Long Beach Pols Push for Blue Line Safety Measures, More Needs to Be Done

It is a thorn in many of the sides of Long Beach transit riders: the Blue Line, bluntly put, rarely proffers its riders a safe ride.

The past year alone has offered a plethora of disturbing events alter the public perception of even bothering with the Blue: Earlier this year, a man was beaten unconscious at the Willow Platform after being robbed, without a report to police for ten minutes . In November of last year, a 19-year-old man was shot at the 5th Street Station, with Rick Jager of Metro claiming he couldn’t even remember the last time someone was shot on the Metro. That same month, a pedestrian was hit by a train at that same station after a car collided with the Blue Line previously in July, causing a death. One woman blogged of her horrific Blue Line experiences, eventually going viral and showcasing how when one boards the train in Long Beach, “the [hassling] starts right away.”

The Metro line is key to the Los Angeles region, catering to some 90,000 people a day, with over 17,000 being served at the eight Long Beach stations alone. And it is here where Vice Mayor Robert Garcia–with the backing of fellow councilmembers Suja Lowenthal, James Johnson, and Steve Neal–has drafted a recommendation to improve the safety of the Blue Line by modernizing and beautifying the Long Beach strip on which it runs.

According to the recommendation, there are sections of the Blue Line “need immediate attention, including repairing of public art, signage, and improving public safety” in addition to the addition of turnstiles that “would assist public safety officials with monitoring who rides on the Blue Line.”

Garcia is essentially right on two fundamental levels: the electronic turnstiles will help better funnel out non-paying customers and the dilapidated state of many of the stations welcome unwanted visitors. In fact, I am quite sure that Garcia et al understand that Long Beach will be unable to reach its goal of being “The Most Bike Friendly City in America”–amongst other goals–without safe transit connections.

And though I am thrilled at the steps taken, there is one obvious thing glaring that needs to be altered: signal priority needs to be given to the Blue Line.

Currently, 32 signals parallel the Blue Line in Long Beach, effectively making Long Beach Boulevard not only the slowest stretch of the Blue, but also the least desirable (something I’ve discussed before). Why bother on a train when you can see it halt continuously for your own car?

The perception of the Blue Line is one that won’t be altered alone with turnstiles and clean spaces; people need to see it as a viable form of transportation–and we all know the power of numbers: the more riders, the more people who don’t take it most likely will.

A higher-up of an electric bus manufacturer made a brilliant point about the visibility of public transit when he said that if the image of the form of transit isn’t desirable–in his case, he was referring to loud, polluting buses running through quiet neighborhoods–then everyone will avoid it. In this case, we aren’t making the Blue Line desirable–it’s second-class to your car–and without a higher number of riders–which means an increase in those paying attention, an increase in witnesses, and increase in comfort through numbers–then we won’t achieve a more comfortable transit space.

This isn’t, of course, to downsize what is being done and what is attempting to be done. Traffic synchronization is hopefully on its way. And unquestionably, these added bonuses of turnstiles and aesthetic upgrades will undoubtedly calm some problems. But much more advanced (and expensive and time-consuming) tactics, such as signal priority, need to be initiated.

The recommendation will be formally introduced to the council on June 4.

  • grrlyrida

    I just read the blog about the Blue Line and it’s so true. I’ve taken it 2x now. It’s slow and men hassle you as soon as you board. I was going to a women’s bike conference last year and it was my first time on the Blue Line. I boarded with my bike and used it as a shield when guys tried to stand next to me and ask me, “Where ya going with the bike?” Or “Can I get some numbers?” Each time I pretended I was from Libya (which I am) but don’t know any Arabic. I would say a few phrases in Hebrew like, “How are you?” I knew these guys wouldn’t know the difference. Then I promptly ignored them after that.

    I concluded the Blue Line is sketchy and I try to avoid going on it. I’ll take my car before going on it again.

  • Tony Banash who serves on the Metro Citizens’ Advisory Council has been speaking out regarding safety on the Blue Line to agency management and the Sheriff’s contingent that police it. Ditto Wally Shidler who serves on the Gateway Cities Service Council.

    Is Long Beach offering any money for all these enhancements? Due to design issues very few of the Blue Line stations can have turnstiles.This is common knowledge among rail activists. Signal priority would require cooperation from the city of Long Beach, which has always said no when Metro has broached the subject.

    The Blue Line is a huge success — one of the highest if not the highest ridership light rail lines in the United States. It is almost maxed out on capacity. And the shared trackage with the Expo Line along Flower means it really cannot add more service. So worrying about whether it is “viable form of transportation” seems nonsensical.

  • Erik Griswold

    Turnstiles on the stations in Long Beach will only encourage riders to walk along the tracks and hop up onto the platforms. Remember that most all of the line in Long Beach operates as street-running.

    More false sense of security brought to you by the Turnstile Fetish!

  • Erik Griswold

    No, thats impossible; the turnstiles at the stations have prevented any pervs or sleazballs from entering the system.
    (I keed!)

    But actually, the cost of installing the turnstiles and maintaining them has already cut and will lead to further cuts in the staffing budgets that would allow for LASD to have at least a white-shirted LASD assistant ride on each train (changing cars at each station) which would be a realistic deterrent to crime, vending and harassment.

    The money was better spent in San Diego and China than here!

  • Joe B

    Once again, Metro is pushing turnstiles without any reasonable explanation of how they will help solve the Blue Line’s problems. Thugs, criminals, harassers and crazy people aren’t going to be deterred by turnstiles; they’ll just go around or over them. Know what will deter them? POLICE.

    Metro should take the money it’s planning to spend on turnstiles and instead spend it on uniformed security personnel. Thugs don’t avoid turnstiles; they avoid police. Turnstiles can’t cite fare evaders; police can. Turnstiles don’t respond to assaults or harassers or medical emergencies; police do.

  • Anonymous

    Considering all the stories I hear about the Blue Line, I’m always a little surprised at how much I see sheriff presence on the Expo Line. I mostly ride during the day, not late at night, but for example, when I got home the other day there were at least 4 deputies at Culver City. It’s great that they are checking fares on Expo Line but it would seem the Blue Line could use a little more presence.

    I am all for signal priority in Long Beach (and, god, on Flower St, please) but I don’t think it’s going to do much in terms of safety.

  • 333sturm

    Just figure what stations the thugzz use to get on, and put a bunch of police there. Harass them until they get the message.

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