Notes from today’s Metro Board meeting

Here are a few notes from the Metro Board of Directors meeting Thursday. There were no giant items in front of the Board relative to particular projects, but nonetheless some interesting discussion broke out. To wit:

•In his remarks as Board Chair, Michael D. Antonovich said he wants more information from Metro about the frequency with which elevators and escalators at Metro stations are out of service, how much time it takes to repair them and how information is passed along to disabled passengers — incluing those who are vision and hearing impaired — about how to get around escalators and elevators not working. His remarks were prompted by the tragic death last week of a woman in a wheelchair who fell down an escalator at a Red Line station.

•The Metro Board approved a financial agreement with AEG about improvements to be made to the Pico Station for the Blue Line and Expo Line if Farmers Field is built in downtown Los Angeles. Under the terms of the agreement, AEG will pay for an additional train platform on the southbound tracks, as well as for personnel needed for crowd control at the Pico Station — a short walk from L.A. Live, Staples Center and the proposed stadium site.

It’s estimated that about 15,000 of the 70,000 attending football games would take transit of some kind, with roughly half on buses and the other half on trains. Metro staff said they are most concerned about the hour after the game when 4,000 to 5,000 train riders need to be accommodated.

Metro staff said that language is being added that if ridership goes beyond what is expected, Metro and AEG would discuss further improvements, including possibly shuttles to other Metro stations. Metro Board Chair Mike Antonovich abstained from the vote, saying that he believes putting a football stadium next to the chronically congested 110-10 interchange was a mistake.

•An update on the possibility of accelerating the Metro Airport Connector project — prompted by a motion by Supervisor Don Knabe — sparked a lengthy and sometimes testy conversation among the Board.

First, the background: Knabe orginally asked whether the Airport Connector could be accelerated so that it’s completed by 2018. Metro staff responded that 2023 was likely the earliest date if Measure J passes. Why? Because Metro can’t begin its draft environmental study of the project until Los Angeles World Airports, a city agency, completes a specific plan amendment that would include transportation improvements.

It needs to be understood that the airport project has increasingly been a subject of conversation for the Board, perhaps because prominent transportation officials (read: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and House Transportation Chair John Mica, to name two) keep bringing it up. As Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas put it, not having the Green Line hooked up to the airport is “a huge embarassment.”

In response to the staff report on his earlier motion, Knabe submitted a motion to the Board on Thursday asking for a full report by Metro staff on what it would take to complete the project by 2020. But Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, in particular, objected to a part of the motion that he said would reopen the agency’s Long Range Transportation Plan and re-order the projects.

Knabe offered to take that provision out of the motion and it was approved on a 7 to 5 vote, meaning that Metro staff will be tasked with producing a report on all the steps necessary to finish the project by 2020.

•The Board was also informed that it was Metro CEO Art Leahy’s intent to renew a contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to patrol the Metro system for fiscal year 2013-14, beginning July 1 of next year.

Board Member Gloria Molina made some pointed comments, saying she believes that Metro should have its own transit police because of the customer-driven nature of Metro’s business. She also said that she believed that the Sheriff’s Deputies were at times too “heavy-handed” dealing with customers, resulting in legal settlements. In summary, she said she believes a balance has to be struck between legitimate law enforcement and helping customers.

LASD Commander Patrick Jordan said that one of the issues facing deputies is the number of people with mental illness — and how best to de-escalate confrontations with those people and added that deputies have been getting additional training. Molina asked for a report from the LASD and Metro staff in January on how best to deal with some of these issues.

Categories: Transportation News

14 replies

  1. We need to think outside of the box. Bringing in retailers into stations would help boost the economy and help make transit a more enjoyable experience.

    When they build stations they need to start building them with retail space to rent out in mind. The can also build a police box like substations at each station too. I’m sure no drug dealer or criminal would be stupid enough to do illegal activity when there’s an actual police substation right at the train stations.

  2. Warner,

    “As for funding it can be added to the budget with out raising for fares.”

    In exchange for what? We live in tough times with every city in CA facing budget cuts. Something has to be given up to make room for the budget with limited funds to have Metro create its own police force. That could be something you don’t like, such as cutting your pension benefits. I’m sure you don’t want that, so the only other option is to raise fares, which only makes things worse for everybody.

    Besides, going back to create Metro Police is going back to the old ways than trying something new.

    North Hollywood Station would be so much better if there something surrounding it and something inside it than just big empty spaces. All it is a place for people to wait for the Orange Line, transfer, and a place to wait for the Red Line. That’s all there is. You have nothing outside, just a big park that attracts wanderers, the homeless, and drug dealers. And you have nothing inside which attracts wanderers, the homeless, and drug dealers.

  3. Alika,

    Crime on the system is quite low, especially compared to the rest of the city. Yes, the cameras are an effective deterrent. Doesn’t mean there doesn’t need to be a police presence as well. I don’t think Rush, the one retailer we had in a station had any affect whatsover on crime reduction, before they closed due to lack of business.

  4. Matt,

    The way you describe security cameras as a deterrent doesn’t make sense. Crime already occurs today at train stations even with the security cameras installed. This is because security cameras alone does little to help deter criminals. The better way to say is that security cameras are only one part of many things that makes place safe and secure. It’s a combination of many things that helps keep places safe. And as it stand today, the combinations we have are not working. Rather than bringing out the tax payer expensive ideas of “let’s make train stations full of police officers with assault rifles and bloodhounds,” we should try out other ideas that work: bring in retailers to the stations to add more physical “eyes” to the system as well as making the place more lively and prosperous to our economy, without the need of resorting to our train stations looking more like Pyongyang, North Korea.

