Investing in Place https://investinginplace.org Fri, 11 Jun 2021 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.2 After Metro Budget Wins, What’s Next for Our Growing Collaborative? https://investinginplace.org/2021/06/02/after-metro-budget-wins-whats-next-for-our-growing-collaborative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=after-metro-budget-wins-whats-next-for-our-growing-collaborative Wed, 02 Jun 2021 23:15:24 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11626 Continued]]> At last week’s meeting of the Board of Directors, Angelenos showed off an unprecedented power to shape Metro’s budget priorities. More than 50 organizations and hundreds of individuals came together to sign our collaborative letter urging Metro to reinvest in its flailing bus service and to fulfill promises to put bus riders first as the economy recovers. Together, our collaborative planted the seeds for an extraordinary Metro Board meeting. Many of our asks were met immediately by a Metro Board that continues to show itself to be uniquely willing to engage with and listen to the voices of transit riders and advocates.

Our decision to send Metro a collaborative letter regarding its budget was based on the work that advocates had put in with us in regular budget policy meetings through our Better Buses for LA  work group (sign up here). As with People’s Budget LA last year, we saw that our partners had a deep interest in addressing Metro’s budgetary process as a linchpin of the agency’s decision-making power.

Together, we identified shortcomings in the budget document, which asked Metro to address through the following seven points:

  1. Expand bus service to meet existing needs.
  2. Accelerate and prioritize bus capital improvements.
  3. Replace armed police with unarmed Metro personnel and social workers.
  4. Commit to fare free bus service through FY22.
  5. Prioritize Equity Focused Communities in the expenditure of federal stimulus money.
  6. End support and planning for freeway widening projects.
  7. Allocate resources to ensure greater procedural equity in FY23 budget-making. 

Our goal was, and will continue to be, to push Metro forward. To be bold in its financial decision-making. To use the enormous resources at its disposal to create the world’s best bus system here in Los Angeles. To leverage its funds to improve the well-being of the Angelenos who most rely on their services.

While the Board didn’t commit to addressing all of the points we laid out in the collaborative letter, there is a lot to be pleased with from the meeting.

Building off of our request to keep the bus system free through 2022, the Directors approved a motion by County Supervisor Holly Mitchell to keep buses free indefinitely while Metro develops a proposal for fareless service systemwide. 

In accordance with our findings, the Directors approved a far-reaching motion by LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin that would account for the impact of declining bus speeds on service. The same motion called for federal funds to be used to increase bus service – a key ask from our letter – and to revamp the budget process to be more equitable and public.

This last point is so important because, over the years, Metro budgets have largely been developed by staff in secrecy. Public input is sought out only after financial choices, by all appearances, have already been locked in. Angelenos have, in turn, mostly avoided engaging with the notoriously technical budget process. But that seems, finally, as though it is beginning to change.

With this year’s budget, the public clearly told Metro that we know budgets are more than just expenses and revenues: they are statements of values. As Angelenos, we have an ambitious vision for the future of our region, and we expect our largest transportation agency to do likewise. And, beyond a doubt, we are pleased that the Metro Board is listening.

Having said that, though, there remains much work to be done. While the motions made at last week’s meeting are encouraging signs for the near future at Metro (and particularly for future budget years), Metro has continued to defer on tough decisions.

The agency took no action to replace extremely expensive police on buses and trains with safer and better equipped agency staff and social workers. Nor did it state that it will categorically stop pursuing environmentally-catastrophic freeway widening projects. In the case of Metro’s NextGen plan, we are still expected to wait potentially decades into the future to fund bus only lanes and other improvements to help resuscitate bus speeds.

In each of these cases, the solutions are known. They are also urgent. So, while we take a moment to celebrate the incredible progress our growing Better Buses for LA work group has achieved so far, we also welcome you to join us as we continue to press Metro to provide Angelenos the transit system we deserve: the world’s best bus system.

Next Steps: Join us at  3:30 on  June 15th,  for our next Better Buses for LA meeting, sign up here.  Or for more information email jessica@investinginplace.org

 

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East Side Riders Bike Club Moms & Mobility Transportation Survey Results https://investinginplace.org/2021/05/27/east-side-riders-bike-club-moms-mobility-transportation-survey-results/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=east-side-riders-bike-club-moms-mobility-transportation-survey-results Thu, 27 May 2021 00:13:47 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11619 Continued]]> Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the mobility of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in Los Angeles, particularly mothers in South Los Angeles. Mothers who relied on taking public transportation suddenly were waiting for less frequent, more crowded buses, thus increasing the risk for COVID-19 exposure. Furthermore, systemic disinvestments continued to harm mothers of color across the city including cracked sidewalks to walk strollers, and lack of protected bike lanes for recreational trips with kids.

 

Our partners East Side Riders Bike Club surveyed 23 mothers of Black and Latinx descent about how COVID-19 has affected their transportation needs. These surveys were taken between November 2020 and March 2021 (link to full survey here). 

 

East Side Riders Bike Club (ESRBC) is a grassroots organization that was founded in 2008, based in Watts. East Side Riders Bike Club started as a small collective that rode around Watts, Florence-Firestone, and Compton distributing food and water to unhoused folks in the area. 

 

The organization seeks to engage the community through a variety of activities including youth bike rides, which help kids to stay healthy and out of gang activity. ESRBC thus established a program called Life Lanes that ensured the safety of bike riders from gangs when riding through Watts. ESRBC hosts frequent group bike rides that give community members an opportunity to bike for free without having to purchase a bike or pay for equipment.

 

Furthermore, ESRBC hosts Bicycle Education and Safety Training Classes during summer, winter, and spring break for the community. After the classes are completed, students receive free helmets and lights. 

 

Community is a central focal point of ESRBC. ESRBC often hosts barbecues and breakfast for the community. During COVID-19, ESRBC has served breakfast on weekdays for the Watts community. Currently, ESRBC has served over 240,000 meals since the COVID-19 pandemic began. You can donate to support the work of East Side Riders Bike Club here.

 

Findings:

Out of the 23 mothers surveyed, 70% were Latinx and 30% were Black. Most mothers (57%) made under $25,000 a year, 74% of mothers were between the age of 30-45, and 39% of mothers learned Spanish as their first language.

 

We found that 83% of mothers surveyed used their cars as a primary mode of transportation, however 70% of mothers were not looking for or saving up for a new car. This suggests that car ownership, while necessary for day-to-day activities, is also potentially expensive with high costs for gas, insurance, and maintenance. 70% of mothers surveyed said that they knew other mothers that found high costs for purchasing a vehicle and insurance financially challenging. 

 

Similar trends can be seen with primary modes of transportation among various trips. Over 65% of mothers drive their kids to preschool or grade school, 70% of mothers drive to the grocery store and to medical/dental appointments, and 65% of mothers surveyed drive for recreational trips. Recreation trips to the park, beach, museums, and visiting family had the most varied distribution, as 26% of mothers surveyed used the train and 22% of mothers used bikes as a primary mode of transportation. These numbers show potential that mothers surveyed would be open to alternative modes of transportation other than driving if a feasible option was available.

 

Mothers surveyed also responded to what transportation infrastructure improvements would greatly benefit them and their families. Out of the 23 respondents, 48% of mothers surveyed would like to see more protected bike lanes and bike paths away from car traffic, and 30% would like to increase the current amount of bike lanes. Mothers would like a safe and comfortable place to bike with infrastructure that protects them and their children from car traffic.

 

35% would like to see bike improvements that reduce dangerous driving and speeding. This number correlates to the biggest pedestrian improvement priority: creating pedestrian improvements that reduce dangerous driving (52% of those surveyed). This makes a lot of sense as many kids in Watts and South LA walk and bike. 

 

We thank East Side Riders Bike Club for the amazing work that they do, and are grateful for their partnership in our Moms and Mobility Campaign. 

Our Moms and Mobility Campaign: This year Investing in Place is  working together with the East Side Riders Bike Club, Los Angeles Walks and South Central LAMP in a funded partnership to combine new data and new voices from women to impact policy and investments for the City’s transportation network.

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Why Metro’s Restored Bus Service Still Falls Short https://investinginplace.org/2021/05/21/why-metros-restored-bus-service-still-falls-short/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-metros-restored-bus-service-still-falls-short Fri, 21 May 2021 21:27:47 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11600 Continued]]> Next week, Metro is set to vote on its largest ever annual budget. Spurred by the ongoing economic recovery in Los Angeles and stimulus support from the federal government, the transit agency expects to spend $8 billion next year. That money pays for rail and highway construction, system maintenance, local government services. But, as Metro points out, it will also go toward restoring transit service to its pre-Covid levels after the Board of Directors approved 20% cuts last year.

Joined by a coalition of transit riders, advocates, and community organizations, Investing in Place opposed the bone-deep service cuts put in place by Metro during the pandemic. These cuts, we argued, would fall disproportionately on the Black and brown low-income Angelenos that make up the core of Los Angeles’s transit riders. While local leaders spoke about the selflessness of essential workers, they were putting many of those same workers in even greater risk of lost wages, serious illness, or even death by stripping the transportation services on which they relied.

Metro argued that these cuts were undertaken out of necessity, but that was shown not to be the case when staff identified a mid-year surplus and failed to recommend that any of that money be used for restoring service. When the Board of Directors twice directed the agency to use the additional funds to boost bus service, staff delayed and an eventual compromise was put in place to return to the pre-Covid level of service by September 2021, a full 18 months after the cuts were first implemented.

In pushing Metro to provide the “Old Normal” of service during the pandemic, we were asking the agency to hold the line in support of the riding public. This, in our opinion, was a duty that Metro owed to Angelenos who had no choice but to continue relying on public transportation. Now, though, with Metro’s financial position better than ever, we cannot support the idea that the Old Normal is cause for celebration.

Since the end of a federal consent decree in 2006, Metro has repeatedly cut bus service. With the exception of the cuts that began in March 2020, bus service has been kept flat for nearly a decade. During that decade, riders voted with their feet, abandoning the buses and the transit system as a whole once it became clear to them that Metro was not serious about providing high-quality service.

Riders can tell from experience when transit service is bad. The wait for buses becomes agonizing. The time it takes to get to their destination becomes unreasonably long. But they generally don’t have data on hand to make their experience something more than anecdotal. It turns out, Metro’s own budgets show the degradation in service that riders have been noticing on the ground.

In statistics that the agency records on the number of hours its bus fleet is in service annually, as well as how far they cumulatively travel each year, it can be seen that bus speeds have dropped 20% on average since the start of the 21st century.

In the upcoming budget year, Metro expects that bus speeds will reach their lowest point yet. And, as NextGen redirects more bus service hours onto congested corridors where demand is higher, we can expect that trend to continue without significant and expedient work to get buses moving faster. That means that, even as Metro touts its belated decision to return to the pre-pandemic Old Normal, the actual amount of bus service riders are getting will continue to decline.

Below, we graph the number of budgeted service hours for each year dating back to 2000 in black. But, if we want our year-to-year comparisons to be more effective, we want to adjust each years budgeted hours based on average bus speeds. That is shown in red. What the red line tells us is, for any given year, how much service would need to be provided in order to match what riders could have expected at the start of the century.

Our takeaway is simply this: bus service has collapsed since the Great Recession, and Metro has done nothing to repair it. More and more transit riders have left the system because of the too-slow, unreliable, infrequent, and unsafe riding environment that Metro provides. While the agency says they are “restoring” service, the real service provided continues to sink. And riders cannot be fooled.

If Metro were to provide a level of bus service equal to what was provided in 2000, it would need to dramatically accelerate its bus fleet or provide 1.5 million service hours above what is currently proposed in the 2022 budget. While the NextGen plan proposes to accelerate buses, on the current funding timeline, it would take a decades or longer to complete the planned speed improvements to the network. This budget is, quite frankly, not a document that reflects either the ambition or the urgency with which Metro needs to approach the problem of declining bus service.

We call on Metro to dramatically increase the level of service provided in the 2022 budget, and to begin the first real expansion of bus service in Los Angeles since the end of the federal consent decree.

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How Much Funding Does Metro Have for Transit Operations and Building Back Buses Better? https://investinginplace.org/2021/04/15/how-much-funding-does-metro-have-for-transit-operations-and-building-back-buses-better/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-much-funding-does-metro-have-for-transit-operations-and-building-back-buses-better Thu, 15 Apr 2021 18:25:33 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11588 Continued]]> A few months ago, during a presentation on Metro’s latest initiative intended to rescue the failing bus system, a proposal was floated to request $100 million in federal funding for the purpose of improving the region’s long neglected bus stops. Investing in Place has long called for shelters and other components of a safe and dignified riding experience, so it is encouraging to see Metro begin to direct its focus in this area. But it is concerning to hear that this investment is being held out as contingent on federal aid, when Metro has local resources for these purposes.

 

Improving the bus system is an issue of paramount importance for Metro. While major rail investments will take decades to pay off, the only thing standing between Los Angeles and a world-class bus network is that that has never been a high-priority goal for local decision-makers. Unfortunately, that also seems to explain why existing funds are not being targeted for these improvements, but it is extremely difficult to figure out what is being funded instead.

 

Understanding where operations-eligible money is going is critical to informing efforts to restore and expand bus service and bus only lanes beyond the pre-Covid baseline, as well as increase shade and bus shelters, reimagine public safety and support fare free transit. In advance of May’s public budget hearing, Metro should commit to providing a clear analysis of revenues eligible for transit operations, and whether funding for operations is being diverted to other projects.

 

Metro has significant funding from four sales taxes passed by county residents. However, the opacity of budgeting at Metro means that there is no easy way to hold decision-makers accountable to pursuing policies that would make life better for riders.

