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 ## 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.

  • Anonymous

    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.”

    Which is odd considering that the Blue Line does not and will not, for the most part, have turnstiles.

  • There’s an awful lot of “inside baseball” in that description of the Code of Conduct.  There’s nothing wrong with having a code or even a transit court, but this just seems to say “look! here’s how sausage is made! see?”

    I would love to see an American transit agency come up with a common courtesy campaign as cute, clever, funny and easy to understand as Tokyo Metro’s “Please Do It At Home” posters.  Or even borrow the Japanese posters, after fixing the inevitable Engrish.

  • One again Matt Barrett at the Metro Library has shared with me some addenda: There is a 2004 receive and file staff report on transit courts that Matt theorizes could be what led to everything else – the 2006 Burke motion, passenger code of conduct, and the creation of transit court.

    And Mr. Barrett dug up a 1992 reference to creating “transit courts” by Antonio Villaraigosa (who was an Board alternate durng his years as a labor organizer)! See item 7 “Director Special Items” in these December 17, 1992 SCRTD meeting minutes:

    I would counter to James that sharing the process has value, and I think noting pointedly the dismal lack of public input is a bit more than “look! here’s how sausage is made! see?” Trust me, some Metro staff will be displeased at my bringing that to light…

  • Anonymous

    The amended (6/23/2011) code of conduct allows for 1st Amendment expressive activities within section 6-05-210 Solicitation, but signs at entrances to Union Station and Section 6-05-120 Loitering, forbid; “Remaining in a Metro facilityor vehicle without a lawful transportation purpose . . .”  Exercising freedom of speech is not a law transportation purpose, therefore the code of conduct is contradictory and unclear and subject to misinterpritation by enforcement officers and dangerous to freedom of speech.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand how any MTA business has anything to do with the making of sausage, or for anyone to look and see how sausage is made.

  • Anonymous

    When people have allegedly violated the law, what is the problem of having to go to court.  Is the MTA court system supposed to fairer than the prior court system.


What Questions Would You Ask Daily Transit User Reps. on Advisory Panel to Metro’s Measure R Oversight Committee?

My metaphor of choice to describe transportation funding and policy making is an onion, in which there are a succession of layers representing complexities and multifaceted cross-jurisdictional dimensions. And one cannot be complacent since there are always new aspects to explore and try to fathom. For example, in a previous commentary I laid out the […]

Transit Funding 101 — County-Wide Edition

Thursday at the Metro Board monthly meeting with little fanfare or media attention one of the most important agenda items for the entire year will be dealt with and approved most likely without any discussion or public comment via a single consolidated vote as just one of 27 items being handled as “consent.” The item […]

Thoughts on Metro’s Fare Restructuring

(I want to be explicit this is solely my own opinion, and in no way endorsed by either Streetsblog or Southern California Transit Advocates – DG But I can’t help notice that So.CA.TA. has a special meeting just to discuss the changes this Saturday. – DN) Metro staff recently released two options for fare restructuring […]

Streetsblog Asks Metro Board to Waive Attorney Client-Privilege on Najarian’s 710 Big Dig Motion

SBLA Metro 710 Priviledge At last week’s Metro Board meeting, County Attorney Charles Safer responded to an April motion by Board Member Ara Najarian containing questions on the I-710 Gap Closure Project. The Najarian motion sought the answers to three basic questions concerning the relationship between Caltrans and Metro on this project. Specifically, Najarian sought […]

The History Thats Led Us to This Weekend’s Special Metro Board Meeting

Photo: biofriendly/Flickr (Everyone knows that Dana is one of the Board members for the Southern California Transit Advocates, right?  Good. – DN) May 24, 2007 the Metro Board held a public hearing to consider what the agency termed euphemistically "fare restructuring". Tumultuous is word that best captures what the six hours of public hearing held in the Metro […]