Yesterday, the SBLA took a look back at some of the issues that shaped 2021. Today, it’s time for Streetsblog editor Joe Linton to come up with some bold predictions for 2022!
As COVID is handled, Transit Ridership increases
The annoying coronavirus will not go away in the near future. Hopefully, reasonable public health practices – vaccines, masks, etc. – make COVID fairly manageable.
Prediction: Metro drivers will return to levels before COVID in 2022.
Although in 2021, there was an upward trend that the number of passengers in metro transit was increasing. As the service was restored and vaccinations provided some defense against COVID, the number of riders on weekdays increased from 489,000 (41 percent of pre-COVID) to 843,000 (74 percent).
There are various factors pushing the number of riders in different directions in 2021:
- Rising passenger numbers: Metro recovers service cuts – continues to hire operators to fully restore reliable service. Metro students’ relentless pilot makes it easier for hundreds of thousands of young people to ride. Metro’s low-income program is being made more efficient, including offering free rides as an incentive to sign up. Metro is offering half-price passes for the next six months. Although it got off to a rock-solid start, Metro NextGen survey changes – plus new bus lanes – should help facilitate improved bus service. Metro’s new initiatives for customer experiences (including more distribution to the uninhabited) could help make riding a little more inviting for everyone.
- Declining passenger numbers: COVID cases are currently on the rise. From January 10, Metro will return to charge bus fares (the buses had been free since the start of the pandemic). Metro’s shortage of drivers has created unreliable service. The construction (mostly for the Regional Connector metro – but also some Crenshaw / LAX) has closed parts of the Metro railway lines.
All in all, I believe that Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins and Chairman of the Board Hilda Solis will fulfill their promises to prioritize transit riders, and by the end of 2022, the monthly number of passengers will increase to at least the 1.2 million daily riders that Metro saw in 2019. While that will be good news, Metro will still have to strive to continue to increase the number of riders. In Solis’ words, Metro will return to pre-COVID equestrianism, and “we will not stop there.”
New bus lanes
Prediction: New bus lanes will open on Alvarado Street and La Brea Avenue.
Dedicated bus lanes are, and will continue to be, among the most cost-effective, fast, and important tools for improving Southern California transit. The collaboration between Metro and the LA City Transportation Department (LADOT) has already resulted in seven (!) New bus lane facilities over the past three calendar years. The new bus lanes will continue to arrive in 2022.
Scheduled bus lanes on La Brea Avenue will be installed in the spring – 9.5 miles from Sunset Boulevard to Coliseum Street.
The remaining Alvarado Street bus lanes – between 101 Freeway and Sunset Boulevard – came to a standstill in 2021. This street is officially a state highway, owned and operated by Caltrans. The project is working too slowly through the approval processes for Caltrans District 7, which was to be completed in October last year. By the end of 2022, I anticipate that Caltrans will add the new bus lanes on Alvarado.
Opening of the Regional Connector Subway
Prediction: The Regional Connector metro will open at the end of 2022.
According to Metro’s initial schedules, both the Regional Connector and the Crenshaw / LAX lines should already be open right now. Megaproject construction is unmanageable.
Aside from some amazing developments, I do not expect Metro’s troubled Crenshaw / LAX line to open in 2022. Current projections suggest it may open by mid-2022, but they keep getting pushed back, so my guess will be that it opens in early 2023.
November 2021 status report for LA Metro’s Regional Connector. 88.9% pr. 26/11/21, +1.8% since 29/10/21. The project is delayed and the report now says there is a 4-5 month schedule shift. https://t.co/TV5JJFiGSg pic.twitter.com/bbJogN2hNh
– numble (@numble) December 24, 2021
But the Los Angeles Regional Connector subway should be at the center.
According to the latest (November 2021) status report, construction is 88.9 percent complete, although it is still progressing slightly. What recently looked like an opening in August / September now shows November 26th. I would predict that the Metro management will keep this on track (pun intended) for an opening in November 2022. Reserve your remembrance TAP card as soon as possible.
Metro Transit police reform
Prediction: Metro will move some resources away from armed transit police.
Metro is nearing the end of a years-long process of restoring public safety on its trains and buses. One way of saying that things are actually changing is that Sheriff Alex Villanueva blatantly criticizes Metro’s board, staff, committees, etc. With Villanueva (in Bonin’s characterization) highly effective arguments for restoring police work, support for reform, 2022 will see a new transit security regime approved, including more transit ambassadors and fewer armed officers. Armed police will not completely disappear – and the current contracted agencies will not take such changes quietly – but the shift will benefit transit riders.
Prediction: At least three new Metro board members will be sworn in by 2022.
The election of 2022 is too far away at present. At this point next year, there will be a new LA mayor, new LA city council members and more. That means lots of changes in Metro as the mayor controls four seats on the board. Currently, these seats are held by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Mike Bonin, Jacqueline Dupont-Walker and Paul Krekorian.
As Garcetti is likely to travel to India soon, there may well be an interim mayor – before the election on November 8, 2022, the next mayor will be elected. Expect lots of revenue on the Metro board, and LA voters – be sure to vote for the candidate you want to see lead Metro.
Prediction: Metro and Caltrans will put federal infrastructure dollars into LA County freeway expansion projects.
There have been many statements that Metro and Caltrans are withdrawing from the worst racist and most environmentally damaging highway projects. Puha.
Some of these changes are new policies; for examples, see Caltrans’ brand new complete street policy and Metro’s recent confirmation that toll motorway funds can go to multimodal projects. Some internal shifts are also promising, with CEO Stephanie Wiggins reorganizing the Metro Highway Program.
There are still a lot of old school highway builders (Exhibit 1A: Metro Senior Executive Officer Abdollah Ansari) who stand for shots, and lots of executives who are willing to stand behind yet another damaging highway widening project. A few more lanes will no doubt finally solve that bottleneck, right?
With the adoption of President Joe Biden’s $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, there will be a lot of pressure to give the green light to lots of infrastructure projects, including the freeway expansion projects that Metro and Caltrans say they are withdrawing from. Think of jobs!
Unfortunately, I predict that by 2022, Metro and Caltrans will use federal infrastructure to expand LA County highways. And advocates – for the environment, environmental justice, civil rights, housing – have to fight to hell to kill these projects.