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Transportation and Mobility

With New Federal Aid, LA Metro Says It Will Restore Service To Pre-Pandemic Levels By September

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(Chava Sanchez/ LAist)
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The American Rescue Plan will provide U.S. public transit agencies more than $30 billion to keep buses and trains moving. About $1.6 billion of that aid will go to public transit agencies in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

That funding will be divvied up by the Southern California Association of Governments to county transit agencies, including the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Those agencies will then allot some of that aid money to municipal transit departments, such as LADOT and Foothill Transit.

With this new federal aid, L.A. Metro will be able to restore service to pre-pandemic levels by this September, according to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who chairs Metro's board. That's a full year earlier than initial projections, he said.

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In the early months of the pandemic, ridership on the county's transit system fell roughly 70%, and the agency was expecting it could take two years before ridership returned to pre-pandemic levels. The agency was also bracing for a $1.8 billion revenue shortfall, due mostly to a dramatic drop in sales tax revenue.

As a result, Metro cut bus and rail service by 20%, and ridership has been hovering at about 50% since the summer. The agency has been able to avoid layoffs, though it did offer employees a buyout, which "a small number of employees took," officials said.

Apart from the ARP funding, Metro officials said the agency is also set to receive more than $275 million for some major transit projects: $59 million for the Regional Connector and more than $218 million for the multiple phases of the Purple Line extension.

Speaking at a media briefing Thursday afternoon, Metro CEO Phillip Washington said that funding "will help us keep those projects on track and even accelerate them a bit," though it's not clear yet if that means they'll open earlier than expected.

The CARES Act last spring alloted roughly $1.1 billion for transit agencies in Southern California, and Metro ended up receiving $772.6 million, according to officials.

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