Latinos make up nearly 50% of L.A. County's population, 61% of riders on Metro and 37% of the agency's workforce. In response to those growing numbers, Metro today launched a Spanish language blog called El Pasajero, or The Passenger.
"We want to better inform and engage this critical audience," explained Marc Littman of Metro to KCET. He said the blog would be similar to its flagship one, The Source, but with a different focus, even if some basic posts like service alerts will be shared. "For instance, we want Latinos to know how to do business with us. If you're a small business, how do you get a piece of the pie?" he said, referencing contract opportunities.
Jazmin Ortega, a former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa aide and reporter for La Opinión will head up the blog. "I see El Pasajero as a way to provide a better view of Metro beyond just the bureaucracy that manages buses," she wrote in her first post (translated). "My aim in this space is to share information in an objective manner to better understand the role of Metro in the community and promote a healthy exchange of ideas," she continued later.
Littman said Ortega would have the autonomy to explore both sides of issues. "She's there to hold the agency accountable," he said.
Ortega will be joined by Maria Luisa Arredondo, a Mexico City-born journalist who has covered the Los Angeles region for over two decades, including for La Opinión.
The move is not without some criticism. When Metro announced the blog earlier this week, some commenters expressed concerns. "There are so many other languages spoken on Metro buses and trains. I know Spanish is the largest percentage but it seems unfair to only recognize Spanish," wrote tornadoes28. Added a commenter by the name Stella: "and this is beacuse we are in Los Angeles, CA ...the USA ... where the last time I checked the language was English?"
Also chiming in was the local blogger known as Chewie, who runs the bilingual Straight Outta Suburbia. "I don't think Metro should have to defend the decision to reach out to its Spanish speaking customers... there are a lot of people on Metro who are more comfortable speaking Spanish than English," he wrote. "Not reaching out to those people would be a huge mistake."