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LA Metro set to lose up to $800M, 57 employees contract coronavirus

The Los Angles Metro system is being hit with losses up to $800 million because of low-ridership amid the coronavirus pandemic. The transportation agency has reported at least 57 cases of COVID-19 among its employees, contractors and vendors.
(Daily Bruin file photo)

By Arif Abd Aziz

May 5, 2020 6:57 p.m.

Los Angeles County’s Metro reports 57 confirmed coronavirus cases among employees as of Monday and anticipates losses of up to $800 million due to low ridership.

The count includes at least seven contractors from the Purple Line Extension project, a planned subway line connecting Westwood to Downtown LA. Metro has been keeping a track record of employees, contractors and vendors who have contracted the virus and has recorded one death since March 22.

Metro saw its first confirmed PLE case on April 21 coming from a contractor working at the Wilshire/Fairfax station. Six additional PLE contractors tested positive for COVID-19 on May 1, including another one from Wilshire/Fairfax. Dave Sotero, a Metro representative, said that the project’s expedited timeline remains unaffected by the pandemic.

In light of mounting cases, Sotero said Metro has seen a 70 percent drop in ridership which would contribute to estimated losses between 700 to 800 million dollars. Metro’s fundings for projects like the Purple Line Extension will also be impacted from a decrease in fares and sales tax revenues, he added.

xOther expenses, such as cleaning services, have cost Metro millions of dollars, Metro CEO Phillip Washington said in an interview with LAist.

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act which was signed by the president on March 27, Metro will receive an estimated 710 to 810 million dollars for COVID-19 related expenses. Funding will be disbursed on a rolling basis starting late April.

Metro has followed a systematic approach to containing the spread of COVID-19 among employees. If testing comes back positive, Metro will immediately conduct an investigation to find any other employees that were in close contact with the infected person and instruct them to self-quarantine for 14 days.

LA county has also made testing available for anybody as of Apr 28.

Sotero did not share the status of the seven contractors or those who they were in close contact with, citing a confidentiality policy. Metro employees are abiding by social distancing regulations and continue to use personal protective equipment including face masks and shields, he added.

Sotero said Metro employees have been the backbone for lifeline travel around LA county.

“Metro frontline workers are dedicated and heroic public servants,” Sotero said. “This grave public health crisis has taken an emotional toll on many of them. They deserve credit for doing their jobs during this difficult time.”

Public works, including public transportation, are essential infrastructure sectors according to the LA’s safer-at-home orders. Within closure zones, Metro’s work hours run from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. everyday.

Employees are still receiving regular pay, despite anticipated losses and the sudden drop in ridership. Sotero said Washington plans to maintain the workforce without any layoffs.

Metro adjusted its transit schedules on Apr 19, running a modified Sunday service everyday of the week. This new schedule hopes to reduce the pandemic’s strain on the economy and maintain Metro’s workforce of around 11,000 employees. Modified transit schedules plan to efficiently accommodate reduced demand by providing more predictable service.

“We are doing everything possible to ensure our operators and public travel as safely as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak while providing lifeline transit service for essential trips in LA County,” Sotero said.

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Arif Abd Aziz
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