 

It is critical that not only advocates and community organizers, but also the Metro Board of Directors, understand whether operations-eligible money is going to support capital projects unrelated to transit operations (such capital expansion). These commitments will provide an irreplaceable boost to the equity of Metro’s budget process, by increasing the ability of community members and organizations to provide informed comment and analysis on agency budget and priorities. And have the potential to lead to seeing Metro develop a 3-5 year funding plan to build buses back better. 

 

We know we are not alone in the dark about understanding how Metro spends their discretionary funding. Operations funding covers many departments with Metro, including going to the agency’s policing contracts. We need Metro to provide transparency regarding how the different pots of money are being spent so that the public can determine whether those choices will achieve the key outcomes for the region. Metro is largely funded by the people of Los Angeles County – who have voted to tax themselves to provide more transit.

 

Last month, Investing in Place sent a letter to Los Angeles Metro requesting that the agency approach future budgets through a procedural equity lens. Procedural equity is a tool in which Metro’s organizational structures and policies would be transformed to better serve the marginalized communities Metro provides services to by making it easier for those communities to access and substantially impact Metro’s decision making process. We ask Metro to provide a clear analysis of revenues eligible for transit operations and other spending categories with clear descriptions and activities included in each category.

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Metro’s Budget Process Keeps Transit Riders on the Sideline https://investinginplace.org/2021/04/14/metros-budget-process-keeps-transit-riders-on-the-sideline/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metros-budget-process-keeps-transit-riders-on-the-sideline Wed, 14 Apr 2021 21:24:58 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11579 Continued]]> In May, Metro will vote on the approval for its 2022 budget, following a year of Covid-induced financial stresses. The vote marks a return to normalcy for Metro after the 2021 budget vote was delayed for months in the wake of the pandemic declaration and the accompanying economic shutdown. But for transit riders in Los Angeles, a return to the pre-pandemic normal is not a welcome prospect. 

 

Under the old normal, transit ridership plummeted deliriously as riders abandoned a service made unreliable through cuts and disinvestment. It saw the needs of a privileged minority of “choice” riders pitted against those of a stable base of bus riders, with the latter’s needs routinely being disregarded.

 

Things have been going wrong at Metro for far longer than the world has been in quarantine, and the blame for that can be traced directly back to the financial decisions baked into Metro’s annual budget process. As the primary transportation provider and planner for Los Angeles County, Metro’s budget accounts for more than $6 billion in annual spending on transit, highways, roads, and more. But the process by which that money is divvied up is decidedly old school: it’s a black box from which numbers emerge apparently at random with no explanation and next-to-no input from riders.

 

That’s why Investing in Place sent Metro a letter last month requesting that the agency begin to change the way it approaches budgeting to address procedural equity concerns. Procedural equity can be thought of as the way in which a service provider centers the needs of those most affected by its policies in its internal structures. Are there organizational structures and policies that support access to spaces where decisions are made? Are groups who face greater barriers to accessing service proactively sought out so they can authentically engage with decision-makers? Can they really expect to influence how decisions are made?

 

In Metro’s case, Investing in Place believes the answer to each question is “No.” While, truthfully, much of the change will require a major shift in organizational thinking within Metro – a shift that we are hopeful incoming CEO Stephanie Wiggins will help to bring about – there are small improvements that Metro could make without delay.

 

In particular, one proposal that Investing in Place submitted to Metro was that the agency should commit to extending the public review period for the budget from two weeks to a full month. The current 14-day window forces riders, activists, and organizers to compress a great deal of activity into an arbitrarily truncated timeframe. There is insufficient time to analyze the contents of the budget, conduct community outreach, and to collaboratively develop a response to Metro’s proposal. And, given that drafts of the budget are already available, it does not seem to be a hardship to suggest that they be shared publicly. Nonetheless, Metro has indicated that they will proceed with the 14-day timeframe for at least another year.

 

On our part, this ask was not for a silver bullet or panacea. We were asking for a show of good faith. A modest adjustment to the baseline that would demonstrate Metro’s commitment to making more lasting improvements to procedural equity going forward.

 

The role of transit advocacy groups like Investing in Place is to provide a source of analysis that can help build capacity and spread awareness in transit-riding communities. These are functions that Metro can and should be interested in fulfilling itself, but at a minimum it is in the agency’s best interest to support an informed and engaged ridership. It is our sincere hope that Metro will come around to viewing the development of its budget as a participatory process, and one of the region’s greatest tools for achieving equity.

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Metro (Again) Orders Bus Service Increases, Seeks to Regroup on Police Overruns https://investinginplace.org/2021/03/13/metro-again-orders-bus-service-increases-seeks-to-regroup-on-police-overruns/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metro-again-orders-bus-service-increases-seeks-to-regroup-on-police-overruns Sat, 13 Mar 2021 00:44:31 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11563 Continued]]> During the February meeting of the Metro Board of Directors, the transit agency was scheduled to hear two items with urgent importance to riders throughout Los Angeles: a plan from staff to restore service that was cut in September, and a request from staff for $111 million to patch enormous budget overruns for policing.

Transit advocates and community members have been pushing Metro to be more active in support of their riders, and that language has recently become a fixture within Metro’s Board meetings. In January, Directors indicated that they knew riders did not trust their needs to be met by their transit agency. Building that trust required listening and taking action based on what they heard, which the Directors sought to do in directing staff to restore bus service to pre-Covid levels by June of this year.

Operations staff returned in February with a report that said that bus service could not be restored before December, and that riders may be “confused” by the impacts of adding back cut service. Further, at the meeting of the Board of Directors, Metro staff again indicated that a building back of bus service hours was at cross-purposes with an implementation plan for NextGen that had been in place for years.

Even amidst the clear opposition from the Board, staff expressed yet more consternation about restoring service. Whereas riders and advocates have said for years that, even before Covid, successive cuts have left unacceptably infrequent service on Los Angeles streets, Metro is seeking to use ridership numbers as a reason not to provide more buses.

The frustration with these reports was evident in remarks made by the Directors. Board Chair Eric Garcetti expressed his disappointment that Metro’s service restoration plan would take so long, and that the report received was so focused on reasons why trying to serve riders better and faster might not pan out. In introducing the presentation by Operations head Jim Gallagher, Garcetti warned that he would be listening for solutions-oriented language: “I’m less interested in why we can’t do it.”

Directors Mike Bonin and Janice Hahn spoke with similar force about the pressing need to stand with the predominantly low-income, disproportionately Black and Brown riders that rely on Los Angeles’s buses. Director Bonin stated that this was now the third time that the Board would be giving the same directive to staff, and that staff had apparently thought the Board “didn’t mean it.” Directors Solis, Hahn and Garcetti each made suggestions about potential pathways to accelerating a return to pre-Covid levels of service.

As riders and advocates have become increasingly vocal about the impacts of service cuts during the pandemic, the Board has shown that they are listening. That can be seen, too, in what was not discussed during February’s meeting. 

Originally scheduled to be approved, an item that would have approved $111 million in funds for Metro’s policing contracts was suddenly removed from the agenda at the last minute. This huge sum of money needs Board approval because over the last three years, Metro has already spent it. To date, the agency has spent about 15% in excess of the $750 million baseline contract approved by the agency in 2017.

It is hard to imagine any other category of spending in which budget overruns like this could be racked up over a period of years without, apparently, any authorization by the Board. Further, advocates and riders continue to press Metro to change what public safety looks like on the system in a fundamental way.

Metro’s relationship with police is under widespread scrutiny, like many other public agencies in Los Angeles. While the county, LAUSD, and voters themselves have sought to pursue new models of public safety, Metro has mostly continued under the status quo.

Metro’s policing overspending item will return for consideration by the Board in March, and there is a requirement that riders and advocates will continue to place on Metro’s Board of Directors: that they give consideration to the needs of all their riders. Black riders, brown riders, unhoused riders. They, as much as white so-called “choice” transit riders, deserve to feel safe, and deserve to feel that their needs are a priority to Metro.

 

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Two New Bus Shelters Installed in Council District 8 https://investinginplace.org/2021/02/24/two-new-bus-shelters-installed-in-council-district-8/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=two-new-bus-shelters-installed-in-council-district-8 Wed, 24 Feb 2021 18:56:15 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11524 Continued]]> In early January, Investing in Place was excited to see the installation of two new bus shelters in Council District 8, one on Western Avenue & Adams Boulevard, and the other on Vermont Avenue & Florence Avenue. These two community-identified locations will greatly assist the community by providing shelter from the weather as well as a place to sit for the bus, amenities that are desperately needed for a historically Black and transit-dependent area. We would like to personally thank SLATE-Z and Council District 8 for helping to get this project over the finish line. We also acknowledge that the process for getting bus shelters approved is more difficult than it should be, and it was challenging to get these two bus shelters approved.

 

Western Ave & Adams Blvd Bus Shelter

Vermont Ave & Florence Ave Bus Shelter

 

Bus Shelter Blitz is a funded collaborative effort among Climate Resolve, Investing in Place, Pacoima Beautiful and SLATE-Z and to work with community members to install bus shelters in community identified locations. Our goal was to expedite the current arduous bus shelter approval process, while furthering partnerships between the City and informed constituents that result in new and needed public infrastructure. It took about a year since community led surveys by SLATE-Z to see 2 of the 10 identified bus shelters be installed.  For more information, read our blog post on the effort. 

 

This model of Bus Shelter Blitz was designed with Investing in Place coordinating between City Hall elected offices, City department staff, private infrastructure contractors, and community-based organizations for a comprehensive process of siting and installing much-needed amenities and repairs for people walking, rolling and waiting for transit. It is clear it shouldn’t be this hard to get a bus shelter that community voices want.

 

We thank the leadership at Council District 6, Council District 8, StreetsLA and Outfront/JCDecaux for elevating the issues on the need to reform the process of siting and installing much-needed amenities and repairs for people walking, rolling and waiting for transit. With the proposal this week to the City for a new contract for bus shelters and more, we continue to advocate for a program that makes it easier to install bus stops, public toilets, and amenities that the community wants. The city needs a program that goes beyond this contract to provide safety, shade and dignity in our public space for all, especially those riding the bus.

 

The current contract that expires this year, only provided 663 bus shelters in 19 years, falling way short of 1,285 new bus shelters and 900 replacement bus shelters promised in the first 10 years of the contract. One of the well documented reasons why it was so difficult to obtain bus shelters was because of the 16 step approval process to install every single bus shelter. In October 2020, Investing in Place, ACT-LA, Los Angeles Walks, People for Mobility Justice, and Natural Resources Defense Council wrote a letter to the Public Works Committee asking:

    1. Street furniture contracts must prioritize the Angelenos who have to live with the outcomes of the City’s decisions. For two decades, transit riders in Los Angeles have suffered from a street furniture contract that overpromised and underdelivered. As the city prepares to enter into a new multi-year contract, it is imperative that the needs of people walking and riding the bus be considered paramount in the design, placement, and maintenance of street furniture assets.
    2. Decouple provision of new bus shelters and public toilets from expectations of revenue generation. The last 20 years have shown that street furniture is not an effective revenue stream: Los Angeles received less than $4 million per year on average from this program over the life of the contract. But treating street furniture as a revenue generator can hinder or fully derail efforts to make the City’s public right-of-ways better, safer, and more inviting spaces.
    3. Prioritize placing bus shelters and other street furniture along Metro’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 routes in the NextGen network. Bus shelters are an integral part of the transit network. The City should not be asking its street furniture to reinvent the wheel when they can instead focus on the plan which Metro is currently implementing to bring a frequent all-day bus network to the City’s busiest transit corridors. The City should direct its contractor to begin by installing new shelters along these routes in order to facilitate the development of a world-class transit network on city streets.
    4. Return any revenue from commercialization of the public right-of-way to communities in need. The revenues from the previous street furniture contract were split between the General Fund – where they were a drop in the ocean – and independent accounts maintained by Council District Offices. The City should instead utilize existing definitions of High Need Communities in programs such as Vision Zero and Safe Routes to School to provide funding back into communities impacted by unsafe public spaces. These monies should benefit our communities and help to make them more accessible than they have been in the past.
    5. Set minimums, not maximums, for bus shelter installation. Los Angeles needs bus shelters badly. As the City continues to warm due to climate change, the waiting environments on our streets have already become dangerous. In contrast to the last contract, this time the City should look to get as many new bus shelters installed as possible, even above the coverage of 75% of riders that StreetsLA has targeted. To accomplish this language should be tailored to set minimum benchmark progress with defined penalties for failing to meet the marks. Incentives should be provided using City dollars earmarked for transportation purposes for the contractor to exceed these minimums in every benchmark period.
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Metro Overspent Its Policing Budget By How Much?! https://investinginplace.org/2021/02/19/metro-overspent-its-policing-budget-by-how-much/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metro-overspent-its-policing-budget-by-how-much Fri, 19 Feb 2021 18:45:55 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11512 Continued]]> On Thursday, Metro’s Board of Directors will be asked to vote on floating more than $110 million in additional funding to maintain the agency’s existing contract for uniformed police on the transit system. The contract, which was negotiated in 2017, resulted in replacing the Sheriff’s Department with a lucrative policing-by-committee approach including sheriff’s deputies and officers from the Los Angeles and Long Beach Police Departments.

Concerns were raised back then about the terms of the agreement. In particular, its planned expenditures of more than $650 million over a five-year period offered a potentially huge new revenue stream for both the LAPD and the LBPD. The contract consisted of offering overtime to officers – specifically to more expensive supervisory staff –  was enough to make the public wonder how much we were truly getting for our money. The response was that the overtime pay was a useful tool to make the shifts more attractive as voluntary work. 

