February 2022 Metro Board Meeting Recap: Railyard Overrun, Unarmed Security, and More

Transit policing, B/D Line turnback yard, N. 710 Freeway funding for multi-modal projects, Eastside L Line extension, bike parking, J Line electric buses, and Local Small Business Enterprise Program

Metro Division 20 construction last month. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Metro Division 20 construction last month. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
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Yesterday, the Metro board met, discussed, and voted on various items. Below is a recap of several actions taken by the board.

DTLA Railyard Turnback Project Cost Overrun Approved

Metro map of Division 20 Turnback project
Metro map of Division 20 Turnback project

The board wasn’t happy about it, but ultimately voted unanimously to approve a $75 million cost overrun on the Division 20 Portal Widening and Turnback Facility project. The Division 20 railyard is located along the L.A. River in the downtown L.A. Arts District. The project revamps the railyard there in order to support the three-phase westward extension of the Metro D (Purple) Line to Westwood.

As SBLA backgrounded last week, the $802 million under-construction project has already been plagued with various costly setbacks – including contractor design errors and contaminated soils. The revised budget is now $877 million.

Several boardmembers expressed concerns that with the project about thirty percent complete and already about ten percent over budget, what assurances are there that its costs wouldn’t continue to balloon? Metro staff responded that the underground portions of the project are nearing completion, so there will be less in the way of unanticipated conditions, but staff didn’t rule out additional cost overruns.

Some Details Emerge on Reforming Transit Policing

Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins led a presentation on Metro plans to shift its approach to transit policing.

In June 2020, the Metro board directed the agency to reimagine public safety by gradually shifting some resources away from armed law enforcement to unarmed responders including transit ambassadors, elevator attendants, homeless outreach, mental health services, and more. In March 2021, the board approved $40 million to get those unarmed response programs underway during the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Metro’s law enforcement leadership dragged its heels, resisting the reforms and delaying their implementation (and forcing approval of a year-long extension of the problematic multi-agency law enforcement contract). Last December, the Metro board committed an additional $40 million for these new unarmed response programs in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Metro Transit Ambassador Program - slide from Metro presentation
Metro Transit Ambassador Program – slide from Metro presentation

It now appears that Metro’s Transit Ambassador Program will get underway this fall. When the program was questioned by Glendale Councilmember Ara Najarian, Wiggins defended it as complementing other Metro security efforts, part of a pilot place-based multi-pronged approach.

Also in the works are stepped-up homeless outreach efforts that include new partnerships. Metro is planning a workforce development partnership to bring in medical and social work students to do homeless outreach. Under a contract with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, mobile crisis outreach teams will train and work with Metro personnel. Metro is also working with the L.A. Mission to pilot outreach to encampments at and adjacent to Metro’s stations and other properties.

The new programs are intended to support a layered approach that will be part of Metro’s next law enforcement contract, which will take effect when the current (recently extended) multi-agency transit policing contract ends in June 2023. Reforming that contract is one of the priorities for Metro’s Public Safety Advisory Committee. Metro intends to release its new Law Enforcement RFP (request for proposals) next month, with a thirty-day public review.

North 710 Freeway Corridor Projects Can Be Multi-Modal

The board unanimously approved the motion, shepherded by County Supervisor Hilda Solis, that re-re-affirms that a broad range of complete streets projects are eligible for N. 710 Freeway funding which was available after the 710 extension was canceled. The motion received a great deal of praise from boardmembers, representatives of N. 710 corridor cities, and community groups.

Eastside L Line Extension Follow-Up

Metro Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 map
Metro Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 map

Metro staff presented cost estimates and potential project phasing for extending the Eastside L (Gold) Line to Whittier. Similar to recent discussion of the West Santa Ana Branch rail line, boardmembers and area leaders expressed support for building all of the line right away.

The board approved a motion, by Solis, that directs Metro staff to report back in April on ways to fund and accelerate the Eastside extension.

Miscellaneous: Bike Parking, Electric Buses, Local Small Business

  • The board approved the contract for new expanded electronic bike lockers at Metro stations. More on this at earlier SBLA coverage and today’s The Source.
  • The board approved a motion, by County Supervisor Janice Hahn, that directs Metro’s CEO to bring a proposal to the board for upgrading planned J (Silver) Line electric buses to extend their range to serve the entire line – all the way to the harbor area. One of two pilot electric bus projects, the electrification of J Line buses was originally scheduled to have been completed by June 2021, but was delayed due to changes in charging infrastructure. It is now anticipated to be completed in 2023.
  • The board approved a new three-year pilot Local Small Business Enterprise (LSBE) Program.


Buses, Trains, Bikes and Occupy L.A.

Anyone watching the drama unfold between Occupy L.A. and the LAPD last night couldn’t help but notice the active involvement of Metro in the eviction of the Occupy protests.  News reports reported that between 27 and 30 Metro buses were used to bus police from Dodger Stadium to Downtown Los Angeles and any overhead shot […]

Bike to Work Wrap – Thanks to Metro and LAPD…But Where’s Our Bike Plan?

Playing the part of Gallant is the LAPD. At Soap Box, Stephen Box outlines several important policy changes announced last week by the LAPD/Cyclist Task Force. The LAPD committed to filing reports when Metro buses are involved in crashes and enforcing parking policy when cars or trucks are clogging bike lanes. They debuted training materials that lay down the rights of cyclists so that there is no confusion. And, they clarified once and for all that crosswalks are an extension of a sidewalk.

Villaraigosa Pushes Metro for Bike-Friendly Policies

Nobody is going to get Los Angeles mixed up with Portland or Copenhagen anytime soon, but a new motion that will be heard and voted on at this Thursday’s Metro Board Meeting by Los Angeles’ newly-minted bike-friendly Mayor would move Los Angeles’ transit agency several steps closer.  While some activists have worried that the Mayor’s […]

Metro Finalizes Call for Projects List

Earlier today, the Metro Board of Directors approved the project list for Metro’s Call for Projects.  Every couple of years, Metro makes the call and communities submit applications for projects that are supposed to improve mobility and air quality.  This year, with the pot of funds lower than ever, the percent of money going towards […]

Metro Reveals Their Priorities for HOT Lanes Funding

As has been widely reported, Metro will receive over $210 million dollars from the federal government to experiment with a road pricing plan on the I-10 and I-110.  The federal dollars must be spent on projects to increase alternative transportation along the corridors effected by what is still being referred to as "congestion pricing" even […]