2020 Mobility 21 Summit
By Kat Janowicz
Mobility 21 Leaders Open Up about Equity and Recovery
It’s important to acknowledge the role that transportation infrastructure plays in perpetuating systemic racism, said Metrolink CEO Stephanie Wiggins. “I’m proud of Mobility 21 for not only acknowledging it, but then stating that we’re committed to transform the way we all do business in transportation to help close the gap of racial inequality and to better serve our communities of color. It says Mobility 21 is not going to be standing on the sidelines.”
Mobility 21 Advisory Board Member Spotlight:
San Diego Association of Governments
Considered one of the preeminent transportation planning experts in the nation, Hasan Ikhrata is the Executive Director of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). SANDAG is the leading research, planning, and transportation agency for the San Diego region. The agency builds consensus; makes strategic plans; obtains and allocates resources; plans, engineers, and builds public transportation, and provides information on a broad range of topics pertinent to the region’s quality of life. Agency policymakers are elected officials from each of the area’s 18 cities and the county. Hasan leads a staff of about 350 professionals who develop public policy initiatives for elected officials on numerous issues encompassing population growth, transportation, environmental management, economic development, municipal finance, binational coordination, and public safety.
Hasan has more than 30 years of public and private sector transportation planning experience. As Executive Director of SANDAG, he directs day‐to‐day operations of the agency and implements policies set by its Board of Directors. In addition, Hasan is the Chief Executive Officer of the SANDAG Service Bureau, the nonprofit public benefit corporation chartered by SANDAG.
Hasan has received several awards and honors from various organizations and agencies including the American Society of Public Administration, Southern California Leadership Council, Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange County Business Council, League of California Cities, City of Los Angeles, State of California, Association of the San Bernardino County Special Districts, the Building Industry Association, regional chapters of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, and numerous others.
Hasan holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Civil and Industrial Engineering from Zaporozhye University in the former Soviet Union, a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from UCLA, and a PhD Candidacy in Urban Planning and Transportation from the University of Southern California.
Prior to joining SANDAG in 2018, Hasan worked for Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), and South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).
The maps above show the difference between the frequency of Metro’s current service and what is planned under NextGen. The differences are most pronounced during the midday hours — a time when many members of the public said they wanted more service. Click here to view map full-size.
NextGen Plan to Improve Metro Bus System
is Approved by Agency’s Board of Directors
The NextGen plan to restructure Metro’s vast bus system was approved this month by the Metro Board of Directors on a 10 to 1 vote. The plan will increase frequency of buses, improve service on most routes and put more buses in areas with the greatest demand.
NextGen has been in the works for nearly three years and is the most sweeping overhaul of the Metro bus system in 25 years. Under the new plan — to be implemented in stages, beginning in December (more on this below) — buses will arrive every five to 10 minutes for 83 percent of current riders compared to around 48 percent today.
Metro runs the nation’s second busiest bus system, but ridership has declined over the last decade. The NextGen plan is a direct response to better serve existing riders and attract new ones.
NextGen is also a blunt acknowledgement that the agency’s bus fleet does the heavy lifting ridership-wise, carrying more than 70 percent of Metro’s boardings on a typical day. Metro’s own data indicates that Metro’s bus system is a mobility lifeline for numerous riders who don’t have many choices on how to get around. Our bus riders have an average annual income of almost $27,000 (prior to the pandemic) and 57 percent are impoverished.
What riders need to know:
- Metro will make changes to service over its next three planned service changes — in Dec. 2020, June 2021 and Dec. 2021. The majority of changes will come in June 2021.
- Prior to any service changes, Metro will provide notice to riders both via signage and online to ensure the public is informed of the service changes.
- When the plan is fully implemented, the number of bus lines running every five to 10 minutes on weekdays would jump from 16 to 29 and from two to 14 on weekends.
- As a result, the number of Los Angeles County residents who could walk to bus lines running every five to 10 minutes would more than double from 900,000 currently to almost 2.2 million.
- Under the plan, most local and rapid buses will be combined. These new lines will stop fewer times than a local bus but a few more than a rapid. Transit signal priority that has been a key part of rapid service will also now work these new lines. The end result will be a faster door-to-door trip for all riders, whether they currently take Metro Local or Rapid routes. On average stops would be a quarter mile apart.
