Long Beach will ask the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to evaluate its practice of forcing passengers off its trains at the end of the A-Line in Downtown as the city continues to grapple with a growing homeless population that surged by 62% since 2020.
Every day when service on the A-Line ends at around 1 a.m., anyone still riding the train is forced to exit the train at the First Street platform in Downtown so that workers can clean and prep the trains before operations start up again at 4 a.m.
While it’s unclear what effect this has had on the city’s rising homelessness numbers, a Metro representative said that it is aware that this policy puts some unhoused people into cities that they’re not originally from.
Metro’s chief safety officer, Gina Osborn, said that the agency requires all riders to disembark at all of its end-of-line stations, including Santa Monica and Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. This is done so trains can be cleaned and others can be taken to storage yards, which don’t have passenger platforms and are dangerous for pedestrians to be around, Osborn said.
“This is not a deliberate thing that Metro is doing at the end of its line here in Long Beach,” Osborn told the City Council.
Long Beach’s homeless services bureau manager, Paul Duncan, said that out of the people surveyed when the city conducted its point-in-time homeless count earlier this year, about 45% said they did not become homeless in Long Beach.
Los Angeles County saw an increase of just 4.1% in its 2022 count and Orange County saw a 16.6% decrease from its last count conducted in 2019.
LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents Long Beach and also serves on Metro’s board of directors, said Wednesday that the practice deserved another look and that she planned to add an item to Metro’s board agenda calling for an evaluation of the practice and to look at tools that Metro can use to help connect homeless riders to services and housing.
“Kicking unhoused riders off the train at 1 a.m. without anywhere for them to go isn’t helping anyone,” Hahn said in a statement. “We need to understand the scale of this issue and how to better and more humanely ensure unhoused people are connected with care and housing.”
The request to send the letter to Metro came from Councilmember Suzie Price, who said that Long Beach is being asked to take on an unfair amount of a regional responsibility to provide services for people experiencing homelessness.
Hahn’s motion largely mirrors what the City Council asked city management to look into Tuesday night. The council asked for the schedules of quality of life officers to possibly be changed to make them available at the time when riders are forced to leave the train as well as looking into having police officers ride the A Line loop in Long Beach.
The request to send the letter to Metro received some pushback from council members who said that the city was already addressing the issue despite numerous business owners and residents saying they feel unsafe Downtown and largely attribute that to Metro forcing people to leave the trains in Long Beach.
Councilmember Cindy Allen, who used to represent the area before redistricting, said a survey had already been conducted by Metro that showed that most people forced to leave the train ended up boarding a bus bound for Los Angeles. She cited a week-long survey by Metro police that found that of the 63 people experiencing homelessness who left the train in Long Beach, 48 were from Los Angeles and 40 ultimately boarded a bus.
“To write a letter telling them to change their practices I cannot support because I don’t see that this was an issue with everything I’ve gotten from Metro,” Allen said.
Price, who is running for mayor, said she requested the letter after hearing from residents and business owners on the campaign trail who said the practice was still creating issues Downtown. Several of them shared their experiences Tuesday night.
“For the first time last week I considered selling my business,” said Orsa Modica, who owns Modica’s on the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Linden Avenue. “I can’t leave my business at night without an escort. Why?”
Angela Mesna, who owns District Wine near the corner of Linden Avenue and Broadway, said her all-female staff carries pepper spray while they’re waiting tables because of the issues that some of the unhoused people in the area have caused.
Long-time patrons have stopped showing up because they feel unsafe, and recently she had to shield her daughter from a man who was masturbating in her parklet, Mesna said.
“We live in constant fear, there’s an emotional strain and it’s hitting us financially,” Mesna said.
City Manager Tom Modica said that the city has had ongoing discussions with Metro because of the city’s contract with the agency that allows Long Beach Police Department officers to police the segment of the line located in Long Beach. Through those discussions, Metro has added quality of life officers to their trains, Modica said.
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