The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors voted Thursday to reallocate about $24 million to restore transit service that was cut at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Restoring service to our riders — many of whom are essential workers — is simply the right thing to do,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a Twitter post.
The $24.3 million will be taken from the “Capital State of Good Repair” and “Other Operational Needs” categories and used to restore transit service no later than the end of the fiscal year, “with a priority for high ridership lines and an emphasis on disadvantaged communities,” according to the unanimously approved motion.
The motion also directs Metro to begin preparing immediately through hiring, maintenance and procurement activities.
“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,” the motion reads.
“I don’t think there’s a greater need right now for this agency or for its passengers than to begin to restore service, particularly bus service, to those who are transit dependent in Los Angeles,” said MTA board member and Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin.
“We have right now a system that, due to the budget cuts, is not meeting the demand of the moment,” he said. “We still get reports, I get them on almost a daily basis, of people who say the buses are still too overcrowded, or they missed a bus, or the service isn’t running … there are things we can do to address that.”
The motion also directs Los Angeles County and state officials to support inoculating Metro’s workforce as soon as possible, with options including vaccination drives at its bus and rail divisions; to prioritize a safe return for operators and maintenance personnel; and continue to ensure protective measures are in place to minimize the chance of employees transmitting the virus.
Finally, the motion directs Metro to collaborate with Los Angeles County to provide seniors with transportation assistance, such as giving out TAP cards, to help them get to their vaccination appointments.
The motion introduced by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Hahn, Bonin, Supervisor Hilda Solis and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia increases the Fiscal Year 2021 mid-year budget by $765 million, from $6.23 billion to $6.99 billion.
The budget increase was possible because the city did not lose as much in sales tax revenue as expected.
“It was obviously good that our sales tax revenues didn’t decline as much as we had thought or expected, and we had extra sales tax money to make this mid-year budget happen,” Hahn said.
“I know Metro staff, you’ve been trying to address the board priorities the best you can, but I do feel like you failed to address one of the biggest issues that we brought up during the original budget discussion, which was to prioritize increasing service,” she said. “Now that we have some money to restore some of that, we should.”
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