- The 720 (Wilshire Boulevard), 754 (Vermont Avenue) and 761 (Van Nuys Blvd. to the Westside) will continue in service.
- In a small number of cases, a Metro bus line will be instead operated by one of L.A. County’s many municipal bus systems — in particular in areas where Metro bus service currently overlaps with other transit providers.
- In some areas with bus service that is perpetually under-used or areas that are difficult to serve with full size buses on fixed routes, Metro is planning on launching an on-demand shuttle bus service called Metro Micro. The initial two Metro Micro service areas are scheduled to launch in December. We’ll have more info as we get closer to opening. Four additional zones are planned to launch in mid-2021.
- NextGen was approved by Metro’s Service Councils over the summer and public hearings were held. Based on public input 35 changes were made to the draft plan — mostly restoring service in some areas. Overall, more than 300 meetings were held as the NextGen Plan was developed and more than 18,000 comments from the public received.
One new challenge going forward for NextGen will be restoring service. In response to safer-at-home orders and a drop in sales tax revenues and ridership, Metro is running on average about 80 percent of its normal service this fiscal year for roughly half the pre-COVID number of riders.
To fully implement NextGen as envisioned, Metro will need to increase service back to pre-pandemic levels. That has been a particular focus of some Metro Board Members and stakeholders in recent weeks.
Metro staff are due to deliver a plan to the Board later this year on how the agency plans to increase service while dealing with funding issues related to the pandemic.
The plan for now — pandemic and funding permitting — is to add service as demand grows so that we can return to pre-COVID-19 service levels. At Thursday’s meeting, Metro Board Chair and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said funding will be available to add enough service to meet NextGen’s goals.
These are real issues and we’re not trying to gloss over them. At the same time, Metro believes the NextGen Plan creates the foundation for a significantly improved bus system.
And we’re not done.
Several bus rapid transit projects with funding from the Measure M sales tax are in the planning stages and Metro staff continue to work with cities across L.A. County on improvements including bus lanes, traffic signal priority and more comfortable bus stops with better protection from the elements and more rider data.
What are your thoughts, readers?
OCTA Launches Two Major Transportation Studies:
On Improvements to South Orange County and Adding Freeway Bus Rapid Transit
The Orange County Transportation Authority has launched two major transportation studies, one that addresses south Orange County’s transportation needs and the other that considers adding Bus Rapid Transit on two major stretches of freeway.
The first study, called the South Orange County Multimodal Transportation Study (SOCMTS), will examine a wide range of transportation needs over the next 25 years, including improvements to streets, bus and other transit options, highways and bikeways.
It aims to address transportation needs as the area continues to grow with new residents and jobs and as travel patterns and needs evolve.
The area covered by the study encompasses about 40 percent of Orange County, generally south of State Route 55 to the San Diego County line, and from the coast to the foothills.
A virtual public meeting explaining the study was held the first week in October and a recording of the meeting is available with more information about the project at www.octa.net/SouthOCStudy.
OCTA also welcomes comments through an online survey to hear from those who live, work and visit south Orange County. The brief 12-question survey, with a few additional optional questions, is available online in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.
OCTA, which is Orange County’s transportation planning agency, is responsible for providing a balanced and sustainable transportation system for the entire county. The focus on south Orange County is necessary because over the next 25 years, projections show population growing by 170,000 residents and an additional 130,000 jobs are expected.
At the same time, travel patterns and transportation needs have continued to evolve since OCTA’s last major transportation study of the area in 2008. The projects from that study have resulted in a more than $1.5 billion investment in the area, including the I-5 carpool lane project between San Juan Creek Road and Avenida Pico, and the I-5 widening between SR-73 and El Toro Road now under construction.
Since the 2008 study, other significant changes have occurred, including the elimination of the SR-241 Toll Road extension in favor of a non-tolled extension of Los Patrones Parkway, a decline in traditional transit ridership, the introduction of mobile transportation apps and on-demand services such as Uber and Lyft, as well as the introduction of community transit options like shuttles and trolleys.
The South County study will continue in phases through the end of 2021 and residents, business owners and other key stakeholders will be asked to participate throughout.
