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.