Opinion: L.A.’s half-empty, crime-ridden Metro trains don’t have to stay that way
COVID, remote work and crime have mass transit in crisis. Los Angeles' rail system can thrive again with transit-oriented development and housing.
“We have 300 metro ambassadors, but why not have them take on fair enforcement as well?”
From my understanding, metro ambassadors aren’t suppose to enforce anything. They’re just there help people get to where they need to go, and report any suspicious activity.
I think public transit is an absolutely vital part of a community. It’s important for convenience and accessibility. Needing to own a car in this absolute traffic nightmare is a crime. Even though I have one, I am pretty strongly anti-car as a product that our entire cities should be designed for.
That being said, absolutely no way I’m voting for any public transportation funding increases until Metro can prove it can maintain some minimum standard of quality on their existing lines. I’d have to be an idiot to keep voting for giving these people funding when they’ve demonstrated no interest in making public transit a pleasant, safe experience.
Btw I know this is an LAT editorial and there are multiple writers but it’s so rich this message is coming from the newspaper that, over the years, has had an activist bent and called things like fare enforcement racist.
It’s no secret that the pandemic devastated public transit systems across the country, and Los Angeles’ ever-expanding Metro rail system is no exception. With many white-collar employees now working remotely for all or much of the week, ridership on the region’s subway and light-rail lines is still around just two-thirds of its pre-COVID peak. The situation is even worse for systems such as Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, which is overly reliant on the office workers and employers who have largely abandoned downtown San Francisco.....
To survive and thrive over the long run, however, Metro needs to build on these strengths and abandon business as usual. The best recipe for long-term success — one we’ve seen in thriving cities across the world from Milan to Busan — is to allow more apartment buildings, offices and mixed-use projects to be built within walking distance of the stations. Beyond keeping Metro rail viable, more such walkable neighborhoods will provide environmental, economic and quality-of-life benefits for their residents....
As Metro seeks to build expensive yet critical additions to its existing rail network, such as the Purple Line extension along Wilshire Boulevard to Westwood and beyond, state leaders could also help the agency save money by giving it master permitting authority over construction and streamlined environmental review, as is done in Paris, Madrid and other successful, transit-rich cities. Otherwise, projects often exceed budgets and blow deadlines due to endless concessions to hyperlocal interests, lawsuits and byzantine bureaucracy. It’s a microcosm of why the United States is now among the worst of the world’s advanced economies when it comes to building large-scale transit projects.
Four decades after it launched, L.A. Metro rail is facing its biggest challenges. Failure to meet them will mean a downward spiral of decreasing service and disappearing ridership as well as a betrayal of the vision sold to voters. But if more people can live, recreate, shop and work near Metro stations, the system can achieve long-term stability, provide a return on the region’s multibillion-dollar investment and fulfill the promise of rail in Los Angeles.
All of the article are pretty standard topics such a zoning issues for transit-oriented developments that we keep telling LA we need, and LA keeps telling us they’re mandating it, but doesn’t really seem to be moving the needle.
It mentions safety and crime but doesn’t delve much into it. Instead focuses on “by numbers” to crowd out the crime/safety issues. Says nothing about open drug use, homeless loitering.
My opinion: There’s a very low-hanging solution to address safety/crime on Metro in the immediate. You have to prevent them from boarding trains in the first place. So LA needs to make a real investment for installing difficult-to-jump turnstiles, new gate technologies, and fair enforcement. We have 300 metro ambassadors, but why not have them take on fair enforcement as well? It’ll pay for itself and you can hire even more? I’m sure it’ll cost something ridiculous like $100M, but the alternative is we spend $3B on a new rail line that has few riders.
Full disclosure, I'm a democratic socialist. I believe in housing first, I don't believe policing, sweeps or evictions are effective at solving anything. All that said:
It's not rocket science. If people are breaking rules - smoking on the platforms, or in the trains, taking up multiple seats with their belongings, harassing people, sleeping on multiple seats, playing loud music, etc - they need to be removed from the train. Every single time. In Europe, heck in the Soviet Union you would be removed from the train or arrested.
I am happy that unhoused people can use the Metro, even for free. Fares only pay for a very small percentage of operating costs anyway. It's a good idea and as Angelenos they have every right to. However, Metro is not and should not be a shelter or a hospital. This is passing the buck. It is public infrastructure for everyone.
Should people on metro violating policies be arrested? No, in most cases that isn't necessary. However, they need to be physically removed from the train by trained staff. This means having a paid/trained member of staff on every train, in every car, for as long as the train runs.
What would this cost?
Let's do some math
Red and Purple Line trains are four or six-car trains, thirty of them in operation. At $100K salaries I am sure they wouldn't have trouble hiring people to do this job. - Yearly cost, $18 million
Expo, Gold and Blue, and K Lines run two-three car trains, 337 light rail cars (although likely not all are in operation, but let's count them all) - Yearly cost, $101 million
So, for $120 million/year, Metro can solve this immediately.
Current Metro spending on security: LAPD - $170M Metro Ambassadors - $40M Metro Transit Security - $31M Private Security - $24.5M
Do with that information what you will.
Interesting take from a newspaper that historically supports every single “criminals are the victims of society” and pro-homeless politician and policies here in LA.
Do they not see people with their beliefs are what’s perpetuating the chaos?
I would ride the metro as a single f before and rarely felt uneasy. The last two/ three times traveling with family have given me panic attacks. I don’t believe I will ride the metro alone or with family again.
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