Freeway Bus Rapid Transit
The second study is considering two potential freeway bus rapid transit (BRT) routes, one on approximately 30 miles of I-5, between the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo transit station and the Fullerton Park and Ride, and the other on SR-55 between the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach.
Freeway bus rapid transit is express bus service that travels on the freeway, using carpool lanes, express lanes or even shoulder lanes to more efficiently serve key destinations. Stations would be located along the freeway and would connect to those key destinations with local bus service and shuttles.
In the process, encouraging public transit would help take more people out of single-driver vehicles and help ease freeway traffic congestion.
Orange County residents, and those who use freeways to get to work and visit destinations along the I-5 and SR-55 freeways, are encouraged to take a brief online survey to help give valuable feedback on the BRT plans.
More information can be found at www.octa.net/FreewayBRT.
The study builds on the 2018 OC Transit Vision, which established a plan for the next 20 years of transit in Orange County and identified the I-5 and SR-55 corridors as high priorities for transit. The study will identify potential operating lanes, station locations and needed parking, among other necessary infrastructure improvements.
Metrolink Introduces New Loyalty and Rewards Program for Riders
Metrolink, Southern California’s regional train service, launched SoCal Explorer, a new loyalty program that rewards riders with points as well as exclusive offers and perks from local businesses and attractions throughout the Southern California region. The program makes it more affordable for people to make taking the train a part of their everyday lifestyle.
The SoCal Explorer program was designed to reward all Metrolink riders, whether they take the train to commute to work or ride on the weekend for some fun with friends and family. Members earn one point for every mile they travel, which they can redeem for free tickets – making taking the train even more affordable. Just for signing up, members will receive enough points for a round-trip ticket, so new riders can redeem their points and try out the service for free.
“We are pleased to reward Southern Californians for making the choice to leave their car behind and take the train,” said Metrolink Board Chair Brian Humphrey. “We hope to encourage more people to ride with us, to keep our region’s traffic congestion low and improve our region’s air quality. Plus, taking the train is a healthy lifestyle choice allowing people to avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”
While the SoCal Explorer program was created to benefit its customers, Metrolink saw an opportunity to also support the recovery of local businesses that were hit hard by the effects of COVID-19. Currently more than 30 local businesses are SoCal Explorer Partners, offering discounts and other incentives to program members in exchange for being promoted as a part of the program. Businesses can sign up to be partners by visiting socalexplorer.metrolinktrains.com/partnerships.
“Orange County businesses need our support now more than ever. Metrolink’s SoCal Explorer program is another great reason to mask up and get out of the house for a train ride to one of Orange County’s many restaurants, stores, and attractions,” said Lucy Dunn, President & CEO, Orange County Business Council (OCBC), a leading voice of business in the region that enhances economic development and quality of life.
Creating a Metrolink SoCal Explorer account is easy by simply visiting SoCalExplorer.Metrolinktrains.com. Metrolink mobile app users can register with SoCal Explorer using the same email address used for the mobile app account. Tickets purchased through the Metrolink Mobile app will earn points and be credited to their SoCal Explorer account automatically. Paper tickets users can take a photo of their tickets and easily upload it to their SoCal Explorer account to be rewarded with points.
“Our customers are at the center of everything we do, and our new SoCal Explorer program rewards them for the trust they continue to show us during these extraordinary times,” said Metrolink CEO Stephanie N. Wiggins. “This month, as we approach the anniversary of our 28th year of service, I can’t think of a better way to thank customers for riding with us than to reward them for each mile they travel.”
Metrolink takes every precaution possible to protect the health and safety of its riders. Face masks are required on station platforms and aboard trains that are continuously cleaned and disinfected by a Clean Care Crew. As an additional layer of protection every day each train car is deep-cleaned and electrostatically sprayed with hospital-grade disinfectants. And social distancing is a breeze using Metrolink’s How Full is My Train? tool to check recent ridership levels and ensure there’s plenty of space for their adventure. To see all the ways Metrolink is working to keep riders and team members safe, please visit metrolinktrains.com/cleancommute.
For more information about Metrolink’s SoCal Explorer rewards program please visit SoCalExplorer.metrolinktrains.com.
Mobile device screen shot of SBCTA’s Google Map for the SR 210 Lane Addition/Base Line Interchange project.
