Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia speaks about safety improvements on Metro's Blue Line. Photos by Stephanie Rivera.
Metro officials yesterday unveiled safety improvements completed, or in the process of being completed, at 27 intersections along the Blue Line—the nation's busiest rail line, with over 80,000 daily boardings, and the county’s oldest at 25 years old.
Mayor Robert Garcia joined County Supervisor Don Knabe, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Compton Mayor Aja Brown as well as multiple Metro officials at the Wardlow Station in Long Beach to celebrate the developments—improvements which have already begun to impact the Beach city.
These safety measures include physical barriers to improve pedestrian safety, new and wider walkways and improved signage, costing $30 million in Proposition C funds. Specifically, the intersections will have emergency pedestrian gates and swing gates, new walkways poured with concrete instead of asphalt, new fencing and signage and accessibility improvements for persons with disabilities, officials stated.
Specifically, Metro has targeted the Blue Line stations at Wardlow Road and Pacific Place, and Spring Street and Del Mar Avenue intersections, recently completing said improvements. Additional safety improvements are expected to be completed at the six Compton intersections by this week and work elsewhere in the line will continue within the next 12 months, according to Metro CEO Phillip Washington.
“When our investments are complete, these safety upgrades will keep the Blue Line uniform with our newly built light rail lines all over the system,” Washington said. “We are committed to making sure that we keep this line in a really good state of good repair.”
Washington also announced plans to add a security presence all over the Metro system, starting with the Blue Line. Essentially, it will add a fixed uniformed security presence at the stations and aboard trains, something only seen at major stops such as the Union and 7th/Metro stations.
Washington said these security forces have already started to be deployed following a recommendation made last month to the Metro board. While these enhancements are not dependent on Measure M—a sales tax measure on Tuesday’s ballot—if passed, the measure could greatly enhance safety.
“Obviously with Measure M we can do more but we feel that we need to do this (add security forces) now,” Washington said. “We want to make sure that customers feel good riding our system.”
Garcetti called the Blue Line the “workhorse of the light rail system” with more than 80,000 boardings every single day carrying commuters back and forth between Los Angeles and Long Beach and everywhere in between.
“A few years ago we saw the wear and tear on the Blue Line,” Garcetti said. “Train delays began to mount, collisions with pedestrians and cars were happening too often.”
While these types of incidents are not exclusive to the region, Garcetti said passing measures, such as Measure M, can help with long-term maintenance.
“Because we don’t want to see lines that look gleaming and shiny in the beginning fall apart in the end,” Garcetti said.
Noting the need for repairs, in 2014 Metro began an extensive overhaul of the Blue Line, replacing power stations, overhead power lines, tracks and rail cars as well as making improvements to station platforms. Work is scheduled to continue through the 2019 fiscal year, according to Metro officials. It was a $1.2 billion investment, according to Garcetti.
“We’re excited that all the riders connecting between Long Beach and Los Angeles will have a safer experience along the Blue Line,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. “We’re incredibly grateful for the improvements being made particularly to this stop.”
A 2015 study by the nonprofit Next 10 gave Metro’s Wardlow Station an F, the worst grade for a station within the LA County Metro transit system.
The low number of pedestrians using the system, the presence of roads that make the station “auto-dominated” and not pedestrian-friendly, low evidence of walkability and low amount of jobs and households per acre resulted in the station scoring lower than any other in the region.
The station has also been the scene of crimes and accidents over the years, including a fatal stabbing in April. There have also been incidents of crime at other Long Beach stations and inside the Blue Line itself.
The Blue Line has 22 stations between downtown Long Beach and 7th Street/Metro Center in downtown Los Angeles. It serves Los Angeles Trade Technical College, South Los Angeles—including the iconic Watts Towers—and Compton. For more information on Metro, click here.