As the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) awaits the full transition of power to local police agencies in July, it’s stepping up its own security to ensure that riders feel safe while using its trains.
Starting this week, its deploying Metro security guards to ride trains in an effort to improve ridership experience. Next week, that presence will be filled by Los Angeles County Sheriff Department (LASD) deputies who will ride on Blue Line trains originating from Los Angeles and Long Beach to reduce customer complaints in “key areas of conduct,” Metro officials announced Tuesday morning.
Those areas include vending and soliciting, raucous and/or offensive behavior, loud music and “seat hogging.” The security surge, something the agency has undertaken before, is called Operation: Better Ride and will be carried out Mondays through Saturdays over the next five weeks.
“These patrols will increase the felt presence of law enforcement on our system and help create better ridership experiences for everyone,” Metro Board Chair John Fasana said in a release. “We want to ensure that all Metro customers can ride our system safely and securely 100 percent of the time. With the public’s cooperation, we can reach this important goal.”
Metro security or LASD deputies will board trains between the hours of 5:30AM and 1:30AM and ride from 7th Street-Metro Center in Los Angeles headed south and from Long Beach stations headed north to serve as a visual deterrent to conduct issues that had been reported in the past.
A Metro spokesman said that the officers would be on trains to serve mostly as deterrents but that officers could still act on their judgements and remove people from train cars that are violating the law.
Last month, Metro approved contracts with the Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments and the LASD to allow for those agencies’ officers to take over patrolling sections of the Blue Line that run through their respective jurisdictions to help improve ridership experiences, but also cut down on response times.
The $645.7 million contract was approved with a unanimous vote by the Metro board and is expected to bring at least 14 new LBPD officers dedicated to patrolling the Blue Line in Long Beach.
During that meeting Metro pointed to its own survey that showed that rider experience and perceived safety were issues in getting people to use the system more frequently. In that survey 18 percent of those polled said they would return to using the Blue Line if safety measures increased and nearly 30 percent of respondents said they had stopped using the line because of safety concerns.
At the end of the five-week operation Metro will evaluate its findings to determine if future security surges are necessary. The agency carried out similar operations in 2015 and 2016 on the Blue, Red, Green and Expo lines.
“Increased patrols complement actions Metro is already taking to keep safety our No. 1 priority,” Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington said in a statement. “Our law enforcement partners will be looking to correct typical problem behaviors that can often discourage people from riding Metro. We’re confident that addressing these issues head-on will help retain and attract new riders on our expanding transit system.”