Metro gets earful from callers about safety, service, homeless on buses, trains

California

Callers to a virtual town hall meeting organized by LA Metro on Tuesday night, March 28, cited key concerns including feeling unsafe, unreliable bus service, and the phenomenon of the unhoused taking shelter in depots, train stations, buses and trains throughout the Metro system in Los Angeles County.

The hour-long call-in was the third to focus on the upcoming Metro budget and its additional spending during the past year to hire more safety staff — an effort to cut crime and persuade more riders to use the system of seven rail lines and about 2,400 buses.

A computerized system contacted 50,000 cell phones and 50,000 landlines and of those 2,413 participated in the call-in town hall, said Patrick Chandler, LA Metro spokesman.

Each caller was identified by the moderator by citing his or her first name only, city of residence and often what Metro lines they had ridden. Their comments were followed by brief responses from Metro staff members.

Here is a sampling of callers’ questions and responses:

– Nate from Sherman Oaks complained that the bus lines he takes have long waits between stops. “Why can’ t you improve frequency of local lines in the San Fernando Valley? They still run once an hour and it has been this way for over 20 years,” he said. “It is based on the level of usage on these lines. Every year we have this question of trade-offs in the overall Metro budget,” answered Joe Forgiarini, senior executive officer of service development, scheduling and analysis.

–  Ali of Inglewood noted that Metro built the K-Line without a rail connection to SoFi Stadium. Forgiarini noted that the city of Inglewood is studying a rail link that could open by 2028. Until then, he recommended using LA Metro bus lines 212, 115 and 117 from the station to the stadium.

– Dan of North Hollywood said the biggest issues are crime, drug use, and large numbers of mentally ill and unhoused people lingering at stations and riding trains and buses. He said Metro Transit Ambassadors, part of the recently launched teams who greet customers and call in problems to authorities, don’t reduce the problem. Gina Osborn, Metro chief safety officer, said the Ambassadors are helpful when they “send in messages to our security operations system.” Osborn also said Metro’s Transit Security Officers (TSO), who enforce Metro’s code of conduct, patrol turnstiles to make sure people pay the fare — and to stop those seeking shelter on the trains.

Metro Ambassador Takiesha Harper works on the train on the Metro L line on Monday, March 6, 2023. 300 new Metro Transit Ambassadors who will serve as greeters and be eyes and ears on trains and buses for problems and help are now in service across the metro platforms. Metro hopes the new ambassador program will increase rider safety and comfort. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Metro Ambassador Takiesha Harper works on the train on the Metro L line on Monday, March 6, 2023. 300 new Metro Transit Ambassadors who will serve as greeters and be eyes and ears on trains and buses for problems and help are now in service across the Metro platforms. Metro hopes the new ambassador program will increase rider safety and comfort. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

– Nicholas of Pomona said the homeless frequently ride on the Metro L (Gold) Line in Pasadena, “and the crime is spreading out with them.” He said that because of this, ridership is dropping. Osborn said all riders should download the LA Metro Transit Watch app on their smart phones to report or text an incident, or the location of an encampment.

– Marissa who rides the B (Red) Line noticed the loud, classical music that Metro is playing at the Westlake/MacArthur Park subway station to ward off loiterers and the unhoused. She said the music is “incredibly loud and blaring” and asked if Metro plans to blast music at other stations. Conan Cheung, Metro’s chief operations officer, said the loud music is part of a pilot program at that station that also includes blocking off dark entrances, adding brighter lighting and adding patrols by Metro Ambassadors. He said since the program began, crime has dropped 20% and vandalism 50%.

– Helen of Culver City said it is difficult to reach the street level at Universal City B (Red) Line Station because the escalators and elevators frequently are not working, and elevators are dirty. Metro staff asked her to report the outages on the app, and then Metro could send a repair team.

The agency has an $8.8 billion budget that runs through June 30. Metro carries about 800,000 boardings daily. It is nearly finished building a new rail line — the Regional Connector in Downtown L.A. — and is constructing the extension of the D (Purple) Line to Westwood, while planning several new transit lines.

The first telephone town hall on budget priorities was held in October 2022 and a second one took place Jan. 17, 2023. The Metro Finance, Budget and Audit Committee will hold a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. on May 17. The 2023-2024 fiscal year budget will cover the period from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. Visit budget.metro.net for more information.

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