Metro ridership grows in April as safety concerns impact transit agency – NBC Los Angeles

California

Shortly after Metro’s Board of Directors approved motions to address public safety concerns due recent violent attacks tied to the region’s transit system, officials announced Friday that ridership increased by 10.8% compared to the same time last year.

Average weekday ridership increased 9.2% compared to April 2023, officials reported. Metro had 26,210,300 boardings on its bus and rail services — with about 21,286,056 riders taken each weekday. There were 2,702,268 riders on Saturdays and 2,221,976 riders on Sundays, the agency said.    

April 2024 weekday ridership for bus and rail was at 80.5% compared to April 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.    

Weekend ridership in April reached 92.6% of the pre-pandemic level, and overall the agency’s combined bus and rail ridership in April reached 82.5% of its April 2019 pre-pandemic level, according to Metro.    

The total number of April rail boardings stood at 5.7 million with about 4.5 million of those trips taken on weekdays, according to the agency. 

Average ridership across the A, B, D and E rail lines rose by 2.6% on the weekdays, 2.7% on Saturdays and 1.4% on Sundays.

According to Metro, bus ridership stood at about 20.5 million, representing a 12.5% year-over-year ridership increase in April compared to the same period last year. Metro recorded an average of 762,811 bus boardings on the weekdays, up 10.9% over April 2023 and a new post-COVID record for weekday bus ridership. An average of 512,520 bus boardings were taken on Saturdays, and 418,132 bus boardings on Sundays.

The agency cited ridership growth as a result of weekend events, including the Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Los Angeles Festival of Books, Anime Nation Fest, CicLAvia, and L.A. Football Club. Additionally, Dodger fans are using the agency’s Dodger Stadium Express, which is free to all Dodger ticket holders.

In the first 22 games of the season, Metro said it has welcomed almost 81,000 Dodger fans onto the Dodger Stadium Express from both Union Station and the South Bay. Boardings have increased some 17.2% compared to the last season, the agency said.

Metro leaders have grappled with ongoing concerns regarding public safety for their customers and bus operators who were attacked in highly publicized crimes, despite statistics showing an overall drop in crime tied to buses and trains over the past year.

The agency’s latest statistics showed that in March crimes against persons were down 40.1% over March 2023, and down 27.6% from February. Metro officials have said that one incident of violence is too many, and the agency remains steadfast in improving safety on the system.

In recent years, Metro officials have wrestled over the best way to police the transit system. Three years ago — in the post-George Floyd-protest era of calls for reductions in law enforcement spending — Metro opted to vastly expand its use of “ambassadors,” who are essentially customer service representatives positioned across the transit system to provide support and information to riders and a resource for people to report maintenance or safety issues.    

According to Metro’s own website, however, the ambassadors are “not security officers and do not replace existing security personnel or law enforcement. Rather, they are an added workforce that collaborates with other Metro departments in order to maintain public safety and help make the system feel safer for our riders.” 

It was unclear how much the law enforcement increase being sought by the board members would cost the transit agency.    

On Thursday, Metro’s Board of Directors approved two motions to bolster public safety. Los Angeles Mayor and Board of Directors Chair Karen Bass called for a “surge” of law enforcement officials to be physically present on buses and trains, and proactively patrol areas. Bass said Metro staff will take steps to establish a “unified command” of the various law enforcement agencies who police the system — including Metro security, the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Long Beach Police Department.

During the board’s meeting, Bass recognized that transit agency contracts with law enforcement agencies,  Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins is “not authorized” to request status reports on deployment to provide oversight to ensure that officers are visibly deployed and be where they are needed. Some members of the board also raised concerns over tracking where law enforcement officers were, an issue previously brought up.

Metro will also look to establish cell service across the system.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, a member of the board, instructed staff to conduct a cost analysis of all public safety entities that patrol the system with the aim of understanding the “most effective” ways to make the system safer for everyone.

Additionally, Metro has implemented a pilot program to crack down on fare evaders in the B (Red) Line North Hollywood Station. They are also exploring ways to incorporate technology, such as facial recognition and add more cameras to deter crimes.

In April, the board also approved an emergency procurement declaration to speed up acquisition and installation of protective barriers for drivers on about 2,000 buses due to the “sudden, unexpected increased severity of assaults on operators.” The installation of these barriers are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Read original source here.

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