UPDATE, 1:50 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Metro is working on creating a smaller waiting area for BoltBus and Megabus customers.
Los Angeles Union Station patrons may have noticed a change that went into effect Monday: the seating area at the front of the facility is now available only for passengers with tickets to board Amtrak or Metrolink trains within two hours of their departure times.
Union Station is owned by Metro and agency officials say the change was prompted by an increased number of homeless individuals who have been using Union Station as shelter — an average of 135 per night in recent weeks (numbers were higher over the summer). That, in turn, has at times created extremely unpleasant sanitary issues in the seating area that in some cases posed a health threat to passengers using the station.
Metro had been receiving complaints about the number of homeless in the station for quite some time and over the past summer began trying to find some remedies to the issue, said Ken Pratt, the director of Los Angeles Union Station Property Management for Metro. That has included bringing in workers from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority who have been meeting with homeless individuals to try to connect them to shelters, potential housing opportunities as well as psychological and medical care.
The new rules for the seating area are part of a pilot program. Security guards will be checking tickets in the seating area. The seats are not open to Metro riders because Metro bus and rail service at the station is frequent compared to long-distance and commuter rail offered by Amtrak and Metrolink.
The pilot program comes as Metro is beginning more work to restore Union Station, which opened in 1939. In coming weeks, some of the seats in the waiting area will be removed so that wood and metal materials can be reconditioned.
“All this really comes down to this question: who does Union Station really serve?,” Pratt said. “Our customers were being accosted and couldn’t even use the restroom at times because people have been camping in there. We really are trying to do this on two fronts — not just enforcement, but with outreach to homeless in the area surrounding Union Station to bring people to services they need and services to individuals. We are trying very hard to figure things out and working to solve this problem in the right way.”