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What’s going on?
Major transit planning decisions are being made now through Metro’s FY21 Budget and NextGen planning process, and cuts are coming due to COVID-19. Metro has asked for public comments. Numerous organizations have clearly stated why cuts to bus service will put our at-risk, transit-dependent communities in further hardship. We fully support these calls to Metro to save bus service and the NextGen service improvements.
Specifically on Transit to Parks, Metro has not delivered on their commitments even as much larger budget programs stay on track. Transit to Parks aims to address the great disparity in access to parks and open space across our park-poor communities. While the pandemic has increased the demand for access to the outdoors, cutting this program only exacerbates this disparity. Make your voice heard and protect transit service, including to parks, for communities that need it the most!
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Attn: “FY21 Budget” & “NextGen Proposed Changes: SGVSC”: TRANSIT TO PARKS
Dear Metro: LA County needs Transit to Parks. You have the plan. We need action.
4 years have passed. Honor Metro’s equity focus and rededicate Transit to Parks as a priority in the FY21 Budget, NextGen (SGV Service Council), Office of Extraordinary Innovation, & regionwide service planning.
In June 2016, Metro’s Board directed the agency to make an action plan to fix a huge LA County blind spot: lack of Transit to Parks. It took three years. In June 2019, Metro’s Board approved the Transit to Parks (T2P) Strategic Plan, to equitably connect communities to parks and open space, including 4 priority pilot routes, and directed staff to begin implementing the plan with 9 actions. But now over a year later, what has been accomplished?
- Designate a Metro Transit to Parks liaison – NONE
- Create marketing/promotional materials for transit lines serving parks/open space, including a web-based access tool – NONE
- Outreach to Councils of Government (COGs), parks organizations, municipal bus operators, and other partner agencies to promote the Transit to Parks – NONE
- Contribute $1 million for grants for cities and nonprofits transit to parks programs – to be done in conjunction with the L.A. County Regional Park and Open Space District (RPOSD) – NONE, SHELVED DUE TO COVID-19 (i)
- Pursue funding for Transit to Parks activities, including providing grant writing assistance to eligible partner agencies and nonprofits – NONE
- Collaborate with L.A. County of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department to document data on park access – ???
- Incorporate Transit to Parks in the NextGen Bus service reorganization – ??? (ii)
- Make recommendations on integrating transit-to-parks into 28 by 2028 and Measure M project planning – ???
- Report back to the Metro Board every six months with status updates – ???
We respectfully call on Metro’s Board to move Transit to Parks planning into high gear. Transit to Parks is not “a nice idea”, but a necessity. Generations of children and adults are growing up in LA County without access or exposure to wild nature, and leading unhealthy, nature-deficient lives when our County is surrounded by plentiful mountains, rivers and coastline. LA County voters approved Measure M (Transportation) and A (Parks) to fund solutions like this, and it is our transportation authority’s responsibility to deliver connections to these popular destinations.
In the larger context of bus service and Metro’s budget, numerous organizations have clearly stated why cuts to bus service will put our at-risk, transit-dependent communities in further hardship. Not only do we support these calls to Metro to not cut bus service nor the NextGen reorganization, we need to highlight that the agency hasn’t moved on Transit to Parks, even as larger budget commitments stay on track.
Metro recently announced it has a 3-year contract that will begin MicroTransit (on-demand shuttle service) in 6 areas of LA County. Metro, if you can make a MicroTransit pilot happen for 3 years, then we invite you, and your Office of Extraordinary Innovation to take on Transit to Parks.
Nature for All and its community partners are championing a vision of a San Gabriel Mountains Transit & Infrastructure Program, with a series of shuttles connecting from multiple Gold Line (L) stations to popular forest destinations. This will provide L.A. County children and families healthy outdoor access to world-class trails and mountain destinations, such as Mt. Wilson Observatory, Sturtevant Falls, the West Fork National Scenic Bikeway, and the wild San Gabriel River.
Half of L.A. County families live in park-poor areas. We can connect families to the vast open spaces of the forest and National Monument in our backyard. Lack of transportation is the #1 barrier to accessing these public lands. Even with a vehicle, limited trailhead parking is often full on weekends, further restricting public access.
A solution that makes clear sense is connecting our investments in public transportation — like the Metro Gold Line, bus and active transit system — to our public lands. We run shuttles like this already: to the Hollywood Bowl, Rose Bowl, Disneyland. Pilot shuttle routes to Fish Canyon, Chantry Flat and Sam Merrill Trail over the past years have all been incredibly popular. There’s huge regional support for Transit to Parks, from elected officials, agencies, organizations and community advocates.
With a Transit to Parks vision, everybody wins. Investing in Transit to Parks generates economic, environmental, and social benefits for all. By the time LA hosts the Olympics in 2028, we need a zero-emission transit fleet that all residents and tourists can use to experience the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, rivers and coast.
Local business districts stand to benefit, with thousands of outdoor visitors routed through their towns needing food, drink and supplies. In tourism and business growth, L.A.’s 50 million annual visitors will grow L.A.’s ecotourism economy with easy access to these natural destinations. With 4 million annual forest visitors currently driving, a sustainable, zero-emission transit program will clean our air and reduce traffic, greenhouse gases and smog. And of course, time recreating outdoors is well-documented to reduce stress, and improve communities’ physical and mental health, and environmental ethic.
President Barack Obama himself pointed out this critical need in 2014, when he came to Los Angeles to create the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument that we and our community partners worked so hard for. In his speech, he noted:
“This is an issue of social justice, because it’s not enough to have this awesome natural wonder within your sight – you have to be able to access it.”
Six years later, there’s no one working on Transit to Parks at Metro – out of a $7 billion budget. Still not a single transit route to the most popular destinations in the San Gabriel Mountains, which are 70% of LA County’s open space. Urban LA teenagers who have never set foot on a local beach, river, or forest are now becoming adults. Their access to healthy outdoor lives and a world beyond concrete depends on transportation.
Metro, let’s get moving on Transit to Parks.
(i) On Item 4, In February, community organizations, municipalities and agencies submitted many proposals for this T2P program funding, only to find out months later that the grant program was paused because of Covid-19. Yes, COVID-19 has changed the transit landscape, but Transit to Parks planning takes work, infrastructure, and needs to be taking place now, because LA County’s communities need transportation access to the outdoors more than ever.
(ii) On Item 7, Metro staff were supposed to use T2P as a “guiding document” for the new NextGen bus route overhaul. We’re not sure it was consulted at all. There don’t appear to be any new Transit to Parks routes, and one is slated to be discontinued. Line 264 connects Gold Line SMV station to Eaton Canyon Natural Area, one of the most accessible and popular waterfalls in the County. Before cutting it, has Metro/Transit to Parks checked if Pasadena Transit 32 will provide coverage for that route? As stated in Metro’s T2P plan, either bus operator should promote it as the Eaton Canyon Transit to Trails route, to publicize the service.