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L.A. Metro Broadens Its Definition of Regional Mobility

The nation’s third largest transit provider is considering several approaches to reducing congestion and single-occupancy trips, while giving residents and visitors more transportation options.

An L.A. Metro train stopped at a station.
Watch for public transit in Los Angeles to have its thumb in any number of transportation pies as it continues to expand its role toward improving mobility overall.

L.A. Metro, the third-largest transit provider in the nation, is considering various pilot projects aimed at reducing congestion. One approach is to offer incentives to reduce single-occupancy trips. Known loosely as the “travel awards pilot,” Metro is working with employer partners who want to offer incentives to workers to not drive alone. Their choice can be to work remote or carpool, but it can also mean biking, walking or taking transit.

“Can we pay people not to drive alone? Which is a really interesting concept,” L.A. Metro Chief Innovation Officer Joshua Schank offered during a transit panel Wednesday at the CoMotion LA conference in downtown Los Angeles. The conference, held at the Japanese American National Museum, is both virtual and in person. Government Technology covered the event virtually.

“That’s the fundamental problem in Los Angeles that causes all the traffic, and creates the inequities, and creates the mobility challenges, and creates the pollution, and all the problems that we know,” said Schank.

That’s the carrot. On the flip side is the stick. Metro is exploring another pilot project to deploy congestion pricing — officials prefer the more hopeful term “decongestion pricing” — as another tool to reduce car trips. Watch for these proposals to surface next year.

Combined with efforts to reduce car travel are a host of other projects to give the millions of residents and visitors to L.A. County mobility options. Numerous transit officials at the conference touted Metro Micro, an on-demand shared-ride service, now available in eight zones across the region, with a ninth soon to be available. In less than a year, the program has provided some 130,000 rides.

Services like these are “rethinking what exactly a transportation agency does,” said Shaun Miller, a transportation planner in L.A. Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation.

“It’s now part of our family of services,” Stephanie Wiggins, CEO of L.A. Metro, said in some of her opening remarks Wednesday, adding that more than 60 percent of on-demand riders say Micro is the first time they’ve engaged with the transit agency.

“It’s not enough to merely meet the traditional ridership benchmarks. We need to raise standards and look at other benchmarks that determine success,” said Wiggins.

L.A. Metro is also set to launch an overhaul of the bus network, doubling the number of frequent bus lines, which serve more than 80 percent of current riders. These lines would be served by 10-minute bus frequency.

On the rail side, Metro is juggling 55 rail projects totaling more than $21 billion.

“So, there’s lots to be excited about, and hopeful for,” said Wiggins, describing 2022 as “a huge year for L.A. Metro.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.