A bus picks up passengers at Boyle Heights station with warning "Face Mask Required". Photo by Jacqueline Ramírez for Boyle Heights Beat

By Ryan Fonseca/LAist

Originally published Jun 17, 2021 3:30 PM

Vaccinated Californians no longer need to wear masks in most places. One place we do: public transit. Face coverings are required for riders through Sept. 13, per federal guidelines.

So how is that being enforced on Los Angeles County’s buses and trains? Like many spaces throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s mostly the honor system. L.A. Metro spokesperson Brian Haas says the agency is focusing “more on education, rather than enforcement.”

“We do regular spot checks to see how people are complying with the face mask federal rules,” he said. “Time and time again, we find that the vast majority of folks have been following the rules, which is great.”

Metro has also been adding hundreds of mask dispensers throughout its system for anyone riding without one.

Restoring And Improving Bus Service

Later this month, Metro will begin restoring pandemic-caused service cuts, with a goal of reaching “pre-pandemic service levels” by September, Haas said.

He noted that while the level of service will be restored, the quality of that service will be enhanced on many of the agency’s popular bus routes through the NextGen Bus Plan, which has been a few years in the making.

Metro’s basic strategy is to run buses more frequently (to arrive every five to ten minutes) on more streets and reduce trip times by making fewer stops along those routes.

Ridership Is Rebounding, But It’s Not Metro’s Top Priority

Photo courtesy LA Metro

With the state reopening and a semblance of normalcy returning to L.A. life, the number of people taking local and regional transit systems is expected to continue to rise. The current average weekday ridership on the county’s system is approaching 650,000, Haas said, compared to 1.2 million in February 2020.

But reaching pre-pandemic ridership isn’t Metro’s top goal, he said. Remote work and improved car-free mobility will likely continue at some level, and the agency is far more interested in how those changed could affect the county’s congestion and air quality issues, Haas explained.

“The pandemic gave us a glimpse of what life could be like with people taking fewer car trips alone. Traffic was kind of a dream for a while here — it’s still much better than it was pre-pandemic — [and] air quality has been improved. Metro wants to see if we can capitalize on that experience, and sort of not return to normal but develop a new normal, where that lighter traffic and that better air quality is a feature of L.A. and not just a quirk of a pandemic.”

Go Metro, Get Vaccinated

Metro is also hosting vaccination sites at several regional transit hubs:

  • Union Station – 800 Alameda Street
  • El Monte Bus Station – 3501 Santa Anita Ave.
  • C Line (Green) Crenshaw/105 Station – 11901 Crenshaw Blvd.
  • Harbor Gateway Transit Center – 731 W. 182nd St.
  • A Line (Blue) Del Amo Station – 20220 Santa Fe Ave.

Information about hours and appointments can be found on Metro’s website.

This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2021 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.

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Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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