There were also plenty of concerns about the reputation of these agencies over policing Black and brown Angelenos, and Metro’s history of targeting these same riders for violations of its code of conduct. Those questions only became amplified last year in the wake of the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Dijon Kizzee, Andres Guardado and too many others by police.

So what is happening in Los Angeles? Last week, Metro staff gave a presentation to the Operations and Public Safety committee stating that through the first three years of the five year contract, the agency has overspent its budget for policing by about 17%–that’s $111 million dollars! The policing contract includes no money for special event deployments or other times that Metro might request a police presence on the system.

According to the staff presentation, without the Board’s approval to boost the total contract value to up near $800 million dollars, the agency will run out of money for policing by this summer – a full year early. Staff compound this by saying they also expect to return to ask for an extension of 6 months on the existing contract, amounting to $84 million more dollars (plus whatever unvetted additional services staff authorize, of course).

Let’s not mince words. Metro has to ask for an increase in its contracts with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Long Beach Police Department and the County Sheriff because the original contracts were egregiously generous and because the agency’s approach to policing  mirrors the systemic failures we’ve seen elsewhere; namely, overly generous contracts with little oversight, insufficient accountability mechanisms, and an over-reliance on police overtime.

There is no other category of spending that could exceed its budget by this much without the Metro Board raising serious questions about the program’s sheer fiscal irresponsibility. As we have discussed at length with respect to bus service, even when the Board directs money to restoring service, Operations resists spending it. How is it then that in the wake of the largest wave of calls to change the mainstream conception of acceptable policing practices, Metro is pushing not only for more money but for a longer period of time on a contract that simply is not working?

We find ourselves asking the peculiar question of having to ask, “Did Metro not know that special events happen in Los Angeles?” Given the intensity of focus at the same time as the contract was approved on the recent selection of the city for the 2028 Olympics, this seems unlikely. What was the chain of approval for requesting special police deployments? Why is Metro only coming to the Board for approval after multiple years of above-budget spending?

There are so many questions that the Board should put to staff, but the biggest one is this: Why should the Board – or the public – trust Metro’s spending going forward? In a moment when radical change is being demanded, staff has indicated that they are dedicated to retrenchment – failed models of policing that rely on pushing armed police into confrontations with unhoused Angelenos.

Metro owes the public a full accounting of what went wrong with this contract. Why was the contract structured in a way that allowed the agency to run up a huge tab for unanticipated services? What alternatives did the agency consider when existing policing resources were deemed insufficient? How is the agency holding leadership accountable for contract overages and what controls are being put in place to ensure that this doesn’t happen again? As the agency is convening an Public Safety Advisory Committee that will be providing recommendations for a future public safety contract, we need to have a clear understanding of what went wrong here. Expanding an already bloated police budget at a time when the public, including Investing in Place and many partners we work with, are calling for more thoughtful and effective approaches to public safety does not inspire trust.

Riders want, expect, and deserve a safe riding experience, but we do not accept that the current contract and approach delivers that. The Board should take notes from the Los Angeles Unified School District and use this as an opportunity to be bold in redirecting funds from policing to other resources to provide compassionate public safety and services on board the system.  It is past time to close the door on this failed contract and the attitudes toward policing that it represents.

Investing in Place is working towards a vision where Los Angeles is a city that addresses the safety and access needs of all who call it home. We stand in solidarity with our partners like the Labor Strategy Center/Bus Riders Union and Alliance for Community Transit – Los Angeles, who have been advocating for years to reimagine public safety on our public transit system and divest to invest in our communities. Not only is this contract broken, but so is Metro’s approach to its role in supporting public safety for Black and brown people as they travel throughout our region, and now is the time to revisit that approach. 

 

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Metro Rejects Board Directive to Urgently Restore Bus Service For Essential Workers https://investinginplace.org/2021/02/18/metro-rejects-board-directive-to-urgently-restore-bus-service-for-essential-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metro-rejects-board-directive-to-urgently-restore-bus-service-for-essential-workers Thu, 18 Feb 2021 16:41:28 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11494 Continued]]> During February’s meetings of the Metro Board of Directors, agency staff is preparing to deliver a recommended plan for restoring service that once again rejects a clear directive from the Board to “immediately” begin restoring bus service to pre-Covid levels.

Instead of following through on this promising turn of events, staff have produced a report full of excuses and obstructions, ultimately concluding that the pre-Covid baseline of 7 million annual bus service hours should not be returned to before the end of 2021.

While the Board acknowledged that it would take time to recruit and hire staff sufficient to resume pre-Covid bus service, staff present it as an insurmountable challenge. According to the new report, they can neither hire, train, nor even process the number of resumés that would be required to get more drivers on the road. 

We view this excuse as unacceptable. Bus service is Metro’s business and these are extraordinary times. Metro riders have faced greater challenges than this every single day of the pandemic.

Perhaps most frustratingly, Metro staff seems determined to cast the NextGen plan to improve the lacking quality of service on LA’s buses as directly oppositional to increasing the frequency of buses on the road. NextGen was not adopted with the immense service cuts that were undertaken in the wake of the Covid pandemic in mind. Nor were those cuts part of an intended transition plan. Now that the cuts have been adopted, however, Metro claims that reversing the cuts would be “confusing” for riders.

It is important to remember how we got here. Bus riders, transit advocates, and the Board of Directors themselves had to rally to course correct decisions by agency staff that failed to consider the needs of riders. 

In the January meeting of the Board of Directors, Metro staff proposed to allocate zero dollars out of an enormous unexpected surplus of sales tax revenue to restore the bone-deep service cuts that the Board had approved in the fall of 2020. The Board’s response to staff’s failure to prioritize riders was categorical.

Director Bonin said, “There is not a greater need than to begin to restore service.” He added that the failure to restore service for workers during the pandemic was a failure to meet “the demand of the moment.”

Director Hahn took Metro staff to task for having failed “to address one of the Board’s biggest priorities: restoring service.” She further highlighted the fact that bus riders are essential workers and that not just Metro but the entire region relies on bus riders. “Their work and dedication,” she said, is what has kept Los Angeles’s economy running smoothly, and not without cost to the workers personally. Hahn concluded, “Our riders need to be able to depend on us.”

Directors Dupont-Walker, Garcia, and Solis concurred on the intensity of need in low-income Black and brown communities during the pandemic, with Garcia adding that Metro has heard “time and again from riders” that frequent service needs to be prioritized.

Throughout that meeting, discussion returned to equity, which Metro has said is to be a primary focus for the agency moving forward. Directors noted repeatedly that the focus on equity must begin with increasing service.

Despite receiving numerous calls from members of the public about the direct impacts that service cuts during the pandemic were having on the lives of real people, staff has rejected calls for immediate relief for passengers. In the report, reference is made to postponing service increases until a full vaccine rollout has been achieved. Definitionally, this means Metro is refusing to consider resumption of pre-Covid service levels until the pandemic is at its end. This contradiction of the orders of the Board should not be allowed to stand. To read the excuses contained within this report is to be overwhelmed by the sense that Metro staff simply do not want to do what it takes to improve conditions for riders.

We hope that the Board will stand by its righteous rhetoric from January and reject the plan set forth by staff to delay restoration of service.

 

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South Central LAMP Moms & Mobility Transportation Survey Results https://investinginplace.org/2021/02/10/south-central-lamp-moms-mobility-transportation-survey-results/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-central-lamp-moms-mobility-transportation-survey-results Wed, 10 Feb 2021 19:28:56 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11489 Continued]]> COVID-19 has changed life for everyone, but communities of color have been most severely affected. In Los Angeles, even amid the strict lockdowns of the early days of the pandemic, many Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) workers in South Los Angeles had no choice but to continue commuting in to work, putting their bodies on the line in order to afford the necessities of life here. 

In the fall of 2020, our partners at South Central LAMP surveyed 36 mothers of Latinx descent as well as indigenous mothers from Mexico and Central America on how COVID-19 is affecting their transportation needs. 

South Central Los Angeles Ministry Project (SC LAMP) serves low-income families in South Los Angeles. All the families in SC LAMP’s core Family Literacy Program, which targets women and their children ages 0-5, are living below the poverty line, and nearly 100% are immigrant, Latinx, and Spanish- speaking. This is a community disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic on all levels – health, employment, mental health, access to basic necessities, and education, including decreased opportunity for a high-quality early education due to fewer spots in local preschools.

The community at SC LAMP sees firsthand how this virus affects their families. As much as the community that SC LAMP serves would like to stay home, they do not have a safety net that allows them to. Many of the families SC LAMP works with often do not have access to public benefits, live in dense households, and often need to use shared spaces like laundromats (which increases likelihood to exposure) or go to grocery stores. Often families either do not own cars or own only one, which is used by the employed family member.  Leaving the rest of the family to have to take public transportation. While telehealth has become a way to keep people at home, at times as a pregnant woman you would need to go in for an onsite visit and if you are transit dependent the opportunity for exposure increases.

It can be established from bus ridership data that many of the bus lines of South LA remained generally crowded even as lines in other parts of the county were emptying out. But that data can obscure the real human needs, fears, and wants that are represented in each transit trip. SC LAMP’s survey process demonstrated a path forward for community outreach and preserving space for community members frequently omitted from transportation policy discussions to come together. The moms who participated provided invaluable input and showed again how meaningful ongoing, deep surveys about riders’ lives can be.

SC LAMP staff shared that this type of survey has become more difficult to conduct during the pandemic. Group or classroom settings that were previously used for these sessions to stimulate discussions are no longer available. In spite of the challenges, thanks to amazing collaboration from the moms, these mobility surveys were a tremendous success.

SC LAMP staff did each survey one-on one, and scheduling and explaining the purpose of the call was the initial process of this project that took 15-20 minutes. With the second contact, staff called the moms to conduct the survey, taking approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Sometimes, these calls were friendly, or sad talks with a tone of loneliness, or other participants were focused and direct with their responses. South Central LAMP staff shared that surveying their community during this time was not easy, as many members – including the staff lead asking the questions  – are struggling with the balance of talking about transportation needs during an on-going crisis where many families are struggling to meet core household needs. South Central LAMP staff shared with us: “At the end of the day, I was vocally tired and emotionally touched, but in the end, it was worth it and rewarding.” Staff read the questions with respective options to answer, and sometimes walked through with the mother how their usual routine contrasted with their “new routine” so they were able to process and respond with confidence to their struggles with transportation during these difficult times. Staff heard the desire of the moms to participate in this survey because this was an opportunity to share their concerns. These interviews gave the mothers an opportunity to speak with someone about their frustrations and new challenges with transportation that  COVID-19 brought into their lives. Often agencies are quick to say “let’s survey the community!” This response however glosses over the fact that surveys often require high levels of community trust, time and existing relationships. We are grateful to the community at South Central LAMP and all the moms who answered the calls given that the mothers were often busy with their children, cooking or washing the dishes when staff called them, but they made time for me to hear what to hear more about Moms and  Mobility Campaign and participate in the survey.

FINDINGS: 61% of mothers surveyed wanted more frequent service and shorter wait times for the bus. Bus service hours and bus frequency has decreased for FY21, an important priority for the upcoming fiscal year is to increase bus service to help mothers of color get around more easily.  Link to full survey here.

Most of the mothers surveyed made less than $25,000 a year.  The survey found that 47% of mothers did not drive and that 67% of mothers were not looking to buy or save for a new car. Some of the comments received included mothers who were nervous to drive or chose not to drive because they did not have legal documentation, and there were also comments about having no savings to buy a car. 81% mothers also said they knew other mothers who did not know how to drive, with one personal anecdote being one mother waits for her husband since he is the only person at home who knows how to drive.

Most mothers who took the survey drive when going to a medical appointment or when making a recreational trip (both 67%). This high percentage shows that for essential and leisurely trips, mothers often have no choice but to drive. Those who did not drive to their medical appointments said that they were able to get a ride, or have transportation provided to them by the clinic. 

Mothers also responded to what improvements in transportation and the built environment would benefit them. Out of the 36 respondents, 64% would like to see more street lighting, 56% would like to see improvements that would reduce dangerous driving and speeding cars, 81% would like to see cleaner streets, and 64% would like to see homeless encampments and car camping reduced, citing concerns of safe housing and lack of safe places to park for people who live in their cars. Walkability in their neighborhoods is a big concern for these mothers, and simple improvements could really improve access around the neighborhood. 

The survey also revealed that an overwhelming majority of mothers were interested in a car sharing program. This would greatly benefit mothers who need to get to places that are not feasible on a bus, or by walking or riding a bike, while simultaneously cutting the burden of maintaining and paying insurance for a private automobile. See our report with SC LAMP from a listening session in 2019: Moms on scooters, buses, rideshare and more – South Central LAMP weighs in on Rideshare & Micromobility.

We thank South Central LAMP for the amazing work that they do, and are grateful for their partnership in our Moms and Mobility Campaign. 

 

BACKGROUND: South Central LAMP is a nonprofit founded by Catholic Sisters after the 1992 uprisings determined to rebuild neighborhoods in South LA and provide systems of care for lower-income women.

Recognizing the impact of the pandemic on the educational development of the families they work with, South Central LAMP launched a hybrid program that includes on-site and distance learning early childhood education (ECE) classes for children, and 100% distance learning parenting and ESL classes for parents during COVID-19. Children receive 3 hours of in-person instruction and 4 hours of live virtual instruction each week; mothers virtually attend each class for one hour per week. They divided their parenting classes into three groups, so mothers can engage in smaller groups tailored to their needs. SC LAMP currently has 62 children enrolled in ECE classes and 21 parents in adult classes.

