Public comment urged Metro to rapidly restore transit service to pre-COVID levels.
Ultimately, the board approved a middle-ground solution. Under a proposal put forth by Board Chair Eric Garcetti, the board delayed its January directive by three months, moving full pre-COVID service restoration back to September 2021 (which is three months better than the six-month delay Metro Operations had scheduled.) By the numbers, the board directed Operations to restore service to 6.5 million service hours by June, and seven million by September - and directed Operations to report back, starting next month (but not waiting to get started), on how they will do this .
This month, CEO Washington announced (presentation) that the fareless initiative has been pushed back a year. The proposal, slated to come for board approval in May, is for an 18-month pilot to begin in January 2022. Initially the pilot would apply to just low-income riders, then the agency would add K-12 students (in August 2022.) Phil Washington announced that he is seeking federal funding to cover the anticipated $304-$338 million pilot budget - which appears unnecessarily padded with other line items, including additional transit policing.
While there is a lot of support for fareless transit, the devil will be in the details. Metro's current discounted fares are available for low-income riders and students, but the program is frustratingly underutilized, due in large part to overly cumbersome application and renewal processes.
Metro is proceeding with a somewhat innovative public-private partnership model in developing and executing plans for a new transit line that will connect the San Fernando Valley with the Westside, and ultimately with LAX. Metro staff have narrowed the possible private sector partner down to two competing teams, both expected to be approved by the board in March. (Details in staff report and presentation)
The cheaper proposal, called "L.A. SkyRail Express" would run a monorail down the middle of the 405 Freeway, with hellish unhealthy mid-freeway stations that present few opportunities for walkable transit-oriented development (and lots of opportunity for conflicts with Caltrans which controls freeway rights-of-way.) The proposal has also been criticized for not featuring a direct connection to UCLA.
The more expensive proposal, from Sepulveda Transit Corridor Partners (Bechdel), would feature heavy rail, predominantly underground, though elevated in much of the Valley.
The following items were approved via the consent calendar:
Metro loaning Caltrans $73.2 million for 5 Freeway widening cost overruns through Burbank (staff report, earlier SBLA coverage)
Metro staff are recommending the board approve funds to support two 91 Freeway expansion projects located in pollution-burdened communities in Southeast L.A. County - in the cities of Long Beach, Artesia, and Cerritos
Move Your Way open streets in San Fernando, South Bay C Line, LADOT finalizes recommendations for unarmed traffic response, a Leimert Park book launch, Arroyo Seco, Ballona Creek, Metro K Line extension, and more.