Why Are Metro Station’s “No-Man’s Lands?”

9_15_09_hollywood_and_western.jpgSherrifs’ lack of action takes the glitter off Metro’s luster. Photo:Patrick Cates/Flickr

Last Saturday night, transportation activists Stephen and Enci Box arrived at the Hollywood and Western Metro Red Line station and found the station in shambles.  A homeless encampment had moved onto the top floor, five of the six escalators were out of order and the "emergency intercom" was broken.

After assisting an elderly "reluctant pedestrian" up the steps, the Box’s began a series of phone calls to try and get some rectification to the situation and discovered a bureaucracy that is unable to deal with problems on a Saturday night.

I called the LASD Watch Commander at Metro Rail HQ to let him know of
the five inoperative escalators, the broken emergency intercom, the
stench of urine and feces, the overflowing trash cans, and the homeless
encampment, pointing out that they all indicate a significant failure
on the part of the LASD.

Sgt. Bedogne explained that staffing
was thin on Saturday nights and that their focus was fare evasion. I
pointed out this seems to be in sharp contrast with the Metro’s
position as articulated by CEO Art Leahy who has indicated that public
safety and customer service are his priorities for the Metro.

Crickets chirped.

It
took 28 minutes for the LASD to arrive at Hollywood & Western, four
cars with five Deputies. They descended into the station, returned to
street level, chatted with the two armed Metro Officers who joined
them, hung out some more, and then they all left. Net result of the
visit, 22 minutes of scratching, spitting and huddling together on the
mean streets of Hollywood and Western.

Anyone that’s read one of Stephen’s postings at either Soap Box or City Watch knows that every story reveals a larger lesson.  In this case he hammers the point that nobody is willing to take responsibility for the land surrounding Metro train stations that is owned by Metro.  The LAPD wipe their hands of all Metro property and the Sheriff’s, who operate as Metro’s private para-military security firm, seem to think that their responsibilities only include the stations.

I’m going to take a different angle.  While I found my interview with Art Leahy an enjoyable conversation, the proof of Metro’s priority is in their actions and the actions of their contractors.  If the Sheriff’s have the staff to do "random" bag searches at stations and to watch people try and figure out what to do with the turnstiles being seemingly randomly placed; they should undeniably have the staff to respond to emergencies on a Saturday night.

  • Hmmm, why are metro stations so vacant? This is a tough one … let’s see … what exactly is there to do at a Metro station?

    Well, you can get your bag searched. You can buy a ticket. You can wait. You can have your conversation squelched by the roar of automobile and bus traffic that is always increased (by law?) around Metro’s projects.

    I can’t figure it out! With all of this cool stuff to do, why wouldn’t you want to hang out at the “TOD” Metro stations?

  • I think the larger reason is that LA’s streets are a “no-man’s land” for the most part, and especially later at night. In the video Stephen mentioned that the Metro had already stopped running, so it was probably midnight or 1am, but even if it was earlier the trains are on 20-minute headways for much of the night so the stations are rather devoid of man anyways. It’s sad that after all these years that corner (I used to live a few blocks west) has not been activated in the way it could. I think regular late night transit service and much more robust collection of transit oriented developments (a ground floor bank is not robust) would attract more mans and make it no-man’s land no more.

  • DJB

    It may be premature to label all metro stations “no man’s lands”. I’ve seen Hollywood/Western being used by “regular” people just hanging out or skateboarding. Vermont/Santa Monica is used as a public plaza and market. Wilshire/Vermont is just amazing on a lot of levels, and Hollywood/Highland is one of the biggest tourist spots in LA. My biggest complaint about LA TODs is that their housing tends to be so damn unaffordable.

    As far as homelessness goes, that’s a problem that Metro really can’t do much about. Most cities do everything they can to get rid of homeless people, shoving them out of sight somewhere. The outside of transit stations are public spaces, and consequently one of the few places where homeless people are allowed to exist.

    Vandalism and broken escalators (and we don’t know who did that in this case) are always unfortunate, but the bottom line is everybody has limited resources and there are limits to what any agency can do. We need a larger public commitment to a lot of things in this country. Transit and (ending) homelessness are two of them.

  • Good points DJB. Wilshire/Vermont is an especially good example, as is Hollywood/Highland. There’s lots of stuff to see and do (although I think Wilshire/Vermont needs to expand well beyond that corner), and the retail and TOD is rather good at those spots. The fact is, the more active an area is with productive activities, whether it be jobs, shopping, entertainment, the more those areas organically self-regulate behavior.

  • And the thing is this train station and the bus stop across the street is right by Eric Garcetti’s office. I thought he was a pro-alt transit kind of guy…

    http://www.thebusbench.com/2009/04/the-bus-stop-outside-eric-garcettis-office.html

    Browne

  • I think it is fair to say that a lot of the ghost-town stations are that way because of an overemphasis on throughput of cars immediately surrounding the stations and not one that focuses on ground-floor retail and pedestrian comfort and access.

  • angle

    So where else are the poor people supposed to sleep?

  • Erik G.

    Wilshire/Western is also about to take off with the opening of a TOD project.

    What I think the article does a good job of shining a light on is the absolute disconnect between LASD, LAPD and LA Metro. I mean WTF!?!

    You search my bag, you tell me to use this turnstile over that turnstile and not the one ADA faregate, and you bark at me to show you my ticket, but Osama bin Laden could be living high on the hog down in Hollywood/Western station and its “What me Worry?”

  • I agree with Josef above… Another thing that helps contribute to lifeless station crater zones (not so much at the Red Line stops cited, though – more at NoHo, Universal, and many Blue and Gold Line stops) is all that free parking.

    Metro should recruit some taco trucks, swap meets, etc. to bring life to these parking wastelandias.

  • If you kick out the homeless the ACLU will sue you.

  • It is too easy to propose kicking out the homeless. I understand why that is read into a critique of the status quo, but it is conceivable that people with no homes can be provided for as well as people with homes who pass through the area during the day.

    In other words, let’s focus on trashing MTA stations and not trash our trashing of them. Hrm.

  • Programs to help the homeless are great. Get the ones who are insane the proper medical care they need and get the ones who are just unlucky but not insane into the workforce. The Iraq War is estimated to have cost 2.3 trillion dollars. Perhaps enough could have been spared to solve the homeless program in this country.

  • In other words, programs to help the homeless is socialism and going to war is U-S-A #1!!!

  • Gotta say – not really on board with this post/perspective. I have found the red line stations to usually be pretty full or people during the day and early nite – yah, at midnight not so much – seeing how service ends around then. Will agree that keeping escalators and elevators running continues to be a major challenge for Metro, that needs to be addressed, as well as a major challenge for those who rely on it.

  • I think Box was focusing more on the maintenance of the station, than the amount of or lack of people there, when he arrived.

  • Most important element of my focus was the fact that the Red Line station, supervised by the LASD who have a $67 million contract to provide services, is a “No-Man’s Land” because the LASD, the LAPD, the CRA, the Property Manager and the Metro are all unable to agree on baoundaries, jurisdiction and responsibility.

    Therefore, this is known as a “No-Man’s Land” because nobody claims it, nobody supervises it, nobody takes responsibility and two watch commanders on a Saturday night were both able to tell me it was the other department who was responsible. When the Sheriffs showed up, they did not walk the property, just the underground portion of the station.

    The urine, the feces, the homeless encampment were all upstairs on the patio area of Metro Hollywood. The area is visible to City Council President Eric Garcetti from his 4th floor office window in the Mayer Building.

    All this heat and nobody notices the blight at the Metro Red Line Station at Hollywood & Western.

    That is what is known as “No-Man’s Land!”

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