Classes are complemented by instructional packets that families pick up along with all the supplies they will need for learning, experimentation, and creation at home. Families are provided with additional support through virtual office hours, regular teacher check-ins, and advocacy services, including Zoom home visits during which families have a chance to speak one-on-one with SC LAMP’s Family Advocate, who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. These visits primarily involve a discussion of personal goals, the provision of mental health support, and linkage to local resources.

As a trusted ally, supporter, and advocate,  families look to SC LAMP staff for support in navigating this difficult time. Staff have been working with local community partners, neighborhood groups, and government officials – including Councilmember Price and Mayor Garcetti – to learn what resources are available, so this can be shared with families and the broader community. Some of these resources have included funds for undocumented immigrants, food giveaways, and information on such topics as eviction protections, worker rights, protecting themselves and others from Coronavirus, and navigating the Safer at Home orders.

As food is a dire need in their community, and SC LAMP expanded the weekly community food distribution they conduct on their campus. Since May, SC LAMP has added 170 households to the distribution. They now provide a total of 260 unduplicated households, encompassing over 1,000 individuals, with a pre-packed box of meat, dairy, and fresh fruits and vegetables twice each month. SC LAMP continues to work with their partner, St. Francis Center, to add more households. Children in the Early Childhood Education classes also receive boxed meals each week (breakfast and lunch for 5 days/week, 10 meals total).

While meeting these needs is their priority, SC LAMP is also striving to maintain a sense of some kind of normality for the families and children they work with. They are continuing community workshops virtually, including regular yoga workshops on Zoom and a workshop series presented by the Los Angeles Public Library. With safety precautions in place, they are also conducting on-site health screenings/services – in partnership with local health agencies, and annual events for children, including the Harvest Festival book distribution and holiday toy giveaway. In addition to mitigating the impact of the pandemic on the community, it is the staff’s intention to bring hope and calmness to the families they serve during this challenging time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the access deficit that many mothers in South LA face. Even before the pandemic, mobility options for lower-income mothers were limited in South LA. Investing in Place and South Central LAMP documented a typical trip that Maura and her two children made to Chuck-e-Cheese. Maura’s trip typically takes 1.5 hours on two buses to get to Chuck-e-Cheese with her family. Women typically make more trips a day running errands and caring for children and are more likely to use public transportation than men, so trip times on an unreliable and slow transit network add up. In 2019, mothers also mentioned that they were not able to take their kids to a school social event because there was no bus access to Griffith Park, as well as missing doctors appointments because the bus passed them up. 

Support the important work of South Central LAMP by donating to them today. 

Our Moms and Mobility Campaign: This year Investing in Place is  working together with the East Side Riders Bike Club, Los Angeles Walks and South Central LAMP in a funded partnership to combine new data and new voices from women to impact policy and investments for the City’s transportation network.

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Response to today’s Motion: Restoring Bus Service https://investinginplace.org/2021/01/28/response-to-todays-motion-restoring-bus-service/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=response-to-todays-motion-restoring-bus-service Thu, 28 Jan 2021 22:27:28 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11468 Continued]]> As detailed on the Investing in Place blog earlier this week, when Metro’s Board of Directors gathered on Thursday for its monthly meeting to allocate an unexpected windfall of sales tax revenue, the most likely outcome was that none of the new funding would go toward increasing bus service. Despite direction from the Board in September that staff prioritize a rapid restoration of service that was cut due to covid, internal recommendations called for that money to go towards maintenance and infrastructure projects instead.

But thanks to a coalition of Angelenos throughout the county and the leadership of a key group of Metro directors who showed their willingness to listen, learn and take action, this disastrous outcome has been avoided. Directors Garcetti, Bonin, Hahn, Solis, and Garcia have our appreciation for authoring a motion to correct the recommendations from staff that failed to prioritize Black and brown workers that continue to rely on Metro service. The motion they produced forcefully reiterated the prior stance of the Board that it is unacceptable for Metro’s service cuts to be maintained any longer than is absolutely necessary. The motion also directed staff:

  • To immediately restore a minimum of $24 million to transit operations;
  • To fund maintenance using capital funds instead of money eligible for bus operations;
  • To plan for restored operations at the pre-Covid baseline beginning in July;
  • To prioritize bus drivers for the Covid vaccine; and,
  • To identify opportunities to help all Angelenos get to vaccination sites.

This motion, overturning the recommendation of Metro staff, passed with a unanimous vote from the Board of Directors.

We say again, thank you to the Board of Directors for listening and for using their power to uplift transit riders. As Director Bonin said, this is only a first step, but it is a step in the right direction for transit riders in Los Angeles.

Most importantly, thank you to all the incredible transit riders and advocates that came together to pressure Metro to do the right thing. A diverse coalition that includes ACT-LA, the Bus Riders Union, Streets For All, the Democratic Socialists of America Los Angeles, SAJE, the Sunrise Movement, the Sierra Club, Cal State LA, and many many more came together and share in today’s victory. 

Without your support – your emails, calls and messages on social media – riders would likely have gotten no service back. Essential workers, Black and brown Angelenos from communities being slammed by the second wave of the Covid pandemic, would have continued to have to deal with unacceptably crowded and infrequent service.

This no small victory. For working class families, like those whose stories were shared with the Board today, restoring bus service is a matter of urgent importance. Each hour of service cut results in riders missing pay because they are late, or squeezed in close quarters that might result in themselves or a loved one contracting a deadly illness. As caller after caller testified, the workers that have kept Los Angeles moving during the pandemic rely on Metro. It is critical that we do whatever we can to protect them.

Today is not the end of this fight, but the beginning. Metro’s budget negotiations for 2022 are an even bigger battle that has already begun. In 2022, we will need to come together to push for continued service restorations and expansions of service above and beyond the pre-Covid baseline, while also halting the extension of huge policing contracts and freeway expansion projects that destroy communities.

But because of the watchfulness and responsiveness of Angelenos, we go into these conversations with momentum and, at least on this issue, with a majority of the Metro Board on our side. Thank you all so much, and let’s keep moving forward together.

Join advocates on Tuesday February 2nd at 11am, to debrief on Metro’s decision and discuss what comes next. RSVP here.

We  did this! Thank you to everyone who help submit over 150! written comments led by organizations and leaders at:

  • Action Center on Race and the Economy
  • Active SGV
  • Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles
  • Bus Riders Union
  • Cal State LA
  • Central City Association
  • Communities Actively Living Independent & Free
  • Community Power Collective
  • CSUN students
  • Culver City Council member, Yasmine-Imani McMorrin
  • Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles
  • Esperanza Community Housing Corporation
  • Ground Game LA
  • Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
  • Investing in Place
  • Jobs to Move America
  • Kenny Uong
  • KIWA
  • LA  Podcast
  • Los Angeles Forward
  • Los Angeles River Communities for Environmental Equity
  • Los Angeles Walks
  • Move LA
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Neighborhood Councils in the City of Los Angeles
  • People for Mobility Justice
  • SAJE
  • Streets for All
  • Streetsblog LA
  • Sunrise Movement Los Angeles
  • Transportation Committee, Angeles Sierra Club
  • Transportation Committee, League of Women Voters of Los Angeles
  • UCLA students
  • UNITE HERE Local 11
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Metro to maintain service cuts despite $300M sales tax windfall https://investinginplace.org/2021/01/25/metro-to-maintain-service-cuts-despite-300m-sales-tax-windfall/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metro-to-maintain-service-cuts-despite-300m-sales-tax-windfall Mon, 25 Jan 2021 17:35:21 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11448 Continued]]> In what might be properly called a bonanza, Metro’s Board of Directors will hear a report on Thursday informing them that the agency is on pace to receive sales tax revenues nearly $300 million above what they had budgeted back in September. As the largest U.S. transit agency west of the Mississippi River, one might think such news would be welcomed within Metro as an opportunity to provide relief to the hundreds of thousands of bus riders who have had no choice but to bear with the agency as it slashed service in the face of fiscal uncertainty. So how is it possible that instead the likeliest course of action seems to be that the Board will approve a staff recommendation that restores none of the eliminated service – and even that unscheduled additional service cancelations will continue to be the norm?

Well, let’s back up. Local governments across the county, state and country are struggling mightily. Without the immense power afforded to the federal government to literally print money, or (generally speaking) even that of the federal and state governments to levy taxes on personal income, cities have been put in an extremely dire situation. The City of Los Angeles, for one example close to home, has approved massive worker furloughs and will potentially follow those up with layoffs in order to stitch up a $600 million hole in an already reduced budget. So Metro’s windfall is noteworthy and, frankly, strange.

Metro is in this fortunate position for three reasons. One is that sales tax revenue has been less affected by the Covid downturn than originally imagined. Characteristic of the extreme inequity that has suffused this unusual recession, entire segments of the population have found their ability to buy goods unchanged by the pandemic. A robust ecosystem of delivery services and online shopping – not to mention the malls, which as of this writing remain open – have enabled consumer spending to remain vigorous over the last year.

That leads us to the second reason: Metro is uniquely dependent on sales taxes. Locally generated sales taxes make up more than half of the agency’s annual budget. Compare that to the struggling City of Los Angeles, where sales tax accounts for 8% of the $7 billion general fund and even less overall.

And lastly there is this: A majority of Metro’s revenue comes from sales taxes because Angelenos have democratically elected – four separate times! – to tax itself to fund the agency. All public offices belong to the people, but, truly, none more than Metro. The very financial solvency of the transit operator is owing to a public that has affirmed and reaffirmed that transit should be a priority.

It is for these reasons above all that Metro now finds it has $282 million to allocate that it had not been expecting. But, surprisingly, increasing service from the bone-deep cuts approved in September does not appear to be a priority for staff. In fact, despite claiming that $59 million of the surplus would go to “Bus/Rail Operations and State of Good Repair,” none of the money is recommended for increasing service in a presentation put together by staff. Instead, the recommendation has it going to maintenance, infrastructure, and recruitment.

When Metro’s Board of Directors approved service cuts as part of its 2021 budget last September, they also approved a motion calling for ongoing staff reports on how the agency could get back to its pre-pandemic baseline. That motion stated plainly: “maintaining [the service cuts] for the remainder of the fiscal year is not acceptable for riders nor is it consistent with the agency’s strategic priorities.” But, despite this clear direction, staff have come back with a recommendation that flies in the face of the wishes of the Board and the riding public.

Staff provides little in the way of acceptable support for this recommendation. In an informational report, staff indicates that the economic recovery has stalled out and that ridership is trending down, despite 400,000 trips still occurring each day on the bus system alone. They also suggest that stricter stay at home measures have led to more individuals forgoing transit trips, but they neglect to mention that the same increased severity in the pandemic has also increased the need to protect the many riders who do not have that choice.

Perhaps most troublingly, staff have ruled out the expenditure of nearly all of the surplus sales tax $223 million of it as untouchable for the purposes of increasing transit service. This is because the money is instead going to offset lost revenues from fare sales (since most bus riders are riding for free still), advertisers, tolls, and parking. We will set aside for another post that Metro claims to be seeking to move to fare free service, and that this reluctance to fund service without farebox recovery portends very negative things for free service. Rather, most telling is the advertising revenue.

The staff report indicates that Metro’s ad revenue is down because its “advertising contract has been temporarily modified to provide relief to the vendor by reducing their payments.” The relief that the agency is refusing to riders it is instead providing to large advertising corporations. Bus riders, whose lives are on the line during the pandemic, are being asked to subsidize a reduced contract for profitable corporations. The Board of Directors should forcefully reject the recommendations of staff.

It has already been a long and difficult winter in Los Angeles, with the feared second wave of the Covid pandemic arriving with shocking ferocity. Throughout the region, hospitals are filled to capacity, the number of confirmed Covid cases has skyrocketed, and deaths from the disease have followed their wrenching upward trend. All of this has taken place in the context of local economic shutdown measures that have never equalled the intensity of the precautionary safer-at-home measures of last spring.

In marked contrast to the quiet and deserted streets of March and April, Angelenos now leave their homes into a city where many of life’s daily routines have resumed something like a normal ebb and flow. People are running errands. The streets are filling up with traffic from single occupant cars. And, of course, many hundreds of thousands of mostly lower-income Angelenos are riding Metro buses, mired in that same traffic, trying to get to jobs they need to make ends meet.

It is not lost on these bus riders that the extended waits and crowded services they are now facing as a result of the decisions made on their behalf by Metro. Nor is it lost on them that their communities are likely to be the hardest hit by the vicious second wave of Covid. But that fact seems to go unremarked upon within the walls of Metro headquarters.

In four separate votes, Angelenos have supported the sales taxes that have kept Metro afloat even in the most strenuous of economic times. Those votes were not to give Metro an unconditional grant, but to invest in its potential. Metro owes Angelenos and it owes riders in particular to make good on that potential and to prioritize restoring transit service.

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Our 2020 – 2022 Strategic Plan https://investinginplace.org/2020/12/16/our-2020-2022-strategic-plan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=our-2020-2022-strategic-plan Wed, 16 Dec 2020 16:25:45 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11313 Continued]]> A letter from our Advisory Board Chair, Richard France

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As Investing in Place looks forward to its sixth year, we are faced with a political, policy, and social landscape that is rife with uncertainty, plagued with systemic inequities, and poised for change. It is in this context that our organization presents its third strategic plan. As we’ve struggled to make sense of the political strife, economic hardship, personal grief, and public mourning that has characterized this year, we have doubled down on our commitment to fostering fairer and more just communities. It is in that spirit that I’m heartened to share this guiding document with you.

