LAX Line.
One example is Inside Out – Outside In – Inside Out by Erwin Redl for Expo/Crenshaw Station; see the pic below. The artwork is inspired by the stained glass across the street at the West Angeles Cathedral, an anchor of the Crenshaw community. For more about this artwork, click here. We also have photos of the artwork installed this year at Downtown Inglewood Station and at Aviation/Century Station.
•Work also proceeded well on our Regional Connector project, a pair of 1.9-mile tunnels in downtown L.A. that will tie together the A, E and L Lines and include three new underground stations. In recent weeks, we’ve been towing rail cars along the new tracks as part of early testing on the project.
•The Draft Environmental Impact Study/Report was released in July for the project to build light rail to Artesia (the project’s official name is the West Santa Ana Transit Corridor). Four alternatives were studied; the Metro Board is due to select a ‘locally preferred alternative’ in 2022; that is government-speak for ‘route.’
•In October, Metro began taking applications for its first Youth Council with the goal of developing the capacity of young people to engage with and participate in Metro’s plans, projects, programs and initiatives. More info here.
•Metro and the city of L.A. also expanded Bike Share to Hollywood with 12 new stations in October. The stations have both classic bikes and electric bikes.
•Work on the draft environmental study for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor launched in November. Six monorail and heavy rail alternatives are being studied.
Reminder: the public comment period for the draft study is open through Feb. 11. Metro encourages the public to submit comments on the project during this time — including any thoughts on the six alternatives under study. Maps of the alternatives are below and more details about each of the routes are in this Source post.
•Metro Art added four new posters to the Silver Linings series — see below. Clockwise from top left: artworks by the artists Kassia Rico, Alfonso Aceves, Phung Huynh and Chris Johanson. Displayed on buses throughout Los Angeles County, this series serves as a reminder that expression, connection and acts of care during difficult times are also essential and can be the silver linings on tough days. View the whole series here.
•Throughout 2021, work also continued on another key Measure M project — the extension of the L Line from its current terminus in Azusa to Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne and Pomona, where L Line riders will be able to transfer to/from Metrolink’s San Bernardino Line. Below is a video that shows how much progress is being made.
A big part of this project is adding two new light rail tracks to the existing rail right-of-way that has one track currently used by freight trains. The project is being built by the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority and will be turned over to Metro when complete.
•In a discussion that spanned several hours, the Metro Board in December approved the new public safety mission statement and values developed by the agency’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) in consultation with Metro staff.
The Board also authorized up to $75.2 million for the final six months of Metro’s current five-year contracts with the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Long Beach Police Department to patrol Metro’s transit system. The Board also voted to extend the contract for six months — through Dec. 2022 — with an option for another six months through June 2023. The Board also approved changes to the contract to help the agency reach its goal of ensuring all riders feel safe. More at this Source post.
•Looking ahead to 2022, the SEED School of Los Angeles County will welcome its first class of students for the ’22-23 school year. The school, in partnership with Metro, will train the next generation of infrastructure workers and is hosting online information sessions next month; see this post for more info. The school will be located at Vermont and Manchester in South L.A.; construction is underway.