Metro serves as a lifeline to our region, communities and economy. It is crucial that our system is resilient, as Metro’s service continuity has the potential to affect several million people. As the climate changes, it will be critical to not only maintain reliable and consistent service, but to also increase passenger comfort and safety.
Projections for climate change, regional population, land use, technology and other factors play a role in how the Metro system is designed, used and operated. Since 2012, Metro has utilized these projections and assessed the resiliency of our systems against anticipated and unpredictable impacts to reduce the potential for service disruptions, and to clearly identify opportunities to strengthen system resilience. In 2019 and 2020, we continued this endeavor by working cross-departmentally to develop an All-Hazards Mitigation Plan, pursuing flexible adaptation pathways and expanding our leadership in advancing regional resilience.
Managing Response and Recovery during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Despite the economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Metro provided regular service, while ensuring the safety of our employees and riders. We recognize that our system is vital — a lifeline for many essential workers. We were determined to provide continued services for those who need them most, but also to leverage our resources to emerge from this pandemic stronger and more resilient than how we entered into it.
During this pandemic, Metro expanded telecommuting practices to keep Metro employees working safely from home if appropriate to their tasks, distributed masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees and to the public and ran multilingual public awareness campaigns to keep our riders and employees safe. Metro was also able to continue and even expedite some active construction projects that will expand mobility options for LA County residents in the near future.
As an immediate response to the pandemic, Metro promptly convened a Recovery Task Force comprised of cross-departmental staff who developed short- and long-term recommendations to improve system recovery and resilience.
Short-term recommendations included approaches to improve air flow and ventilation in buses, rail cars and facilities, which work together to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and provide a greater level of comfort for riders. Mid to longer term recommendations included prioritizing open and effective data-sharing with stakeholders to build trust, identify disparities and create efficiencies and cost-savings in the delivery of Metro services.
Longer term recommendations included investing in green infrastructure partnerships with utilities and other agencies to support a clean energy transition and increased regional water resilience, to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a sustainable recovery.
Together, these actions are enabling equitable and sustainable outcomes, promoting collaboration and participation with Angelenos and other stakeholders that together will create a stronger and more resilient LA County.
Designing for Climate Resilience
As the climate changes and Metro’s system expands, it’s ever more critical to integrate resilience into planning and design of capital projects. When a project begins, we conduct climate vulnerability assessments to identify those climate hazards (such as extreme heat or precipitation events) that may impact the system infrastructure, riders or Metro staff and develop solutions to reduce the likely impacts of those risks.
Through our Sustainability Engagement Team, Metro creates partnerships across its planning and design groups to leverage the results of these assessments into solutions that create more sustainable, reliable and resilient infrastructure, that protects riders and reduces system disruptions and operational costs over time.
In 2019 and 2020, the Westside Purple (D line) Line Extension - Section 3 (PLE3) project teams conducted resiliency evaluations and assessed several climate-related risks and vulnerabilities, including seismic activity, fires, extreme heat, precipitation and drought, sea level rise and flooding. The team verified that the tunnel designs meet resilient thresholds to local seismic liquefaction, a geologic phenomenon that causes loosely packed and water-logged soil to lose its strength during earthquakes, a scenario that can damage structures. Recognizing this local hazard, foundations of the Westwood/UCLA Station and Westwood/VA Hospital Station were designed to a depth that will anchor the station in dense soil, minimizing risk to the structure should seismic liquefaction occur during a strong earthquake.
This exercise to intentionally integrate resilience into the project during its earliest stages reduced mitigation measures assigned to the project to secure funding. The team continues to implement recommendations following the initial assessment, including the addition of semi-permanent flood gates and drainage system improvements to reduce the risk of flooding at tunnels and stations. PLE3 is only one example of how Metro is incorporating resilient design into our transportation system – building a stronger and more sustainable LA County.
Customer Experience Plan & Beating the Heat
Metro seeks to continually improve the quality of life for those who live, work and play in LA County. Our transportation system is more than a transit network – it is connective tissue building the region’s economic strength, providing a substantial solution to our climate crisis and serving as a platform through which we can address social inequity.
In 2020, Metro launched our Customer Experience Plan, providing an earnest evaluation of riders’ concerns and outlining Metro’s comprehensive response. The plan tackles service, comfort, reliability and frequency challenges, cleanliness and security. It aligns improvements with key Metro initiatives, including the Vision 2028 Strategic Plan, NextGen Bus Plan and new equity policies.
One key rider concern addressed in the plan is urban heat and extreme temperatures experienced by riders at many of our stations and stops. Metro aims to provide shelter and shade trees at bus stops in those communities most vulnerable to high heat. We committed to identify funding to increase the number of bus stops with shelters and/or shade trees from 25% to 60% by 2025.
While the goal of 60% of bus stop locations with shelter may not look like much, when targeting high ridership stops, this intervention would provide 93.19% of Metro’s bus riders within the city of Los Angeles with relief from heat.
Metro is partnering with the City of LA and is looking to other jurisdictions to prioritize new bus shelters in areas of highest need over the next five years. Together, these partnerships and the strategic implementation of our plan will help Metro to deliver relief from heat to our riders, improve rider experience and better provide a world-class transportation system for Angelenos.
Forecasting a Connected and Sustainable Future through our Long Range Transportation Plan
In 2020, Metro’s Board of Directors unanimously adopted the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), a 30-year plan to map how future transportation investments will be leveraged to maximize mobility benefits across LA County. The LRTP will help Metro create a more prosperous, connected future for the region, while deepening our commitment to fiscal, environmental and social responsibility.
The LRTP was developed alongside Moving Beyond Sustainability and in alignment with Metro’s Equity Platform. It commits $400 billion to mobility and sustainability goals and identifies specific performance indicators, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction, air quality improvement and a doubling of transit mode share.