Looking ahead, Investing in Place will continue to pursue its mission of aligning policies and public dollars to support transformative transportation investments. But the organization will fulfill this mission with a renewed emphasis on strengthening partnerships and working across issue areas to demand reparative change. To that end, the plan lays out a vision for a pandemic response and recovery effort that centers the needs of BIPOC communities and other marginalized populations. This strategy acknowledges that, long before a novel coronavirus upended lives and livelihoods, our communities were combatting threats posed by systemic racism, an exploitative economic system, and a society that persistently devalues and dismisses women. It is a plan that demands that we do better – that we go beyond yearning for a return to the “normal” that we all knew, but many of us did not love. It challenges us to imagine what a restorative recovery entails – one that recognizes and atones for the systemic barriers we’ve erected to deny access and curtail opportunity. And it asks us to consider the components of a just recovery. That is, a suite of holistic policies and programs that employ transparent, fair, and representative processes; one where budgets codify our moral obligation to redress historic wrongs; and one where everyone has the resources, knowledge, and opportunity to exercise agency over their lives.

As we look to the start of a new year, we are optimistic that our communities can harness the forces of change to create better outcomes for those that have borne the brunt of these public health and economic crises. This latest strategic plan reinforces Investing in Place’s commitment to supporting communities by fostering collaboration, building shared understanding, and pursuing inclusive processes to enable more just outcomes. It is a much-needed road map for the uncertainty that lies ahead.

With Hope,

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City of LA’s bus shelter and street furniture update https://investinginplace.org/2020/12/09/city-of-las-bus-shelter-and-street-furniture-update/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=city-of-las-bus-shelter-and-street-furniture-update Wed, 09 Dec 2020 17:08:13 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11325 Continued]]> The Board of Public Works convened over Thanksgiving week to approve releasing the Request for Proposals (RFP) regarding the new bus shelter and street furniture contract. Later that day, there was also a motion introduced by Councilmembers Bonin and Blumenfield regarding the parameters of digital advertising and revenue. The RFP deadline for potential firms is February 19th, 2021 at 5:00PM PST. All proposals will be examined by Spring 2021, with a contract ready for approval by mid summer (to catch up on the events leading up to the RFP please check out our previous post). At the Board of  Public Works meeting, BSS/StreetsLA was instructed to do more outreach to Neighborhood Councils and the general public.  Those meetings have been scheduled for the following dates:

In October, alongside Los Angeles Walks, People for Mobility Justice and the Alliance for Community Transit (ACT-LA), and the Natural Resource Defense Council we sent our key ideas to policymakers regarding the bus shelter and street furniture program:

  • Prioritize the Angelenos who have to live with the outcomes of the City’s decisions. For two decades, transit riders in Los Angeles have suffered from a street furniture contract that overpromised and underdelivered. As the city prepares to enter into a new multi-year contract, it is imperative that the needs of people walking and riding the bus be considered paramount in the design, placement, and maintenance of street furniture assets.
  • Decouple provision of new bus shelters and public toilets from expectations of revenue generation. The last 20 years have shown that street furniture is not an effective revenue stream: Los Angeles received less than $4 million per year on average from this program over the life of the contract. But treating street furniture as a revenue generator can hinder or fully derail efforts to make the City’s public right-of-ways better, safer, and more inviting spaces.
  • Prioritize placing bus shelters and other street furniture along Metro’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 routes in the NextGen network. Bus shelters are an integral part of the transit network. The City should not be asking its street furniture to reinvent the wheel when they can instead focus on the plan which Metro is currently implementing to bring a frequent all-day bus network to the City’s busiest transit corridors. The City should direct its contractor to begin by installing new shelters along these routes in order to facilitate the development of a world-class transit network on city streets.
  • Return any revenue from commercialization of the public right-of-way to communities in need. The revenues from the previous street furniture contract were split between the General Fund – where they were a drop in the ocean – and independent accounts maintained by Council District Offices. The City should instead utilize existing definitions of High Need Communities in programs such as Vision Zero and Safe Routes to School to provide funding back into communities impacted by unsafe public spaces. These monies should benefit our communities and help to make them more accessible than they have been in the past.
  • Set minimums, not maximums, for bus shelter installation. Los Angeles needs bus shelters badly. As the City continues to warm due to climate change, the waiting environments on our streets have already become dangerous. In contrast to the last contract, this time the City should look to get as many new bus shelters installed as possible, even above the coverage of 75% of riders that StreetsLA has targeted. To accomplish this language should be tailored to set minimum benchmark progress with defined penalties for failing to meet the marks. Incentives should be provided using City dollars earmarked for transportation purposes for the contractor to exceed these minimums in every benchmark period.

Background: The Sidewalk and Transit Amenities Program (STAP) is intending to follow the city’s business model where costs for bus shelters and amenities are funded by advertising revenue. However, it is critical to note, the last 20 years have shown that street furniture has not been an effective revenue stream: Los Angeles received less than $4 million per year on average from this program. However, BSS/StreetsLA seems to be betting on the Super Bowl, College Football Championship, World Cup, and Olympics events in the next 8 years to bring in a lot of revenue for the City but there is no evidence that this is guaranteed to work. Furthermore, waiting 6-8 years for the international events such as the World Cup and Olympics in order for significant revenue to be generated for bus shelter and street furniture deployment, is too long a wait for low-income communities of color to receive shade and a place to sit at bus stops.

At the Board of Public Works meeting on November 24th, there were also a lot of concerns brought up by neighborhood council members and West LA community members during public comment about how placing digital advertising kiosks on sidewalks were problematic, and that the kiosks would distract people driving, in direct contrast to the City’s vision zero efforts. While some of their reasons for opposing digital kiosks may differ from Investing in Place’s, it is a valid question why in order to receive bus shelters we must couple that with advertising. Not everything that is facilitated through the City has to be a revenue generator, especially since in the past bus shelters were deployed in neighborhoods with high revenue potential instead of the communities where they are needed most. It remains unclear why for a region that has 4 transportation sales taxes that funds freeways, buses, trains, bike lanes, sidewalks are not being leveraged for bus shelters. It is baffling that the only strategy the city has to provide shelter and a place to wait for the bus is through monetization. The average cost of a bus shelter is $25,000, and then with maintenance being the primary expense after it is installed. 

 

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Metro’s First Report on Covid Recovery Raises Some New Questions https://investinginplace.org/2020/11/17/metros-first-report-on-covid-recovery-raises-some-new-questions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metros-first-report-on-covid-recovery-raises-some-new-questions Tue, 17 Nov 2020 19:28:49 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11304 Continued]]> This week, as the Metro board prepares for its final committee meetings of the year, staff will be delivering a series of reports on what they call their Operations Recovery Plan. These reports include looks at how the behavior of transit riders has changed during the course of the Covid pandemic to date, and provides some context for the decisions that Metro is making in response.

The reports were created in response to Metro’s recently approved budget, which triggered concern from transit riders and advocates – and even from Metro Directors – due to its inclusion of 20% cuts to bus service. These cuts not only hurt the most vulnerable communities of Angelenos, who have been consistently overrepresented on the city’s buses, but they also jeopardize Metro’s ability to carry out its NextGen bus plan to respond to the crisis of falling transit ridership across the region, an issue which had long predated the arrival of Covid.

The first phase of NextGen was intended to reallocate the 7 million bus service hours that constituted the system’s baseline before the Covid pandemic hit. This reorganization involved redrawing existing bus lines and dividing the network into four tiers, where tiers 1 and 2 made up the busiest lines on the network. NextGen seeks to take hours from less busy lines and reapply them where current ridership (and potential ridership growth) are highest, creating in the process a frequent all-day bus network.

In September, when Metro approved its operating budget for the next year, it enshrined 20% service cuts that had been a de facto reality since the early Covid shutdowns in March. As a result, even as Metro has continued to state that they are committed to delivery the NextGen network, it has been clear that NextGen cannot be enacted as originally envisioned as long as the service-level deficit the agency has created continues to exist. It is paramount that Metro restores the service that was cut as quickly as possible.

The only question has been how, and not whether, the cuts will affect NextGen implementation. Now, in presentations set to be given to the board, staff have provided analysis on a line level of what the initial NextGen network will look like.
In examining ridership trends, Metro has shown that ridership continues to grow steadily from the absolute minimum of about 30% of pre-pandemic levels that was reached this spring. But growth has neither been equally distributed geographically nor across times of day.

The Tier 1 and Tier 2 bus lines that are slated for frequent all-day service as part of NextGen have added back more ridership more quickly than those in Tiers 3 and 4. These lines serve many of the densest generators of trips as well as being embedded in communities where existing transit use is more common. Additionally, Metro has found that – from a system level – the AM peak travel period has disappeared and shows no sign of returning any time soon.

In September, the AM peak served about 28% of the ridership that it had a year prior, compared with about 55% of ridership being served during the midday hours and 40% during the PM peak period. It is challenging to know how much can be made of these comparisons. After all, midday ridership has been disproportionately impacted by the ridership losses that have occurred over the past 7 years, owing at least in part to Metro’s infrequent and unreliable service.

However, it can be seen immediately that there is a wealth of data that Metro can provide in order to help the Board of Directors and the public assess the quality of the agency’s recovery efforts. Data transparency is a key component to modern crisis management. And, in general, there are signs that Metro is adopting the correct lessons from the data.

In the agency’s line-by-line analysis of the initial NextGen rollout, focus has been clearly given to boosting midday service levels on Tier 1 and 2 bus lines. This will have an immediate impact for riders, particularly those riders (disproportionately women) who continue to conduct non-work errands via transit.
There remain in this report causes for concern. In previous posts prior to the passage of the budget, we warned that status quo bias would develop rapidly against re-adding service if cuts were formally adopted. Unfortunately, this appears to have been a prescient warning.

In the report, Metro staff pit increased operations funding against continued funding for maintenance, suggesting that the board must resist “pressure” to increase service levels because it will come at the expense of system “reliability.” Looking ahead to next year’s budget, staff indicate that service hours cannot be increased barring a new funding source, like a new sales tax or federal stimulus funding (which with split control in Washington is certainly far from a sure thing).

In short, Metro is looking for reasons to maintain broad service cuts to buses as the “new normal,” just as they said they would several months ago. Like staff, we also urge the board to resist pressure – the pressure to maintain service cuts at the expense of the need to improve and build back service.

We are also grateful to the board for leveraging its authority to make more data available during this recovery than has traditionally been made public by Metro. We hope that they will continue to push the agency in this direction. The statistics provided here, though detailed, remain in many ways opaque.

Metro is correct that we are in unprecedented times for public transportation. As a result, it is imperative that the agency use this as an opportunity to do more to figure out the needs of riders and determine how to serve them. The same strategies that would have applied a year ago are not necessarily the ones that should be followed today.

Analyses of the when, where, and why of transit ridership in the Covid era are based on aggregated metrics that likely hide significant variation. Determining what is happening on the ground will require more work than Metro has ever done to reach out and build relationships within transit-riding communities. We urge Metro to use these Operations Recovery Plan reports as an opportunity to begin that work and to learn about the impact they can have in improving Angelenos’s lives as the region rebuilds.

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Let’s Talk Some Shade https://investinginplace.org/2020/10/21/lets-talk-some-shade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lets-talk-some-shade Wed, 21 Oct 2020 23:58:23 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11271 Continued]]> In December of 2019, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti brought up shade as an equity issue.

He said: “Think about an elderly Angeleno who relies on public transit to get around her neighborhood,” he continued. “Imagine her standing in the blistering sun in the middle of July waiting for the bus, with hot, dark asphalt. She deserves to be every bit as comfortable as her counterpart in another ZIP code in town.”

At Investing in Place, we agree that shade is an equity issue. The Urban Heat Island effect, which is caused by structures and infrastructure absorbing heat – typically in urbanized communities that lack parks and green spaces.  

This makes it very difficult for bus riders to stay cool, comfortable and protected from the sun. If current climate change trends are to continue, it is likely that there will be more hot days in Los Angeles. For instance, in Downtown Los Angeles, extremely hot days (95°F or above) will increase from 6 to 16 days by 2050. The San Fernando Valley is expected to see 92 days of extremely hot days by 2050. 

With an increase of hot days, it is communities of color who are disproportionately affected by a lack of shade the most. According to LA Metro’s data, 66% of bus riders are Latinx and 15% of bus riders are Black. This follows a familiar trend of transportation investments historically being underfunded in working-class Black and Brown neighborhoods, while wealthier and whiter neighborhoods receive greater infrastructure funding. 

So what is the City of Los Angeles doing to ensure that people who ride the bus are protected?

Historically, the City of Los Angeles has fallen short on providing bus shelters throughout its 19 year partnership with the firm Outfront / JCDecaux. 

A quick recap:

(Link to more detailed timeline here)

Currently, the City of Los Angeles has 1,878 bus shelters. Bear in mind, the City of Los Angeles had 1,215 bus shelters installed before  the 2001 contract. In the past 19 years the city has only added 660 new bus shelters since 2002.  That goes along with 15 automated public toilets, 6 newsstand vending kiosks, and approximately 200 public amenity kiosks. Plus bus shelters have often been deployed in wealthier neighborhoods where advertising revenue is higher. This is part of the reason why two of the council districts that cover West LA – Council District 5 (Koretz) and Council District 11 (Bonin) – have more bus shelters than other parts of Los Angeles. 

Therefore, it is often nonwhite, working-class neighborhoods that lack bus shelters. With the present contract, approving permits for bus stop shelters takes 16 steps and each bus stop must be approved by the city council member whose jurisdiction the bus stop is in. City staff have shared that they often encountered that shelters would be permitted by the bureaucracy and then just sat on the Council Office’s desk never getting affirmative approval as the final step. 