Interactive Maps Make it Easy to Navigate SBCTA’s Construction Projects
Did you know the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) provides an interactive and mobile-friendly Google Map for each of its projects? The project-specific maps, available at goSBCTA.com/PlanBuildMove, deliver real-time closure and detour information so that residents and visitors can plan ahead as they move throughout the county for work, school and other activities.
The latest SBCTA Todayvideo segment shows users how to navigate the interactive maps, which are easily accessible on a computer or mobile device. Users can click through color-coded icons (consistent across every project) to see current construction activities including closures and detours and learn about the project itself.
Projects with live Google Maps today include I-10 Express Lanes, SR 210 Lane Addition/Base Line Interchange, Redlands Passenger Rail Project (Arrow), Mt. Vernon Avenue Bridge, and SR 60/Archibald Avenue.
On Tuesday, Dec. 1, SCAG will host the Southern California Economic Summit virtually for the first time in its 11-year history.
SCAG’s Economic Summit to Discuss Resiliency and Equity in the Wake of COVID-19
The 11th annual Southern California Economic Summit is bringing together leading voices in business, policy, planning and academia on Tuesday, Dec. 1 to develop strategies for building back a strong, inclusive Southern California economy.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern California’s cities, families and cornerstone industries have all been seismically impacted and face enormous challenges on the road to recovery. Join civic and business leaders from across Southern California for this vital conversation centered around “Charting an Inclusive Regional Recovery.” Panel and roundtable sessions will include:
Panel: Resiliency in the Era of Disruption
Although the Great Recession presented daunting challenges to local governments across the region and state, the region is seeing new challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across the board, cities and counties are facing major stressors from financial crises, increasing climate risk, major public health challenges and other disruptions. This panel will address the question of resiliency and discuss the types of tools, resources and reforms available to local governments to provide a stable foundation for the future.
Roundtables: Taking Action Toward a More Inclusive Economy
Equity is an important dimension of each of our region’s most pressing economic concerns. This session will tie together the interrelated issues of housing, transportation and jobs access in a holistic look at what it will take to build a truly equitable regional economy. These roundtable discussions, each facilitated by a respected authority in the field, will build out from a central issue, teasing out complex questions and providing an opportunity for attendees to have a voice in developing lasting solutions to lift all Southern Californians on the road to economic recovery.
Don’t miss this opportunity to check-in on the state of Southern California economy – register here.
Transportation Corridor Agencies Expand Online Education Resources for Kids
The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) have expanded their successful online Educational Resources program for children. Launched in the spring as parents and teachers were thrust into a world of distance learning, the library of content caters to students from preschool to middle school.
New content added for fall at TheTollRoads.com/Educational-Resources enhances the already rich assortment of activities available on the new webpage. Younger children will enjoy a connect-the-dots activity that forms the shape of Orange County. Preschoolers will also have fun with worksheets that guide them through cutting practice (with safety scissors – of course!). This is in addition to an array of coloring pages that feature Toll Roads environmental sites and iconic scenes. And while they’re learning the ABCs, why not practice with 26 terms that relate to roads and transportation?
Those who haven’t already explored the signature Fossils in Your Backyard interactive book are in for adventure as they discover fossils that were found when The Toll Roads were originally built.
Students of all ages will appreciate getting out in nature with a Nature Walk activity. Word searches with varying degrees of difficulty are fun and educational for a road trip or a break from the screen on a school day at home. The themed word searches allow younger students to identify basic driving-related words, while older students will search for complex words that educate them about tolling points and on- and off-ramps. Slated to debut soon is a Bingo game focusing on The Toll Roads that can be played at home with the family or in a virtual setting for middle schoolers and their friends.
The Educational Resources program was an innovation born of necessity when TCA – operator of the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads – set out to be a helpful resource to the community amidst the challenges of COVID-19 and statewide Safer-at-Home orders. The emphasis during this time has been to support our community and staff. TCA adopted the motto, “We’re here for you now, and we’ll be here for you when it’s time to get back on the road.”
As our county, state and nation continue to navigate through the challenges of the pandemic, TCA is committed to continuing to aid the community with tools such as the Educational Resource program.
For more information, visit thetollroads.com.