LRTP goals will increase transit ridership, enhance regional mobility, support economic recovery and promote green construction practices by: (1) providing high-quality mobility options that enable people to spend less time traveling; (2) delivering outstanding trip experiences for all users of the system; (3) enhancing communities and lives through mobility and access to opportunity; (4) transforming LA County through regional collaboration and national leadership; and (5) providing responsive, accountable and trustworthy governance within the Metro organization. This plan emphasizes the need for bold policies and building of close.
As a leader in the industry and the region, Metro is addressing the most pressing challenges facing our communities, including impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff is currently developing a Short Range Transportation Plan to handle near term potential impacts to budget, ridership and delivery strategies due to the pandemic on LRTP implementation.
Together, these plans will help Metro create a more resilient LA County by leveraging our system assets, investments and sphere of influence.
Understanding This Target
This target measures Metro’s efforts to safeguard our system for the riders and communities that depend on it by identifying which assets are most at risk of being affected by manmade and natural hazards (e.g., extreme heat, grid outages, wildfires, heavy precipitation, etc.). We will identify potential acute or chronic hazards to critical and/or vulnerable assets through assessments like the Triennial Threat and Vulnerability Assessment Program, all hazard mitigation planning efforts and climate vulnerability assessments. By identifying and understanding these risks, Metro can prioritize the most pressing vulnerabilities and proactively identify actions to help us prepare and adapt. Performance on this target will reflect the supporting activities completed within each calendar year.
In 2019, our updated Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) made significant progress in assessing our infrastructure’s vulnerability to climate change impacts. The CAAP risk assessment covered 1,341 assets. While most assets that received a “high” or “extreme” risk rating currently exist or are under construction, many are still in the planning stage. If addressed early enough in the planning process, adaptation measures can be incorporated prior to construction, which both reduces risk levels and is more cost-effective
Recognizing this opportunity, Metro conducted climate vulnerability assessments in 2019 and 2020 for several capital projects in the planning and design phases to identify climate hazards that can impact system infrastructure and performance. Additionally, in 2019, Metro began developing an All-Hazards Mitigation Plan, for which a final draft is expected in 2021. This plan identifies the threats from and vulnerabilities to natural hazards for all Metro assets, as well as ways to reduce and/or mitigate potential natural hazards to Metro’s operations
Understanding This Target
Metro’s Flexible Adaptation Pathways approach creates a structure for thoughtful, incremental integration of adaptation strategies into Metro’s business units by identifying alternatives and establishing triggers for action. This target measures the effectiveness of this process, which will be supported by a monitoring program that evolves over time as data and information become available. Integrating this approach into Metro’s state-of-the-art asset management, project planning processes and maintenance practices will minimize risk to business continuity.
While identifying all acute shocks and stressors to our assets is an iterative process, we are moving forward with incorporating identified climate adaptation strategies into strategic departments and functions through the flexible adaptation pathways model. To be successful, this process requires engaging several groups within each department across the agency. In 2019 and 2020, the Environmental Compliance and Sustainability Department’s Engagement Team engaged multiple departments to integrate climate adaptation across Planning, Procurement, Asset Management and Operations. This coordination leveraged the flexible adaptation pathways model for implementing climate resilience strategies related to each department’s core function.
Metro also made strides in 2020 to plan for projected extreme temperatures due to climate change that will stand to negatively affect passenger comfort and safety. After evaluating rider feedback, Metro developed and adopted a Customer Experience Plan to address multiple concerns, including urban heat island effect at many of our stations and stops. Through the Plan’s implementation, Metro is actively incorporating climate adaptation strategies into existing infrastructure. This includes ongoing work at Metro and in partnership with the City of Los Angeles to adding tree shade and shelter structures to bus stops – especially in the communities that are and will be most vulnerable to extreme heat.
Understanding This Target
As our investments in resilience address both physical assets and social vulnerability, this target measures our work to develop, prioritize and implement improvements to critical infrastructure in Equity Focused Communities (EFCs). Ongoing improvements to reduce risks include but are not limited to maintaining an aggressive State of Good Repair program, increasing redundancy of communication systems, installing backup power, coordinating regional multi-agency resilience programs and preparing to provide resources to meet employee and patron needs post-disaster.
In 2020, Metro made strides to prioritize resiliency improvements through the new Station Evaluation Program, which aims to maintain our stations in a state of good repair. This new program began with an evaluation of 52 stations in the Gateway Cities Service Area, including several in EFCs, based on 32 performance measures (e.g., signage, map cases, electronic monitors, turnstiles, escalators, seating, elevators, graffiti, painted surfaces, etc.). Stations received performance ratings and will soon undergo a streamlined, quarterly inspection that will help us track trends, prioritize repairs and perform upgrades to station infrastructure. This process will also support the identification of recurring issues reported by patrons, allowing staff to seek remedial and preventative solutions. We intend to strengthen this program through continued collaboration with surrounding jurisdictions and agencies.
In 2020, Metro also made several improvements to operations to reduce risk, none more timely or important than Metro’s swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Metro convened a Recovery Task Force that implemented immediate actions to maintain safe service for essential workers, while also planning long-term strategies charting a resilient path forward through the creation of green jobs and green infrastructure.
In anticipation of future natural disasters, we also strengthened partnerships and information sharing mechanisms in 2019 and 2020 through continued participation in the Southern California Transportation Mutual Assistance Compact (TransMAC). This agreement streamlines the mutual aid process between 20+ transit agencies, enabling agencies to respond to planned and unplanned emergencies and events so that critical transportation infrastructure remains available. The safety of our operations, staff and riders is our highest priority, and in the face of both a pandemic and a changing climate, Metro’s participation in this Compact is and will continue to be critical