So what solutions are available to ensure that communities of color have bus shelters that protect them from the heat and extreme weather?

Around this time last year, the city’s chief design officer Christopher Hawthorne also announced a workshop where design firms will develop “cost-effective” shade structures for the 750 new bus benches the city plans to install by December 2020. This is a good start, but structural reform is needed in the long-term to ensure that communities of color have adequate bus shelters.

Structural change at the city level is sorely needed. One major change that is needed is to cut the steps required to approve bus stop shelters. This is an important step to match StreetsLA’s goal of providing at least 75% coverage of bus shelters per council district.

The case to put people over commerce becomes even stronger when one realizes that the city’s street furniture contract only generated $78.5 million in revenue in almost 20 years from advertising. 

At Investing in Place, we fear that with the upcoming 2022 Superbowl, 2023 College Football Championship, the 2026 World Cup, and the 2028 Olympic Games the city will once again prioritize profit over people. As we have seen with the failure of the city street furniture contract overpromising on bus shelters and underdelivering, prioritizing advertising revenue when installing bus stops is a losing strategy that will affect working Angelenos the hardest. 

Los Angeles as a whole needs to plan for the immediate needs of the community instead of prioritizing advertising space for tourists that will visit for a couple of weeks throughout the year. As well as providing much needed shade, the city needs to think on a bigger scale and conceptualize what amenities would improve the lives of the people who use the streets. 

Regarding the new street furniture contact for Los Angeles, we ask:

  • Street furniture contracts must prioritize the Angelenos who have to live with the outcomes of the City’s decisions. For two decades, transit riders in Los Angeles have suffered from a street furniture contract that overpromised and underdelivered. As the city prepares to enter into a new multi-year contract, it is imperative that the needs of people walking and riding the bus be considered paramount in the design, placement, and maintenance of street furniture assets.
  • Decouple provision of new bus shelters and public toilets from expectations of revenue generation. The last 20 years have shown that street furniture is not an effective revenue stream: Los Angeles received less than $4 million per year on average from this program over the life of the contract. But treating street furniture as a revenue generator can hinder or fully derail efforts to make the City’s public right-of-ways better, safer, and more inviting spaces.
  • Prioritize placing bus shelters and other street furniture along Metro’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 routes in the NextGen network. Bus shelters are an integral part of the transit network. The City should not be asking its street furniture to reinvent the wheel when they can instead focus on the plan which Metro is currently implementing to bring a frequent all-day bus network to the City’s busiest transit corridors. The City should direct its contractor to begin by installing new shelters along these routes in order to facilitate the development of a world-class transit network on city streets.
  • Return any revenue from commercialization of the public right-of-way to communities in need. The revenues from the previous street furniture contract were split between the General Fund – where they were a drop in the ocean – and independent accounts maintained by Council District Offices. The City should instead utilize existing definitions of High Need Communities in programs such as Vision Zero and Safe Routes to School to provide funding back into communities impacted by unsafe public spaces. These monies should benefit our communities and help to make them more accessible than they have been in the past.
  • Set minimums, not maximums, for bus shelter installation. Los Angeles needs bus shelters badly. As the City continues to warm due to climate change, the waiting environments on our streets have already become dangerous. In contrast to the last contract, this time the City should look to get as many new bus shelters installed as possible, even above the coverage of 75% of riders that StreetsLA has targeted. To accomplish this language should be tailored to set minimum benchmark progress with defined penalties for failing to meet the marks. Incentives should be provided using City dollars earmarked for transportation purposes for the contractor to exceed these minimums in every benchmark period.

We will be following this story closely, and provide any updates. And partner organizations are invited to collaborate with us on our advocacy asks. 

 

Update (10/28/20): Bus Shelter Project Comment Letter

https://investinginplace.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Comment-Letter-Bus-Shelter-Project.pdf

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Growing our Moms and Mobility Campaign https://investinginplace.org/2020/10/20/growing-our-moms-and-mobility-campaign/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=growing-our-moms-and-mobility-campaign Tue, 20 Oct 2020 17:27:03 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11223 Continued]]> We believe our families can’t get ahead in life if they can’t get around. We support transportation investments that strengthen communities.

 

We have several important announcements regarding Moms & Mobility. First, Investing in Place is excited to share the report we did in partnership with South Central LAMP titled Moms on Scooters, buses, rideshare and more – South Central LAMP weighs in on Rideshare & Mobility. (Spanish version). The report highlights the transportation needs and disparities of moms living in South Los Angeles. 

Moms and Mobility is an initiative that Investing in Place started several years ago that seeks to bring the perspective of women and mothers to the forefront of transportation decision-making when we made our video with South Central LAMP mom Maura. We screened our video with South Central LAMP and senior leadership at Metroparticipated in panel discussions, held convenings and continued to seek partnerships to work together to support community led decisions with research and policy ideas. 

Historically, transportation design and decision-making has been dominated by privileged male perspectives. In turn, the voices of women and more specifically mothers have been largely unheard. Our Moms and Mobility campaign seeks to change that. Moms & Mobility seeks to lift up the transportation needs and opinions of mothers to create policy change.

This year we will be expanding the Moms & Mobility initiative with funding from the Prevention Institute and First 5LA and our partners: East Side Riders Bike Club, Los Angeles Walks and continued Moms and Mobility campaign partnership with South Central LAMP.

  •  East Side Riders Bike Club (ESRBC) is the leading voice of bicycle advocacy in South Los Angeles. ESRBC is an all-volunteer, grassroots bicycle club founded in 2008. ESRBC’s mission began as an effort to prevent youth from joining gangs and/or taking drugs, but also to engage youth who have a desire to enrich their community through recreational activities, specifically  bicycle riding. ESRBC have been able provide community wide education on bike safety, healthy eating, active living, the importance of giving back to the community, as well as hosting community bike rides.
  •  Los Angeles Walks (LA Walks) is at the forefront of advocacy to make a more walkable  Los Angeles. LA Walks is working to make walking safe, accessible, and fun for all. LA Walks is dedicated to promoting walking and pedestrian infrastructure in Los Angeles, educating Angelenos and local policymakers about the rights and needs of pedestrians of all abilities, and fostering the development of safe and vibrant streets for all.
  • South Central Los Angeles Ministry Project (SC LAMP) was founded in response to the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles by a collaboration of eight congregations of Catholic sisters. The sisters canvassed the devastated neighborhood and asked how they could provide better support for the community as it struggled to rebuild . Founded with the purpose to empower mothers and provide academic support for their children  SC LAMP provides early childhood education and variety classes for parents. SC LAMP is deeply connected to mothers and young families in South Los Angeles.

With the help of our partners, our Moms and Mobility campaign seeks to bring policy improvements in the City of LA for moms in all aspects of transportation. From the moms that walk their children to school, to young families being able to bike safely in their community, we want to ensure that moms have access to safe, reliable transportation for the multiple trips that often fall upon their shoulders. We are excited to kickoff the Moms & Mobility campaign. To find out more, please email jessica@investinginplace.org.

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NextGen’s Not The Same After Service Cuts https://investinginplace.org/2020/10/13/nextgens-not-the-same-after-service-cuts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nextgens-not-the-same-after-service-cuts Tue, 13 Oct 2020 18:15:05 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11239 Continued]]> For millions of Angelenos, seismic changes are coming to the bus lines that criss-cross their neighborhoods starting in December. Far from the usual tinkering that Metro does with its timetables in June and December of each year, the service changes implemented between December 2020 and December 2021 will not go unnoticed. Hundreds of stops are set for consolidation. The limited stop rapid network will cease to exist. Familiar route numbers will twist in unfamiliar directions. Some routes will disappear completely.

All these changes, with more planned in the future, are part of the NextGen plan to revitalize Los Angeles’s bus network. Buses in LA are slow, infrequent, and unreliable. NextGen was introduced as the radical shake-up that needed to be made in order to reverse years of ridership declines and sinking service quality.

Part of NextGen’s appeal was that in its first phase it was purely a “reorganization,” which is to say that it more efficiently used the total number of hours that buses were already in service and better distributed them to create a frequent all-day network. In doing so, the reorganization meant that the same amount of operations monies could be used to send buses down busy corridors much more often.

The highest tier of the NextGen network was defined as buses running every 7.5 minutes or more often during peak hours, with substantially shorter headways during midday and evening hours as well. The next-highest tier would comprise buses running every 10 minutes or less during peak hours. Between these top two tiers, Metro would be operating frequent service of a kind that Los Angeles hasn’t seen in decades across its most successful corridors.

This month, Metro’s Operations Committee and Board of Directors are both expected to approve the plan, which has now been finalized after years of development and analysis. Public outreach was conducted during the summer, albeit before Metro voted to continue service cuts on the bus network indefinitely.

And therein lies the problem. Transit advocates can’t help but note the toll that has been taken on this ambitious plan by Metro’s unfortunate and self-defeating decision to cut bus service by 20% compared with the pre-Covid baseline. Those cuts preclude the NextGen reorganization plan from being implemented as written. There simply are not enough bus service hours left to be redistributed to create that frequent all-day network. The likely result is that Tier 1 and Tier 2 routes will be operating at lower frequencies from the first day onward.

According to Metro: 

“The routing and bus stop changes would be completed within the Revenue Service Hours (RSH) allocated to Metro bus within the FY21 adopted budget.  Additional frequency increases based on the service plan would be phased in based on prudent financial management, considering ridership trends, revenues, resources including workforce availability, and service performance.”

In two sentences, Metro has given itself a huge list of excuses and offramps. If service cuts are the new normal, there is no guarantee in here that Metro will ever proceed to the full service changes intended by NextGen.

And so, we want to be absolutely clear: this is not an auspicious start for the NextGen era in Los Angeles. What will be called NextGen by Metro leaders when it is implemented is actually something less than the plan that is being presented to the Board this month. Due to service cuts, we do not know when (or if) we will ever see the highest service tiers implemented as planned on Los Angeles’s busiest corridors.

As it stands, we remain deeply concerned that NextGen could end up being a slow-rolling bait-and-switch: that the frequent bus network on busy city streets will never materialize, and that the institutional willpower to implement this plan will gradually fade before the finish line is reached.

As we repeatedly highlighted in the lead-up to Metro’s budget vote in September, Metro has taken a fully funded reorganization plan and defunded it with bone-deep service cuts. We do not consider that Metro has lived up to its responsibility to implement NextGen by adopting this plan without a concrete commitment to fully implement NextGen.

We renew our call for Metro to fully fund the NextGen plan and provide service to bus lines in accordance with the tiers in the final NextGen plan.

To find out more on how to get involved, please email jessica@investinginplace.org

 

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Analysis of proposed Metro Operations Recovery Plan https://investinginplace.org/2020/09/23/analysis-of-proposed-metro-operations-recovery-plan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=analysis-of-proposed-metro-operations-recovery-plan Wed, 23 Sep 2020 20:44:03 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11204 Continued]]> Investing in Place is inspired by being part of growing and inclusive movement on budget advocacy. We believe a strong and organized constituency that improves conditions for bus riders in Los Angeles is long overdue. In partnership with the ACT-LA coalition and many other community organizations and leaders, we are working for transit that serves people who rely on it with fast, frequent, reliable, and affordable service.

Issue: In March and April of 2020, Metro cut about 20% of bus service due to impacts from COVID-19. Metro is now working to adopt a budget from July 1st, 2020 to June 30th, 2021, that keeps these cuts in place. Metro went from 7 million revenue service hours in fiscal year 2020 and proposes to go to 5.6 million revenue service hours in fiscal year 2021.

Community Response: For weeks, organizers, advocates and community members have been calling on Metro to make a plan to increase bus service instead of cutting it. What community organizations are hearing from their members today is: buses are crowded and unreliable, with long waits.

As a result of these organizing and community efforts, five Metro Board members introduced a motion that will be heard at tomorrow’s Board Meeting. We have developed an analysis of tomorrow’s motion to help inform and amplify the needs of bus riders today.

Please see our analysis below.

 

Investing in Place review of Metro Board Meeting Agenda item: 10.1 

To be heard at the Metro Board Meeting September 24, 2020

Authors: Metro Directors Bonin, Garcetti, Solis, Garcia and Kuehl (5 Authors)

Votes needed to pass a motion: A majority vote

Total number of Metro Directors: 13

Motion preamble: Related to Item 10: Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Budget

The COVID-19 Crisis has created incredible strain on Metro’s operations and finances. An unprecedented drop in sales tax and other revenue has caused a $1.2 billion decrease in Metro’s budget from FY20 to FY21, with additional volatility likely throughout FY21 and beyond. At the same time, COVID-19 health and safety measures and labor agreements have increased operational costs per hour of service. Despite an infusion of federal funding from the CARES Act, Metro still faces an uncertain operations budget that will require continuous updates throughout the fiscal year.

The proposed FY21 budget is an accurate reflection of today’s greatly diminished transit service levels. However, maintaining current service levels for the remainder of the fiscal year is not acceptable for riders nor is it consistent with the agency’s strategic priorities, including NextGen. At a time when COVID-19 has exposed all of the region’s underlying inequities, Metro must plan for and facilitate an equitable recovery that prioritizes the mobility needs of our county’s most vulnerable populations, who disproportionately rely on bus service.

Metro should prepare an FY21 Operations Recovery Plan that outlines a clear decision-making framework for restoring service and identifies the financial and human resources needed at each stage of recovery. This Plan should clearly articulate how NextGen parameters are being applied to interim service decisions, in addition to public health and customer experience considerations. Most importantly, this Plan should commit to achieving NextGen’s performance outcomes (revenue miles, number of high-frequency lines, number of people with access to frequent service), even if pre- COVID revenue service hours may not be necessary to achieve them.