    Besides, security cameras can break down if not maintained properly. We still have not yet invented security cameras that springs legs and arms and zap criminals with tasers to keep them from running away. Security cameras do not have facial recognition features to scan the criminal’s facial features in real time to match with the state DMV’s or police database to find where the criminals live either. At best it’s a tool to help aid and prosecute IF the criminal is caught, but it’s hardly a stand alone deterrence.

    Besides, I don’t see anything wrong with retailers in stations. It helps bring more variety into the train station than big, cold, empty spaces. It helps boost the local economy, it helps bring additonal revenue into the system, and it helps to create train stations with a safer environment. It’s a win-win-win deal.

    I feel much more safer at this train station in Japan because there’s someone always there at the platform selling something:

    Than this (and there’s plenty of space to add something!)

  5. @Matt: If Metro’s security cameras acted as an effective crime deterrent, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. While important tools, cameras are just that: tools. Unfortunately a camera can only record/transmit a crime to law enforcement and does not provide any direct assistance to a victim.

  6. The stations are already under security cameras. You would never have retailers on the actual platforms anyway since there is not room for them. They would be on the Mezz level. I doubt this would affect crime much either way, since there are already security cameras as a deterrent. Malls def. have to have their own security force, and especially large ones for malls with similar demographics to Metro’s ridership.

  7. Actualy NJT and Amtrak including other transit agencys have their own police force with this being the United States! LASD is a joke, North Hollywood is a watering hole for crime, LASD never patrols our trains, and responce times are embarrasing! I know this for the fact I am an operator. Many times have I and my fellow patrons require LASD assistance and of course they were no shows or always showed up at Union Station long after the call has ben made near hollywood. As for funding it can be added to the budget with out raising for fares.

  8. I particularly dislike Antonovich’s abstention. As the leader of the Metro Board, this vote should have been about the deal on the table, but instead he made it about a project he has no control over in this position. By nature, the station upgrades only happen if the project goes through, and the Board was voting on the station upgrade agreement, not the project that necessitates it. I’d prefer to see the Metro Board members focus on the decisions in front of them–what their votes actually affect.

    A Yes or No based on his opinion of agreement itself, and I’d be fine with the vote.

  9. “add more eyes and make train stations a safe place so that people with criminal intent are forced to seek their activities elsewhere”

    This is the best answer than any of the “just add more police” solutions of the Metro Board.

    The real question is “why do we have criminals coming into our trains and train stations in the first place that necessitates the need to add more police officers.” And “what is the best way to discourage criminals from seeking illegal activities within our system?”

    The stations we have today are cold, isolated, and have big empty spaces. There’s nothing going on at a train station. That atmosphere attracts criminals.

    What we want is constant people in the stations that acts as eyes and witnesses so that criminals think otherwise that it’s not worth it to be singled out. What better way to do this by adding retailers and businesses at train stations? You don’t see many criminals at shopping malls as opposed to train stations, maybe there’s a criminal psychology effect going on. This idea is worth a try and if it works, it’s so much better than having stations staffed with dozens of officers per each station with assault rifles on their backs, paid for courtesy of our tax dollars.

  10. When I was in Canada, I noticed that escalators and people movers were pressure sensitive and idled when no one was using them. As soon as someone stepped onto the escalator, it picked up tork and got us from point A to point B. I feel Metro should look into this once theyve installed all of the canopies. It would seem that the less thee things are operated the less they need maintanance. In example, Wilshire Normandie’s escalator seems to see a lot less service than say MacArthur parks…..

  11. Some background to the topics raised today:

    7 years ago an indepedent evaluation was done about the elevators and escalators as mentioned in this staff report and found things were OK–this is a perennial issue that crops up whenever some incident happens to draw media attention and thus Board scrutiny; I am sure the new report will equally give the agency a clean bill of health…

    To understand how hard the folks who run LAX are to deal with note the rather cryptic paragraph on transit access in this recent interview with Executive Director of Los Angeles World Airports Gina Marie Lindsey — bubbles, indeed…

    Steven P, a 2004 Metro report actually concludes re-establishing the Metro Police would produce savings of 20%-40% over the current arrangement. But the process to bring back the dedicated unit would be complicated plus I just see no interest to undertake such a move. Note how quickly Molina dropped the idea and fellback on the perennial gambit of the career politician via empty gestures to give the appearance of taking bold action: asking for a report (I guess we are lucky she didn’t want a blue ribbon commission).

  12. “Board Member Gloria Molina made some pointed comments, saying she believes that Metro should have its own transit police because of the customer-driven nature of Metro’s business.”

    And pray tell us Ms. Moline, exactly where do we get the funding for Metro to create its own police task force? Raise fares to $3.00 per ride? Make each train station a fortressed like a police station complete with its own interrogation rooms, jail, officers equipped with assault rifles and growling bloodhounds? Last time I checked, this is Los Angeles, CA in the USA, not Pyongyang, North Korea!

    The rest of the world solves these kinds of problems by adding in retailers and businesses into them to add more eyes and make train stations a safe place so that people with criminal intent are forced to seek their activities elsewhere. Metro