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February 2022 Metro Board Meeting Recap: Railyard Overrun, Unarmed Security, and More

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Yesterday, the Metro board met, discussed, and voted on various items. Below is a recap of several actions taken by the board.

DTLA Railyard Turnback Project Cost Overrun Approved

Metro map of Division 20 Turnback project
Metro map of Division 20 Turnback project

The board wasn't happy about it, but ultimately voted unanimously to approve a $75 million cost overrun on the Division 20 Portal Widening and Turnback Facility project. The Division 20 railyard is located along the L.A. River in the downtown L.A. Arts District. The project revamps the railyard there in order to support the three-phase westward extension of the Metro D (Purple) Line to Westwood.

As SBLA backgrounded last week, the $802 million under-construction project has already been plagued with various costly setbacks - including contractor design errors and contaminated soils. The revised budget is now $877 million.

Several boardmembers expressed concerns that with the project about thirty percent complete and already about ten percent over budget, what assurances are there that its costs wouldn't continue to balloon? Metro staff responded that the underground portions of the project are nearing completion, so there will be less in the way of unanticipated conditions, but staff didn't rule out additional cost overruns.

Some Details Emerge on Reforming Transit Policing

Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins led a presentation on Metro plans to shift its approach to transit policing.

In June 2020, the Metro board directed the agency to reimagine public safety by gradually shifting some resources away from armed law enforcement to unarmed responders including transit ambassadors, elevator attendants, homeless outreach, mental health services, and more. In March 2021, the board approved $40 million to get those unarmed response programs underway during the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Metro's law enforcement leadership dragged its heels, resisting the reforms and delaying their implementation (and forcing approval of a year-long extension of the problematic multi-agency law enforcement contract). Last December, the Metro board committed an additional $40 million for these new unarmed response programs in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Metro Transit Ambassador Program - slide from Metro presentation
Metro Transit Ambassador Program - slide from Metro presentation

It now appears that Metro's Transit Ambassador Program will get underway this fall. When the program was questioned by Glendale Councilmember Ara Najarian, Wiggins defended it as complementing other Metro security efforts, part of a pilot place-based multi-pronged approach.

Also in the works are stepped-up homeless outreach efforts that include new partnerships. Metro is planning a workforce development partnership to bring in medical and social work students to do homeless outreach. Under a contract with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, mobile crisis outreach teams will train and work with Metro personnel. Metro is also working with the L.A. Mission to pilot outreach to encampments at and adjacent to Metro's stations and other properties.

The new programs are intended to support a layered approach that will be part of Metro's next law enforcement contract, which will take effect when the current (recently extended) multi-agency transit policing contract ends in June 2023. Reforming that contract is one of the priorities for Metro's Public Safety Advisory Committee. Metro intends to release its new Law Enforcement RFP (request for proposals) next month, with a thirty-day public review.

North 710 Freeway Corridor Projects Can Be Multi-Modal

The board unanimously approved the motion, shepherded by County Supervisor Hilda Solis, that re-re-affirms that a broad range of complete streets projects are eligible for N. 710 Freeway funding which was available after the 710 extension was canceled. The motion received a great deal of praise from boardmembers, representatives of N. 710 corridor cities, and community groups.

Eastside L Line Extension Follow-Up

Metro Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 map
Metro Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 map

Metro staff presented cost estimates and potential project phasing for extending the Eastside L (Gold) Line to Whittier. Similar to recent discussion of the West Santa Ana Branch rail line, boardmembers and area leaders expressed support for building all of the line right away.

The board approved a motion, by Solis, that directs Metro staff to report back in April on ways to fund and accelerate the Eastside extension.

Miscellaneous: Bike Parking, Electric Buses, Local Small Business

    • The board approved the contract for new expanded electronic bike lockers at Metro stations. More on this at earlier SBLA coverage and today's The Source.
    • The board approved a motion, by County Supervisor Janice Hahn, that directs Metro's CEO to bring a proposal to the board for upgrading planned J (Silver) Line electric buses to extend their range to serve the entire line - all the way to the harbor area. One of two pilot electric bus projects, the electrification of J Line buses was originally scheduled to have been completed by June 2021, but was delayed due to changes in charging infrastructure. It is now anticipated to be completed in 2023.
    • The board approved a new three-year pilot Local Small Business Enterprise (LSBE) Program.

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