Advisory: seating area at Union Station now open only to Amtrak and Metrolink passengers


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.”

Categories: Inside Metro

61 replies

  1. @in the valley: The Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge is reserved for business- and first-class passengers only (like an airline’s lounge). Because of that, it’s fairly small and in no way able to serve the vast majority of Amtrak’s passenger load.

  2. Metro can certainly add retail to the station experience while still preserving (and getting better use out of) the existing historic features:
    1. Fill the vacant retail slot across from Traxx with something like a Rudy’s Barbershop or similar. (Metro should not add any more fast food eateries until it removes the ill-planned seating limitations.)
    2. Make any required ADA improvements and finally find a restaurant to fill the vacant Harvey House space. If securing a long-term tenant is not yet possible, consider allowing a shorter-term lease. Having a restaurant there for a year is better than having an empty venue that only gets used for private parties.
    3. Move (or supplement) the Amtrak and Metro ticketing areas by reopening the historic ticketing windows and concourse. Replace the seating that was removed from the concourse and reopen and properly maintain the restrooms adjacent to the concourse.
    4. Now that more usable space has been restored, consider what areas might be best for additional retail opportunities.

  3. in the valley,

    There’s nothing wrong with preserving historic character while creating a new station experience. Have you ever been to NY’s Grand Central? It’s a beautiful, spacious train station with modern shops, a blend of both tradition and modernity.

  4. So, now if I arrive on Gold Line train and want to get a bite to eat before hopping on the Red Line, I have no place to sit while I eat. Or when I come back late at night, and I don’t want to spend 20 minutes out on the Gold Line platform, I have to stand up if I want to stay inside the station.
    This kind of “leap before you look” solution to a problem is very frustrating.

  5. I agree with Casual Commuter that the amount of space that is taken up inside LAUS with these 1920s era seats are ridiculous. The space taken up at LAUS by these seats can be better utilized by removing them and converting them to retail spaces. At least that way Metro would be able to collect rent money to pay for janitors that clean the restrooms every hour like oh I don’t know, practically every other shopping mall all over town?

    If I want to read my Kindle, I can do that inside the train. Inside LAUS, I want to do something else than “there’s nothing else to do so I might as well just sit down and read this book.”

    If you go to Amtrak stations on the East Coast, they have specific lounges catered for Amtrak passengers, much like how airports has lounges for their best customers and frequent flyers. Why doesn’t Metro, Amtrak, and Metrolink work out a deal to create a waiting lounge and move these 1920s era seat to those lounges instead?

    If we’re going to be spending millions of taxpayer dollars on the LAUS Master Plan which deals with the exterior and makes zero money, why not spend the same millions of dollars in renovating LAUS’ interior to create a better passenger experience which actually helps create revenue for Metro?

  6. I certainly hope the guards will be educated to understand accommodating a disability. I only take the Red Line these days when I go to the doctor. The conditions at Pershing were persistently unsafe and unsavory, and my knees no longer support walking or standing for longer periods of time. On those days when I take the Red Line to Hollywood, I must go through Union rather than to Chinatown to access the Gold Line. Because of the distance, I frequently have to sit for a few minutes to continue on. I don’t want to get chased out of the seats. I have a cane, which should be the first tip off. Please tell me they’re going to be smart about this.

  7. Got to see this new policy in action today first hand. It’s awful!

    Half of the seating area is no longer used and security divides the remaining  area into two sections , MetroLink and Amtrak. You now no longer have a choice  of were to sit.  If you are a Mega Bus, Bolt Bus or any other customer of the hand full of travel agencies that use Union Station or want to grab something to eat, you’re out of luck. You are no longer welcomed and are banished to sit on the floor in front of the Subway or out side in the cold. 

    Just a awful and very un welcoming environment. 

    Is it really too hard to spot homeless people these days? I have traveled through Union Station many times over the past 5 years, it’s not really hard to spot them or even smell them. 

    Why is it that the average person who wants to use the Station being punished? It’s really not fair to the majority. 

    I really hope this stupid policy goes away! 

  8. .The Tea Party has nothing to do with this. Their main concern is excessive government spending and over taxation without representation. Sound familiar.

    The MTA board are primarily Democrats. So if you want to blame a group of politicians and their political view point your finger in the appropriate direction.

    Concerning New York City chasing undesirables away from public plazas. I was the victim of such abuse. I was sitting in one involved in a conversation dressed in my U.S. Army Class “A” green uniform. But I guess it was O. K. to abuse servicemen during the Viet Nam War.

    Union Station is a transit hub and it’s facilities maintained for it’s customers. The homeless are not welcome in City Hall, the Court Houses nor the waiting rooms in hospitals. Being homeless has become a lifestyle, not a unfortunate circumstance in many cases. One year while on vacation in Hawaii I saw two so called homeless people from Los Angeles there. One was at a church conference and was staying at my expensive hotel while the other I observed walking down the street. They must have been both on vacation there since I saw them back on the streets when I returned home