A pilot program to provide free bus and train fare for low-income riders and K-12 students in Los Angeles County is closer to becoming implemented.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) voted 12 – 0 on Thursday to approve the development of the pilot program, with several conditions needed to be in place before the launch.
The Metro board would need to ensure the pilot program would not impact service or ability to keep the transit system in a “state of good repair.”
Transit officials say the program will help Los Angeles County emerge from the pandemic, advance equity, reduce transportation emissions, simplify students’ return to school and increase ridership.
“The pandemic has hit students hard,” the Metro board motion said. “Once the Department of Public Health and schools deem it safe for students to fully return to in-person learning, Metro, municipal operators (munis), and school districts should do everything possible to make the transition back effortless for these families. Studies across the country have shown that the lack of access to transportation is a barrier to student attendance and, therefore, academic success.”
Last year, Metro conducted a study to provide free fare for all residents, according to the agency.
From the study, an 18-month fareless pilot program was proposed that would provide free rides on Metro buses and rail service for low-income riders starting in January 2022 and K-12 students starting in August 2022.
However, an official start date for the program has not been announced.
Metro riders’ median household income is $19,325 systemwide, with approximately 70% of Metro riders considered low-income.
“Many of our riders depend on Metro to reach their jobs as essential workers, and during the pandemic, they suffered unavoidable financial impacts,” the motion said.
Riders in the program could save an estimated $1,200 each year, according to Metro.
The proposal includes Metro rail and bus lines, however, other public transit options including Metrolink, Access Services, Metro bike share and micro transit are not included.
Metro is conducting the pilot program to test the feasibility of a fully fareless system for all riders.
Transit authority officials have no intent or plan to seek an additional sales tax to subsidize the free fare. Rather, Metro is studying whether fareless transit could be paid for with grants from the state or federal government, existing revenues, such as advertising, and other sources, according to the agency.
Metro staff members are further exploring funding scenarios, including state and federal grants. Contributions from schools, sponsors or stakeholders are also being considered.
For more information on the fareless system initiative, visit here.
L.A. Mayor Signs Camping Ordinance Aimed At Restricting Homeless Encampments
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance on Friday aimed at restricting homeless encampments in certain areas of the city.
The ordinance, which is set to take effect 30 days from the signing date, bans camping near “sensitive” facilities including within 500 feet of schools, daycares, parks and libraries, according to the L.A. City Council agenda.
In addition, the measure also restricts sitting, lying, or sleeping as well as storing, using, maintaining and placing personal property in any public right-of-way such as ramps, driveways or bike lanes, among others.
On Wednesday, the council voted 13-2 to approve the measure before Garcetti’s signature.
Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman voiced opposition to the ordinance, with Bonin recalling his own struggle with housing.
“Some of those nights I slept in the car, some of those nights, when my car was in the shop, I slept on the beach. I cannot tell you how much turmoil is in your heart when the sun is setting and you don’t know where to sleep,” Bonin said. “I cannot tell you how demoralizing and dehumanizing and defeating that experience is when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep.”
City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said the measure helps regulate shared public spaces while “acting with compassion and purpose” to help people experiencing homelessness.
“This ordinance establishes fair and clearly defined rules for how sidewalks in Los Angeles are regulated — while linking those rules to a comprehensive, compassionate strategy for street engagement that will establish reasonable pathways to positive outcomes and, ultimately, permanent homes,” O’Farrell said.
In order to enforce the new order, the City Council has to take action through a resolution to designate a certain area for enforcement, according to the ordinance.
The city plans to send out “street engagement teams,” along with law enforcement, to assist those experiencing homelessness in the designated encampment by providing connection to services, including interim housing.
Last month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released a report outlining the number of shelter beds available across the county.
The number of homeless shelter beds in the L.A. region has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity, according to the agency.
LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds — less than half of the estimated 66,000 people on the street countywide.
The previous Homeless Count was conducted before the pandemic, with many housing experts and community members reporting an increase in the unhoused population in the past 18 months.
L.A. Homeless Shelter Capacity Up 57% In Three Years, Still Less Than Demand
The number of homeless shelter beds in Los Angeles has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity.
The 2021 Housing Inventory Count and Shelter Count, released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Wednesday, shows the nightly shelter capacity in the L.A. area has grown despite challenges faced by the pandemic.
LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds, a 57% increase over the last three years. The agency also reported 33,592 permanent housing options, an increase of 16% over the same period.
Through “unprecedented coordination” and a critical influx of state and federal emergency funding, the L.A. region’s rehousing system’s response to COVID-19 saved lives, according to Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA.
“We must build off of that momentum as we emerge from the pandemic to build the infrastructure necessary to address our homelessness crisis and collectively confront the conditions that continue to push people into homelessness,” Marston said in a statement.
The Los Angeles region needs to build a more balanced system with more housing options. A balanced rehousing system has five permanent housing exits for each shelter bed; the Los Angeles system is closer to one-to-one, according to the executive director.
The Housing Inventory Count is a census of all interim and permanent housing options in the homeless rehousing system at a given point-in-time. This year, the Housing Inventory Count occurred on Jan. 27.
LAHSA reported these results despite the global pandemic causing a considerable strain on its shelter supply.
In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, all of Los Angeles County’s congregate shelters had to decrease their bed count through a process called decompression.
However, strategic investments by the federal, state, and local governments through Project Roomkey and Project Homekey helped make up for the loss of capacity, according to the agency.
The Shelter Count revealed that there were 17,225 people in a shelter on the night of the count, which is virtually unchanged from the previous year.
LAHSA cited that without the addition of 2,357 Project Roomkey beds and 497 Project Homekey beds, there could have been a more significant drop in the shelter count due to decompression.
Following the advice of public health officials, LAHSA did not conduct an Unsheltered Count in 2021 to protect the 8,000 volunteers needed to complete the Count each year from COVID-19. The agency is planning to resume the Unsheltered Count in 2022.
Home Prices In San Fernando Valley Reach New High, Median Nearing $1 Million
The median price of San Fernando Valley homes sold during June reached a record high while sales soared 56.9% and the number of properties listed for sale lingered at low levels.
The median price was $955,000, up 28.9% from June 2020, according to the Southland Regional Association of Realtors (SRAR).
June was the fourth consecutive month with the median above the $900,000 benchmark.
“Not long ago it would have been inconceivable that the San Fernando Valley would see the median home price inching toward $1 million,” said Diane Sydell, president of the association in a statement. “Now it seems inevitable, especially with today’s wealth of buyers, dearth of inventory, and heated competition over virtually every listing.”
The condominium median price for June was $519,000, up 12.8% from June 2020, but 3.9% below the record high $540,000 set this April.
A total of 554 single-family homes closed escrow during June, up 56.9% from a year ago and 11.5% ahead of May’s tally. It was the first month this year above 500 sales and the highest monthly total since June 2018.
The statistics for condominium sales were not as dramatic, in part because of the extremely limited supply of condominiums listed for sale, according to SRAR.
There were 725 active home and condominium listings at the end of June, the first month above 700 listings this year.
“The market has been overheated and buyer fatigue may be a factor going forward,” said Tim Johnson, the association’s chief executive officer. “Too many buyers are weary of competing with unseen competitors and losing to a higher bidder even when they come to the market fully prepared to buy. ”
That may translate in buyers being a bit more cautious, which when combined with the
reopening of the economy may yield a slowdown in sales and a few more listings.
Yet Johnson stressed that a “few more listings” doesn’t go far, even if some buyers are starting to take a bit longer to jump into the market.