Creating a New Generation of Metro Riders and Workers

Rendering of proposed development for the Vermont Manchester site (Killefer Flammang Architects).

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors approved initiatives that would create a new generation of public transit workers and riders, and help homeless individuals staying in buses, trains and stations secure housing and services.

“It is important to ensure that our youth are deriving all of the benefits of Metro’s growing public transit system, whether as passengers or as future members of its workforce,” said Board Member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the initiatives.

The Board gave Metro the green light to partner with the County on developing a college-preparatory boarding academy as part of the County-driven project at the intersection of Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard in South LA. Other components of the project include 180 units of affordable housing, 50,000 square feet of retail, and various transit amenities.

In his report to the Board, Metro CEO Phil Washington said the school would “specialize in inspiring and training youth to pursue careers in the transportation and infrastructure sectors,” particularly youth in the County’s safety net and others who have been educationally underserved. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “We want to put these students on a path to career fulfillment by building a school with state-of-the-art technology, support services and unparalleled connections with the transportation industry.”

Students boarding Metro at Cal State LA Station

The Board also approved making the Universal College Student Transit Pass (U-Pass) program permanent and available to undergrads currently enrolled in credit or noncredit courses.  Since Metro launched U-Pass as a pilot 21 months ago, based on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the program has seen a 50 percent increase in students signing up for transit passes and $4 million in additional revenue.

“With the U-Pass program, students have access to safe, efficient and affordable transportation, and Metro has a great opportunity to grow ridership,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Metro works with universities and community colleges to encourage sign-ups through the academic registration process. Among those participating in the U-Pass program are Cal Tech, CSULA, CSUN, Compton College, El Camino College, LA City College, LA Trade Tech College, LMU, Mission College, Pasadena City College, Pierce College, Rio Hondo College, and USC (graduate students). UCLA is poised to join the list in July 2018.

A member of Metro’s homeless outreach team offers help to a man near a bus stop.

Another action taken by the Board was to quadruple the number of outreach teams helping homeless individuals aboard Metro’s buses and trains, and in and around its transit stations. It approved $4 million to fund those teams over the next fiscal year.

Under a pilot program launched by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, two outreach teams started operating on the Red Line in May 2017. In their first 10 months of operation, they engaged 1,539 individuals and linked 208 of them to interim housing resources. They also linked 237 individuals to permanent housing resources, and helped 19 to become permanently housed.

Seeing their success, the Board voted to increase the number of outreach teams from two to eight, operating seven days a week on Metro’s rail and bus system, as well as at Union Station. Each outreach team is composed of a nurse, a substance abuse counselor, a mental health clinician, an outreach worker, and a formerly homeless individual.

Metro CEO Phil Washingon and Supervisor and Metro Board member Mark Ridley-Thomas flank members of Metro’s homeless outreach teams.