SUBJECT: FY21 OPERATIONS RECOVERY PLAN

RECOMMENDATION

APPROVE Motion by Directors Bonin, Garcetti, Solis, Garcia, and Kuehl that the Board direct the Chief Executive Officer to:

  1. Report back to the Operations, Safety, and Customer Experience Committee in 60 days, with updates every 60 days thereafter, with an FY21 Operations Recovery Plan that achieves the following outcomes:

Investing in Place: Metro staff need to provide updates achieving outcomes from  1-5 of the “Operations Recovery Plan,” at the November 19th 9am Operations, Safety, and Customer Experience Committee, then present it at the Metro Full Board Meeting December 3rd 10am. And then every 60 days thereafter.

  1. Aligns bus lines with their respective NextGen service tier standards.

Investing in Place: This means that when Metro says a bus route is a NextGen Tier 1 line, which must run every 7.5 minutes or less during peak hours, Metro has to budget enough service hours to run the line at least that frequently.

See list of Tier 1 and Tier 2 bus routes at the bottom of this page.   

  1. Does not exceed maximum load factors on buses and trains based on industry- accepted health and safety standards.

What is a “load factor”? Metro establishes load factor standards to guide service quantity determination, e.g. how crowded a bus needs to be to trigger Metro to add more service to the bus route. 

Investing in Place: We are unclear as to what “industry, health, and safety standards” is Metro using. As of today, Metro has no existing policy that has been clearly communicated to riders and policymakers. This is a problem. Metro needs a plan that is publicly shared and implemented. It is critical that this plan demonstrates consistency in planning, delivering, and communication service to all stakeholders. 

Last week, Metro staff shared that the load factor they are using to determine service levels is 75%.

“We’re currently trying to ensure buses are at no more than 75 percent seated capacity compared to the 130 percent standard we used prior to the pandemic.” Metro Source blog 09/21/20

This is not consistent with what Metro is advising people who ride the bus. At the end of June, Metro’s blog, The Source, published a post on “Returning to Metro,” in which they told riders to “keep your distance whenever possible,” adding that riders should “avoid sitting in a vacant seat directly next to another rider” and “keep at least one row of seats between you and other riders.” If that distancing is not possible on the vehicle when a rider boards, Metro advises riders to get off and wait for the next bus. See our blog post here for more information. 

Metro built up a lot of good will over the past 2 and a half years through their community outreach around the bus network redesign project NextGen. Metro has consistently heard that people wanted fast, frequent and reliable bus service. Metro staff responded with a proposal that was proactive, which met the demand of short trips and needs for frequent service. However, this budget scenario is backtracking on that goodwill by cutting frequent service, not providing data, and not providing clear communication about decision making and opportunities for community input. It is critical that Metro’s response to the COVID-19 crisis leads with equity, upholds clear and consistent communications, and demonstrates transparency.

We urge Metro to publish load factors and weekly ridership numbers, as well as leveraging the data sets and analysis used in the NextGen study.  This includes incorporating the equity focused communities analysis. 

Data points:

  • Metro evaluates the number of people on buses using APCS (automated passenger counting) and videos from inside buses. 

American Public Transportation Association (APTA) recommends: There appears to be no universal standard for bus load capacity regardless of vehicle size. Transit agencies are expected to create their own maximum seating capacity and to increase service levels to match demands, while bus operators are expected to enforce load capacity. 

Link to APTA research: “Developing a Pandemic Virus Service Restoration Checklist.” 

And APTA’s “The COVID-19 Pandemic Public Transportation Responds: Safeguarding Riders and Employees.”

Investing in Place does not support APTA’s recommendation as a best practice for Metro. We are sharing this in case it is helpful as it is often referred to by Metro staff and policymakers.  Investing in Place does not encourage a policy of bus operators having to enforce load capacity, for their own safety (i.e. no conflicts with passengers, less distractions).  APTA’s recommendation seems to set up drivers for conflicts with bus riders and provides no objective standards and unclear communications.

  1. Sets criteria for adding service in anticipation of future on-street conditions related to economic sector and/or school reopenings and the return of traffic congestion and effect on bus speeds.

Investing in Place: Metro has repeatedly said they will add service when ridership warrants it. It is critical that the agency flips this approach to a more proactive one. Metro needs to have a plan in place to ensure the seats are available as the ridership returns. 

An operations recovery plan for Metro bus service should include a publicly adopted plan that includes benchmarks such as:

“If  we hit X milestone, we will add additional service.

In reality, what community partners are hearing from their members today is: buses are crowded and unreliable, with long waits. 

Data questions:

  • How does Metro track bus speed?
  • What is the “Metro Arterial Performance Measurement Program” data telling us about traffic on key bus corridors?
  1. Takes full advantage of operational savings from faster bus speeds to achieve performance-based service outcomes.

Investing in Place: Since March 2020, Metro has cut about 20% of bus service, the proposed FY21 budget from Metro wants to keep that  20% bus service reduction until June 30, 2021 and possibly beyond. Community organizations and their members are saying today, that buses are crowded and infrequent and more buses are needed today. 

One of the ways to measure bus service levels is “Revenue Service Hours,” or RSH.  RSH are defined as: hours that vehicles are transporting or loading passengers or on layovers between trips. Revenue service is measured in terms of revenue hours and revenue miles.

  • Metro’s Pre-Covid RSH: 7 million 
  • Metro’s proposed FY 21 budget RSH: 5.6 million

Metro staff is asserting that they can run the same level of service because bus speeds are faster during COVID due to less traffic on the streets. However, while many people are able to stay home, many are still traveling within their neighborhood. And many essential workers are still commuting. Community reports show traffic is back in many neighborhoods, yet Metro staff state “that buses are averaging 1-2 miles an hours faster during COVID.”  Where is this data?

Data questions:

  • How does Metro track bus speed?
  • What is the “Metro Arterial Performance Measurement Program” data telling us about traffic on key bus corridors?
  1. Restores revenue service hours as appropriate to achieve all of the above outcomes.

Investing in Place: It is hard to see how Metro Operations Recovery plan, as outlined in 1-4 above, is achieved without adding more service hours. 

  1. Report back to the Finance, Budget, and Audit Committee in 60 days with an amendment to the FY21 Budget, if necessary, to implement the above FY21 Operations Recovery Plan.

Investing in Place: Metro staff need to provide a budget update and if needed a budget amendment for achieving outcomes from  1-5 of the “Operations Recovery Plan,” at the November 18th 1:30pm Finance, Budget, and Audit Committee, and then present it at the Metro Full Board Meeting December 3rd 10am.

 

Detail on Metro Next Gen Tier 1 and Tier 2 Bus Routes

Tier 1 definition: Metro buses that, under the NextGen plan, will be every 7.5 minutes or less during peak hours

Tier 2 definition: Metro buses that run greater than 7.5 minutes but run 10 minutes or less during peak hours

 

Tier 1 buses:

2 – Sunset/Alvarado

4 – Santa Monica

16 – 3rd

18 – Whittier

20 – Wilshire

28 – Olympic

33 – Venice

45 – Broadway

51 – Avalon

60 – Long Beach

70 – Garvey

108 – Slauson

111 – Florence

180 – Colorado/Fairfax

204 – Vermont

207 – Western

212 – La Brea

234 – Sepulveda

901 – G Line (Orange)

910 – J Line (Silver)

 

Tier 2 buses:

10 – Melrose

14 – Bever

30 – Pico

40 – Hawthorne/Crenshaw

48 – San Pedro

53 – Central

66 – Olympic

78 – Las Tunas

81 – Figueroa

105 – Vernon

206 – Normandie

210 – Crenshaw

233 – Van Nuys

240 – Reseda/Ventura

251 – Soto

 

Bus Routes that have dropped from Tier 2 to Tier 3 (15 minutes or less):

35 (Washington)

55 (Adams/Compton)

76 (Valley)

115 (Manchester)

152 (Roscoe)

162 (Sherman)

166 (Nordhoff)

224 (Lankershim)

260 (Atlantic)

603 (Glendale)

605 (Boyle Heights)

761 (Sepulveda Pass Rapid)

 

Bus Routes that have dropped from Tier 2 to Tier 4 (30 minutes or less):

601 (Warner Center)

 

 

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Metro’s Bus Service Cuts Will Make Buses Unsafely Crowded https://investinginplace.org/2020/09/15/metros-bus-service-cuts-will-make-buses-unsafely-crowded/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metros-bus-service-cuts-will-make-buses-unsafely-crowded Tue, 15 Sep 2020 15:37:11 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11190 Continued]]> This week, Metro’s Board of Directors will vote on adoption of a proposed budget for all agency spending through next June. The current fiscal year, which began in July, has been unprecedented for Metro, particularly with regard to the ongoing financial crisis caused by COVID-19. As a result, Metro has taken the likewise unprecedented step of operating without an approved budget for nearly a full quarter of the year. Now, when the Directors meet, they will be considering a funding plan which cuts bus service by 20% on the year, from 7 million total hours to 5.6 million. The proposed budget may be balanced fiscally, but by adopting it as it currently stands, Metro will be creating a deficit in service. By their own analysis, Metro staff state that service will not even potentially return to pre-Covid levels until late 2022.

Metro has justified these cuts by saying that they are exercising prudent fiscal management and that they are “running 80% of [their] normal service for 55% of [their] normal ridership.” This is intended to give the impression that Metro is actually providing more service than they need to, but these are not normal times and their benchmark is misleading because it fails to take into account the agency’s own social distancing guidelines. 

Allowing for safe social distancing on transit vehicles has been one of the primary focuses for transit agencies across the country during the Covid pandemic. Social distancing is a priority for maintaining the health and safety of passengers and drivers alike. Some agencies have provided direct guidance as to lowered capacities for their vehicles, which may be as low as 10 to 15 passengers on a 40-foot bus, down from around 40 seated passengers with no distancing procedures in place. 

While Metro has not publicly released concrete numbers on how many passengers can safely ride their vehicles, they have put out guidance that indicates their agreement with similar restrictions. At the end of June, Metro’s blog, The Source, published a post on “Returning to Metro,” in which they told riders to “[k]eep your distance whenever possible,” adding that riders should “[a]void sitting in a vacant seat directly next to another rider” and “[k]eep at least one row of seats between you and other riders.” If that distancing should happen not to be possible on the vehicle when a rider boards, Metro advises riders to get off and wait for the next bus.

Add to these seating guidelines that Metro drivers have been cordoning off the front of the bus to prevent passengers from getting too close to them, and there are not very many seats available to choose from. Bus layouts differ across the fleet, but in the example below, the red marks indicate seats that are recommended for use by Metro, and the dividing line indicates where the cordon would go. In this scenario there would be about 10 socially distant seats for passengers.

With that lowered capacity, Metro is saying that riders should have three to four times as much personal space as they did before the pandemic. Now, when we revisit Metro’s justification, the problem becomes clear. Riders should have three times as much personal space as before, but Metro is not providing three times as much space. If they were, they would be running 165% of normal service for 55% of normal ridership. Instead, they are proposing half that amount.

Where possible, Metro has been using articulated buses, which allow for more passengers, on the busiest routes. But they don’t have enough of these longer vehicles to accommodate the need throughout the network while also running the planned service deficit.

The resulting status quo has left bus riders in the lurch. Metro’s recommendation is that they shouldn’t ride an excessively crowded bus, that they should get off and wait for another. But this is not a practical suggestion for the typical bus rider. Bus riders are often low-income workers who do not have a great deal of flexibility in their schedules and cannot expect to receive leniency for starting a shift late. Furthermore, Metro’s proposed service cuts mean waiting longer for that next bus to come, with no guarantee that it will be any less crowded when it arrives. Metro is leaving its riders with little alternative but to ride unsafely crowded vehicles.

As with government agencies across the country, Covid has dramatically reshaped Metro’s financial projections, but the same cannot be said of its priorities. After all, Covid has also laid bare the inequities that run through LA’s massive regional economy. If anything, the pandemic has shown the extent to which a stalwart commitment by service providers like Metro to equitable recovery paths is needed. Consequently, there is no more basic rubric with which to grade Metro’s budget than its treatment of bus riders. The budget proposal coming before the Board of Directors this week fails that test and we urge the Board to reject it.

 

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Metro’s Board to Consider Bone-Deep Service Cuts https://investinginplace.org/2020/09/01/metros-board-to-consider-bone-deep-service-cuts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metros-board-to-consider-bone-deep-service-cuts Tue, 01 Sep 2020 18:37:03 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11163 Continued]]> During last week’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors, staff presented their transit service proposal for the remainder of the current year. As highlighted by transit advocates throughout LA, Metro’s plan would reduce bus service by 20% from 7 million annual hours to 5.6 million annual hours this year, with an eye toward what is internally being called a “new normal” service cut of 8% from pre-Covid levels beginning next summer. If adopted, these cuts would be disastrous for transit riders in Los Angeles both during the immediate Covid recovery period and potentially for years afterward.

For more and more Angelenos, the pandemic does not correspond to an ability to remain sheltered safely at home. Rather, as places of business gradually reopen, workers in low-income service sector jobs in particular are being compelled to return to stores throughout the region. From the lowest depths that it hit when quarantine orders were at their strictest, system ridership on Metro has rebounded 25% already and can be expected to rise further for the simple reason that buses are a lifeline for Angelenos.

