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With life recovering some level of normalcy after a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles Metro is starting to see an uptick of riders according to their blog The Source. Moreover, the agency is restoring more bus and rail service on June 27 as part of their twice yearly service changes — aiming to restore bus service to pre-pandemic levels in Sep.
Metro’s total estimated ridership for Apr. 2021 across bus and rail was 13,683,274, according to the agency’s statistics. In contrast, a bit over 9.7 million people rode the Metro in Jan., 10.7 million in Feb., and just above 13 million in Mar. Numbers for May are not yet available, but the numbers for the first four months of the year reflects ridership indeed rebounding.
“Our transit service is in the process of getting back to normal and transit will be an option for those not looking to drive,” The Source reads. “We think riding transit can be extremely safe especially if you wear a mask and get vaccinated.” As required by federal law, Metro and all transit agencies still require riders to wear face masks. Back in Mar., the agency installed numerous mask dispensers on buses, trains, and at stations to make it easier for riders who may have forgotten or misplaced their masks.
Despite an early panic regarding the use of public transportation during the pandemic, scientists said public transit was proven to be one of the most COVID-safe places to be outside the home. This is because many public transit vehicles are relatively uncrowded, well-ventilated, and usually not the site of the kind of loud conversations that can accelerate the spread of airborne particles. Moreover, the fact that most transit agencies are requiring personal protective equipment to passengers also factors in.
Also, the Metro Board recently voted to continue the development of a fareless pilot program for students, and later for low-income riders. The plan is a 23-month fareless transit pilot program for the county’s K-12 and community college students. The staff proposal sought to start with the student groups this Aug., then expand in Jan. 2022 to include “qualifying low-income residents.”
“About 70% of Metro’s riders are considered low-income (meaning annual income is less than $35,000) and the fareless program would help fulfill the agency’s pledge to put equity at the forefront of its mission to improve mobility for all in our region,” reads Metro’s website. If in 2023 Metro decides to give the remaining riders free transit too, that would make Los Angeles the largest free transit system in the world.
There are studies that show that low-income riders use public transit more once fare discounts are offered. For example, an MIT study showed that low-income residents in Boston with discounted CharlieCards took about 30% more trips, especially for health care visits.