The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s service will return to pre-pandemic levels by September, thanks to $1.6 billion allocated to the L.A. region’s transit systems from the federal American Rescue Plan, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Thursday.
L.A. Metro initially anticipated service to return to regular levels by September 2022, however that goal was later moved up to December by Metro’s board, Garcetti said.
The $1.6 billion is given to the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim region, and the Southern California Association of Governments will divide it between agencies.
“It’s hard to overstate what this money means for Los Angeles. It means more buses on the streets, it means more trains on the tracks, it means more frequent and reliable service for our customers, and more Angelenos getting to where they need to go, to work, to an appointment, maybe even to get to their vaccine,” Garcetti said.
An additional $275 million will go to Metro’s capital projects, including $59 million for the Regional Connector, $66.5 million for the Purple Line Extension Section 1, $58.5 million for the Purple Line Extension Section 2, and $93.5 million for the Purple Line Extension Section 3. Those projects are typically funded through sales taxes, and that revenue decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding “will help us keep those projects on track and even accelerate them a bit as well,” L.A. Metro CEO Phillip Washington said.
Los Angeles lobbied the federal government to address funding problems within transit systems during the pandemic. In July 2020, the American Public Transportation Association reported that almost half of the nation’s transit agencies had implemented or were planning reductions and layoffs, as well as deferring or canceling capital projects.
At that time, Metro predicted a $1.8 billion revenue reduction and estimated that ridership wouldn’t return to normal for up to two years.
Washington called the American Rescue Plan a silver lining in the midst of a devastating pandemic.
“As we move through and as we think about these many initiatives that we are working, we will be able to inject new money into that so let me just say … this is a lifeline,” he said.
Seleta Reynolds, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, praised the way her staff adjusted during the pandemic and assisted Los Angeles in new ways.
“We had traffic officers, instead of directing traffic at Lakers games, showing up at testing sites and vaccine sites, serving an unbelievable 88,000 hours of directing traffic last year, really unprecedented. We repurposed our streets, we built 60 miles of bike lanes, we built transit-only lanes through a partnership with Metro, we repurposed parking spaces to allow restaurants to be able to welcome customers back,” she said.
“Their crisis response was really about showing that transportation can be a pathway to mobility justice, to climate justice, to racial justice, because that is the role that it plays in the region.”