Given that, and the fact that buses are supposed to be running at less than full capacity so that riders and operators can safely distance from one another, the upshot of these cuts is clear: Metro is telling riders that they should find other means of travel. While for many riders the cost of car ownership is an expense that they cannot easily afford, in particular during these economically dire times, that does not mean that a bus rider today will not take Metro up on that and become a permanent car driver tomorrow. This is exactly the death spiral for bus ridership that Metro’s NextGen bus reorganization plan was intended to stop, which is why it is so disheartening now to see Metro preparing instead to undercut NextGen and accelerate the decline of the transit network.

The NextGen plan comprehended the vast disparities in bus ridership that exist between the counties busiest travel corridors in the LA basin and those in outlying suburban neighborhoods. That is why it sought, for the first time in Los Angeles, to redirect existing bus service hours to create a frequent all-day network on streets where demand was the highest. But NextGen cannot be achieved from a service level deficit like Metro is proposing. Although staff said that they would add back service hours over time according to the NextGen plan, the simple fact is that the proposed budget leaves us fighting to claw our way back to the poor service of the pre-Covid baseline and makes that frequent all-day network an unfulfillable promise.

Metro has said that the cuts are prudent financial management and that they are not giving up on the NextGen plan. But their actions tell a different story. At the same time that Metro is cutting bus service, they are also voting to accelerate unfunded capital rail projects, like the northern extension of the Crenshaw line, that will cost billions of dollars and that have groundbreaking dates decades in the future.

As riders and advocates, we can’t fail to notice that the checkbook is open wide for future rail construction and closed for the present day bus service that hundreds of thousands of Angelenos rely on. Further, without Metro providing any evidence that it cannot afford a gradual ramp up back to 7 million service hours or what it would cost the agency to get back to pre-Covid service, how can the public judge whether these drastic cuts are truly merited?

Later this month, Metro is planning to formally adopt the budget, with its bone-deep cuts to bus service. Transit advocates and riders have been clear that a vote for this budget is a vote against public transportation in Los Angeles, and not just in the near-term. By signalling so clearly that the quality of transit service is on the chopping block, Metro will have contributed to the longer term movement of riders away from the system. Angelenos who have left the system will be the first to tell Metro: even if you make the buses free, it takes good service to make transit worth it.

Next Steps:

  • Get involved and join the Better Buses for LA workgroup by emailing jessica@investinginplace.org
  • Save the date: Metro Budget Public Hearing Wednesday September 16th at 1:30pm
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New Report: Moms on scooters, buses, rideshare and more – South Central LAMP weighs in on Rideshare & Micromobility https://investinginplace.org/2020/08/25/new-report-moms-on-scooters-buses-rideshare-and-more-south-central-lamp-weighs-in-on-rideshare-micromobility/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-report-moms-on-scooters-buses-rideshare-and-more-south-central-lamp-weighs-in-on-rideshare-micromobility Tue, 25 Aug 2020 20:00:13 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11226 Continued]]> Over the past several years, Investing in Place has been partnering with South Central LAMP to better understand and amplify how our transportation systems better serve moms and their families – especially low-income women.

We are excited to share our report from our “Moms and Mobility” convening. All of the participants were immigrants and spoke English as a second language, and some women were undocumented and/or have family members who are also undocumented. The listening session was facilitated by South Central LAMP Executive Director Diana Pinto was conducted primarily in Spanish with English translation services provided by the translation firm Antennae Aire.

The focus of the listening session was to identify and discuss mobility needs and challenges for South Central LAMP community members.  Most of the participants identified their primary modes of transportation as driving and taking the bus.  While the majority of the participants had smartphones, very few of them had access to a credit card.

Transportation is a field that has historically been dominated by white, privileged and male perspectives. Our campaign on #MomsandMobility is an effort to change that.

While this work was conducted before COVID-19, we are excited to be expanding our Moms and Mobility campaign with more partners this year. Stay tuned for how to get involved.

Report in English. 

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Durante los últimos años, Investing in Place se ha asociado con South Central LAMP para entender y amplificar como nuestros sistemas de transporte sirven de una mejor manera a madres y a sus familias – especialmente mujeres de bajos recursos.

Nos emociona el poder compartir nuestro reporte de la junta de “Moms and Mobility”. Todos los que participaron eran inmigrantes que hablaban ingles como segundo idioma, y algunas mujeres eran indocumentadas y tenían familiares que también eran indocumentados.

La sesión de escucha fue facilitada por la directora de South Central LAMP Diana Pinto, y fue conducida principalmente en español con servicios de traducción al ingles proveídos por la firma de traducción Antennae Aire.

El enfoque de la sesión de escucha fue para identificar y discutir las necesidades de movilidad y los retos para los miembros de la comunidad de South Central LAMP. La mayoría de los participantes identificaron sus principales métodos de transportación como manejar y tomar el autobús. Aunque la mayoría de los participantes tenían teléfonos inteligentes, muy pocos tenían acceso a una tarjeta de crédito.

El campo del transporte ha sido históricamente dominado por perspectivos privilegiados y blancos. Nuestra campaña de #MomsandMobility es un esfuerzo para cambiarlo.

Este esfuerzo fue hecho antes del COVID-19, y estamos felices de expandir nuestra campaña de Moms and Mobility con mas socios este año. Manténganse al tanto de como poder involucrarse.

Reporte en Español.

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A New Metro Budget Briefing Raises Worrying Signs for NextGen https://investinginplace.org/2020/08/13/a-new-metro-budget-briefing-raises-worrying-signs-for-nextgen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-new-metro-budget-briefing-raises-worrying-signs-for-nextgen Thu, 13 Aug 2020 17:23:18 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11142 Continued]]> As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt life around the globe, government agencies at all levels have been forced to make difficult choices about how to spend sharply curtailed tax revenues. In Los Angeles, as in so many places, the current moment has impressed upon service providers a need to weigh their priorities carefully and decide what can still be funded. Metro, for example, an agency with a nearly $7 billion annual budget and the LA region’s largest funder of transportation services, halted its normal spring budgeting activities in the hope that additional time might lend more clarity to the impact of Covid-19 on the transportation agency’s financial situation – and that subsequent bailouts from the federal government might quickly follow the CARES act. 

So far, though, no additional federal funding beyond an initial $1 billion for bus and rail operations – which covers only about half of Metro’s losses since the pandemic began – has arrived. There are many questions as-yet unanswered about what Metro riders should expect from the fiscal year to come, but, with the deadline for the Board of Directors to vote on the budget approaching at the end of September, a new presentation has been released that casts some doubt on the agency’s commitment to following through with the NextGen bus reorganization.

Detailing the impact that Covid-related shutdowns have had on public transit service so far, Metro’s presentation shows how cuts intended to pare back service to match a significantly reduced ridership during stay-at-home orders led to a reduction of over 30% in bus service hours from April to June of this year. However, as the city and county of Los Angeles began allowing more sectors of the local economy to reopen their doors at the end of May, ridership has already rebounded from the lowest depths it hit in the spring. Metro’s own estimates indicate that ridership is about 25% higher currently than it was when most of the region was locked down. The agency projects there will be about 34 million boardings for the quarter ending September 30, as compared with 27 million boardings for the quarter that ended June 30.

Metro’s presentation indicates an intention to “[add service] gradually each quarter based on projected ridership demand and recovery.” The agency also notes the importance of “follow[ing] principals [sic] established by NextGen.” This is a common theme throughout the document, which attempts to stress unstintingly the importance of scaling up service to meet the needs of the region’s recovery and also to hew to the Vision 2028 strategic plan which was approved by the Metro Board in 2018. 

NextGen – a plan which would dramatically overhaul the region’s bus network to provide frequent all-day service on busy corridors – is a cornerstone of Vision 2028. Indeed, the goals of Metro’s strategic plan, a central intention of which is to reduce the barriers of access experienced by communities who depend on public transportation, are not achievable without a full commitment by Metro to implement the NextGen reorganization. But Metro’s presentation offers contradictory evidence to its claims that the new year’s budget will proceed with NextGen principles in mind.

While Metro says it intends to “ramp up” bus service throughout the year, in fact, what their data show is a 14% increase in service hours between last quarter and this quarter, followed by quarterly increases of 0.7%, 0.1%, and 0.09% respectively. Far from ramping up, service has already leveled off for the year under the current plan, and that has clear impacts for the implementation of NextGen which is scheduled to begin.

In the first two phases of the NextGen plan, Metro has planned on reallocating bus service hours that were already budgeted from lower-performing lines to new high-frequency lines that would run on the busiest corridors in Los Angeles. This meant that from a baseline of 7 million service hours, Metro could dramatically increase access to high quality bus service without the need to immediately increase the number of buses on the road.

However, with the service cuts that Metro appears to be planning throughout fiscal 2021, bus service hours are down a staggering 20% to 5.6 million hours annually. The premise of NextGen is getting the highest quality service that the agency can get out of existing service hours, but, with this budget plan, the baseline has been thrown out and service is cut to the bone. There is simply no way to effectively achieve the reorganization envisioned by NextGen from a service hour deficit of 20%.

Further, in support of the cuts, Metro uses a graph which suggests that service hours have, up until now, remained relatively stable as ridership has fallen, perhaps as justification for making cuts to service now. This undercuts NextGen in the most basic way. Without high quality service, as NextGen properly acknowledges, there is no path for ridership to recover: cuts will never result in riders returning to the system, they can only exacerbate the system’s decline.

The view of service hours as stable is also misleading because it views service hours from a systemwide perspective. Metro serves an enormous area, in which many different conditions coexist, with bus and rail service. Throughout the 2010s, Metro increased rail service hours while either keeping bus service flat or, in some years, reducing it. Covid has only intensified the need to be more detailed in analyses of the provision of service.

As we know that working class communities and particularly Black and brown communities in central and south Los Angeles have been more likely to experience crowding onboard transit, we must also be aware that service cuts in these communities are more dangerous. While Metro has said that in cutting service they were making sure that passengers would “maintain social distancing,” the truth is less clear cut. 

Service cuts can only aid social distancing if riding transit or not is a choice. As the numbers of workers returning to in-person jobs has steadily increased, the only way that Metro can clearly support the ability of riders to maintain adequate space between themselves and others is to provide more service, not less. This, again, is a goal supported by NextGen that is not evident in the proposed service plan for the new year’s budget.

Despite Metro’s claims that it is still dedicated to NextGen, there is no clear evidence in this earliest public document on the budget that it is planning to follow through. No clear funding is identified as being dedicated to NextGen. No acknowledgement is made of the difficulty posed by service reductions in fulfilling promises made to riders. Without decisive Board action to preserve the NextGen plan, Angelenos should be worried that NextGen might end up stalling out completely.

 

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What if Metro treated addressing race and equity as a major capital project? https://investinginplace.org/2020/08/05/what-if-metro-treated-addressing-race-and-equity-as-a-major-capital-project/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-if-metro-treated-addressing-race-and-equity-as-a-major-capital-project Wed, 05 Aug 2020 20:52:02 +0000 https://investinginplace.org/?p=11123 Continued]]> Investing in Place has been a longtime advocate for bringing equity into consideration as part of the transportation planning process. Over the past several years, we have encouraged Metro, in its role as Los Angeles’s transportation commission, to elevate equity concerns and to make equity a front row concern in its transportation development work. It has been encouraging to see Metro take some steps toward this end. They have adopted an Equity Framework (2018), defined and mapped the Agency’s Equity Focused Communities (2019), and hired their first Executive Officer on Race and Equity (2020).  

However, as the region is grappling with two pandemics – COVID-19 and systemic racism – we must consider whether this progress is adequate to address the challenges that Angelenos from underserved communities face. This is a matter of particular urgency as we know that both pandemics are impacting Black and brown Angelenos with an intensity that threatens to further erode their economic position and their access to opportunities within the county.

As such, it is time for Metro to go further than merely having one dedicated staffer tasked with addressing Race and Equity issues out of an annual budget of $7 billion dollars. Last month, Executive Officer of Race and Equity KeAndra Cylear Dodds joined our July Better Buses for LA work group. She presented on Metro’s Rapid Equity Assessment tool to evaluate projects from the COVID-19 Task Force and walked the group through the projects she is working on. It is an exhaustive list to say the least for one person. 

KeAndra Cylear Dodds is leading:

  • Developing a program for Internal Race and Equity training 
  • Developing a “rapid equity assessment tool” (for the COVID-19 Task Force projects and proposals)
  • Supporting “equity fluent leaders” – a strategy to create an equity liaison in each department
  •  Working with internal and external partners to respond to June’s Community and Safety motion (which is being led by Metro’s Security Department) 
  • Developing an Equity Advisory Board
  • Advising on Metro’s Community Based Organization strategy 
  • Advising on specific projects/programs (eg 710, congestion pricing, goods movement)
  • Participating in panels, public presentation and other public communications related to Metro and Equity 

The Executive Officer of Race and Equity is operating without staff, and without a budget to resource this critical work. All of this during two pandemics with consistently higher and more dangerous impacts for Black Angelenos, Indigenous Angelenos, and People of Color. This demands a response from the agencies of the stewards of public funds to address community needs. Transportation has a legacy of historic disinvestments and negative impacts on Black, Indigenous, People of Color; vulnerable road users; and underserved groups as they travel through and inhabit public space. It is now time for Metro to resource this work and fully fund it like it would be taking on any significant project.

What if Metro treated addressing race and equity as a major capital project? Or even a pilot study? Take for example Metro’s Congestion Pricing study – which totals more than $5.5 million to assess how and where it would be possible to pilot a package of mobility improvements, including congestion relief pricing in L.A. County. Addressing Race and Equity at Metro requires legitimate resources, internal staff, professional external consultants and more. Metro’s current approach of one full time staff for such a critical component of Metro and the Regions work is clearly one of its current shortcomings. 

 

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