Origins of the Metro Code of Conduct

If you have ridden a Metro bus or rail car you may have recently found in the holders for brochures and timetables (known in the industry as take-ones) a brochure for Metro’s Code of Conduct. The who/what, you may wonder?

Read the full brochure by clicking here.

Let me share with you the circuitous story of this bit of rulemaking. If nothing else, I think the reader’s of this blog will find it an entertaining tale. And I even have a personal role at one key part of the narrative.

In August 2003 the Metro Board adopted an Administrative Code for the agency. The Minutes from that meeting indicate the code (item #24) was merely adopted; no mention of amendments being made or follow-up actions to be taken. This is interesting because in November 2007 when the Metro board was presented the Customer Code of Conduct draft the staff report stated “In 2003 Metro’s Board adopted an Administrative Code … After adoption of the Administrative Code, the Board instructed staff to evaluate the efficacy of creating a Customer Code of Conduct in furtherance of the purposes for which the Administrative Code was adopted.” Note the ambiguity that no mention is made of who actually sought such a Code, merely that “The Board” instructed staff. Only in a 2009 document is it revealed Duarte Councilman and Metro Board member John Fasana first suggested Metro needed a Code, as an adjunct to the creation of a Transit Adjudication Bureau (basically Metro’s own court).

The Code and Transit Adjudication Bureau seemed somewhat in limbo after the initial inquiry in 2003 until then L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board member Yvonne Burke in Feb. 2006 amended a motion about TAP (item #16). These few paragraphs are the birthplace of the rail station turnstiles, with the Code and Adjudication Bureau tied to it. Burke’s main motivation was complaints from her constituents about having to go to court for tickets they received when they were found riding the Blue Line without Metro tickets or passes. Bruke put all her political clout behind making the gates happen (and by default the Code and Bureau). By Sept. 2006 legislation (SB 1749) had passed the legislature and been signed by the Governor authorizing Metro to set up a Court if it wished to.

The 2007 Code draft is what motivated my involvement. Staff in the aforementioned 2007 report stated “The proposed ordinance will be presented for final adoption at a subsequent Board meeting after the ordinance has been published for public comment.” Poking around and asking question I learned Mero staff felt a notice published in a newspaper of general circulation (i.e. a legal notice buried in the classifieds) was all that was necessary to seek public comments. I sent a letter to then-Metro CEO Roger Snoble decrying this state of affairs. In response Metro’s ethics officer Karen Gorman cited presentations at a bunch of obscure governmental meetings as constituting making the public aware. This was in a period when Metro had a widely publicized public hearing about tiles. You read that right: tiles. As I mentioned in my letter SO.CA.TA in response to this deplorable situation placed on the front page of its website a notice about the Code with links to the obscure location it had been posted on the Metro website plus information on how to submit comments via e-mail or written letter. We didn’t have a Streetsblog back then so this was about the best means available to get the word out to riders, etc.

By Dec. 2008 when Burke left the Board of Supervisors the Code had momentum as part of its association with the Court and gates. The following year things slowed down as then Metro CEO Roger Snoble felt the Court was impudent to implement until the agency’s finances were stabilized. In the middle of the year when Art Leahy took over he gave the thumbs up for it to go ahead.

And so in July 2010 the Metro Board adopted the Code. It was supposed to become effective July 1, 2011. But in June 2011 the Metro Board amended the Code to reflect previously made changes to Metro’s bicycle policies. Also the effective date was pushed back to October 31,2011 to enable the procurement of a citation processing vendor to be completed. Evidently things may have taken a bit longer than that to get up and running which accounts for why Metro’s first push to inform patrons about the Code is only starting up now.

So that is the story (with more twists and turns than an episode of public radio’s Guy Noir) of Metro’s not-so-new, long-time being born Code of Conduct. Such as it is.