Accessibility and Affordability Study
In September 2020, Metrolink’s Board of Directors approved the agency’s first Recovery Plan Framework which details an approach to rebuild the agency’s ridership and approach to service. Within the Recovery Plan Framework, the “Triple Bottom Line” emerged as one of five main pillars, specifically focusing on three key components: economy, environment, and equity. In an effort to incorporate these components into a response to the decrease in system ridership, Metrolink initiated an Accessibility and Affordability Study.
Metrolink’s Accessibility and Affordability Study, adopted by its Board of Directors in April 2021, is the first, formal equity-focused study for the agency and anchors to the commitments set forth in the Strategic Business Plan. The purpose of the study was to develop a framework on how Metrolink can optimize its role in the region as a transportation agency that provides transit service and helps reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. This includes ensuring that service is delivered in an equitable way that addresses accessibility, affordability, and accountability. The study includes policy and programmatic recommendations that will be utilized as a framework for specific analyses and actions related to Metrolink’s service and policy-related items where applicable.
The first recommendation derived from the Accessibility and Affordability Study was for the agency to adopt a definition of equity so that all parties internal and external to Metrolink have clarity and understanding of what is meant when the word equity is used. The following equity definition was adopted at Metrolink’s May 2021 Board meeting:
Equity at Metrolink means that all policies, service decisions, investments and engagement opportunities foster an inclusive, fair and just workplace and community. We acknowledge current and systemic disparities and we respect the diverse histories, challenges and needs of our employees and those that we serve.
Another key recommendation from the Accessibility and Affordability Study was a 50% fare discount program for low-income riders (those with a household income at or below 200% of the federal poverty line as defined in Metrolink’s Board-approved Title VI policy). In response to findings from Metrolink’s February 2021 customer survey which indicated that the share of riders with household incomes less than $50,000 increased from 23% in 2018 to 45% in 2021, Metrolink recently received notice that we were awarded $1.7 million in grant funding from the State of California under the FY2020-2021 Cap and Trade Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) to implement a subsidized low-income fare discount pilot program. Staff will proceed with conducting a 50% fare discount program for low-income riders which will further advance Metrolink’s equity-focused opportunities for all communities throughout Southern California.