During the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles Metro began encouraging social distancing among passengers and increased fixed-route transit (FRT) services.
The latest Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, Optimizing Multimodal Transportation Access to Support Commuting Among Low-Income Transit Riders with Social Distancing, evaluates the accessibility of FRT buses with social distancing using the ridership data collected on four FRT routes: 105, 108, 111, and 115 of the LA Metro's A Line stations located in low-income neighborhoods.
One contribution of the research is the integration of social distancing into the accessibility formulation, which aims to find the optimal number of stops that balance between travel time and number of passengers served. Accessibility in this research refers to a model that factors in passenger behavior such as walking speed and social distancing compliance and the presence of other passengers or obstacles (such as walls) at the station or stop.
The research shows that social distancing does impact the accessibility of FRT routes 105, 108, 111, and 115 to the LA Metro A Line stations. These routes are most accessible with social distancing measures in place when they are only serving a certain number of stops, then the accessibility decreases as the buses have to serve more stops to get to the main rail line.
The findings indicate:
- the FRT routes 105, 108, 111 and 115 had maximum accessibility for the “with” social distancing case for the number of stops served equal to 65, 52, 52, and 50, respectively.
- the number of stops being served by an FRT bus was much higher than the optimal number of stops that should be served, which decreased accessibility.
“With COVID-19 seriously impacting the livelihood of low-income households, the affordability of using private vehicles for commuting has been reduced, further increasing dependency on these bus lines and further creating issues of crowding that must be faced with safety and equity in mind,” said the study’s authors.