How do they do that? Close the rail stations at night

Photo by Carl Greenlund/Metro

How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology and work that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How does Metro close the rail stations at night?

Each evening while most of us are asleep, Metro security personnel are carefully examining Metro’s 18 subway stations in preparation for the night’s closing.

Just before 12:45 a.m. on weekdays and 1:20 a.m. on weekends, security teams begin sweeping the subway platforms and mezzanines, looking for sleeping passengers as well as unattended packages. Packages are examined to determine potential harmfulness. They are then removed. If sleepers are found after the last train has departed, they are awakened and escorted from the station. If they are not capable of leaving under their own power or if they appear under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the Transit Services Bureau is notified and they can be transported to another location, such as a detoxification facility. If they need medical attention, paramedics will be called.

Once the stations are empty, security personnel begin closing them, following the trains by car, as the Red, Purple, Gold and Blue lines make their last runs toward Union Station.

On the Red Line, they begin by rolling down the station gates near the escalators at North Hollywood Station. On the Purple Line they begin at Wilshire/Western. And on the Eastside Gold Line, gates at the two underground stations are closed — Soto Station and Mariachi. (The rest of the line runs on light rail.) Elevators at all stations are locked by remote command from the Rail Operations Center in downtown Los Angeles. Security personnel also lock gates on either end of the Gold Line Extension subway tunnel east of Mariachi and west of Soto, along with gating where the light-rail Blue Line enters the subway tunnel just north of Staples Center. While the stations are closed they are cleaned, as they are at various times during the day.

Light-rail stations remain accessible because they are out in the open but they are watched 24/7 by closed circuit TV observers at Rail Operations. Should patrons appear on the platforms, Rail Operations personnel will make a public address announcement stating that there are no trains running and that passengers need to leave the station. Customers with questions can talk with Rail Operations via passenger telephones at the stations.

For a few hours the stations are quiet. Then at about 4:30 a.m., while most of us are still asleep, they are reopened and the whole process begins again.

4 replies

  1. Not all lines in NYS are open all night, most close and if it is open you could be waiting 1/5 hour to 1 hour for trains or take a bus 4 hours to get home! Metro North for example closes at 1230am, then you have to pay $200 for a tai to get home!

  2. Is not the Gold Line a light rail line the entire way? Even when it’s an underground subway, it’s still a light rail vehicle (as opposed to heavy rail like the Red/Purple lines). The Eastside Gold Line stations other than Soto and Mariachi are not left open because they’re light rail, but simply because they’re above ground. Soto and Mariachi are still light rail stations, they just happen to be underground.

    Unless my understanding of light rail is incorrect…

  3. I’m from NYC, and while the New York subway system (all 468 stations) are open (for the most part) 24 hours a day, there are, in many stations, multiple entrances and exits and some of those entrances and exits are closed during the overnight hours. I guess what L.A. does with its underground rail system is what most other cities in the U.S. (Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco Bay Area, etc.) do with their respective rail systems when they shut service down during the overnight hours.