After Long Beach asked Metro last year to reevaluate its end-of-the-line policy—which forces riders off the last trains each night at every line’s final station—because of the alleged effect it was having on the city’s homeless population, the agency proposed a homeless services hub along the A Line.
Metro has focused on two potential sites in Long Beach for such a hub, but now, the city wants the agency to analyze additional sites and provide more details before potentially greenlighting a hub in the city.
Metro’s Executive Management Committee was scheduled to discuss the agency’s “end of the line” policy Thursday, but it canceled that meeting. The full Metro board is now expected to get an update on the end-of-the-line policy and potential hubs as soon as its next meeting on April 27.
The update will come as Metro documents have claimed Long Beach indicated it is not interested in creating a service hub, though city officials dispute that characterization.
Metro had looked at two A Line stations in the city for such a hub—Willow Street and Wardlow—and the agency homed in on the Willow Street station because of its large underused parking lot, which is flat and could easily accommodate modular housing.
Long Beach City Manager Tom Modica said Thursday that the city is happy that Metro listened to its call to examine how the end-of-the-line policy was affecting Long Beach and is generally supportive of creating a hub where services could be provided to people riding its trains.
However, the city would like Metro to look at additional sites for the hub, Modica said, pointing to the Del Amo Station, which sits just outside of the city’s border on the west side of the 710 Freeway.
The station has a large parking lot and is tucked into a commercial area and not near homes, schools or parks like the Willow and Wardlow stations are. Modica said the city also wants to know more about the hub and how it will work, who will pay for it and what happens the morning after people stay at the hub.
“We’ve expressed that there is a lot more we want to know,” Modica said.
The city said it would conduct more outreach meetings before any potential approval of a site in Long Beach.
Whether the city and Metro will ultimately come to an agreement is unclear, and if they do, construction of a site could be several months away. Metro said it’s committed to providing space on property it owns in the city, but it will also continue to look at other sites along its network.
“Metro remains committed to providing Metro property at the Willow Station should the City of Long Beach decide to move forward with a navigation hub,” a Metro staff report said. “Should the city decide to forgo the hub, Metro will look for other suitable locations at end of line stations to establish a navigation hub.”
The city and Metro began discussions earlier this year on the potential for a hub to help the people that were being forced off the trains each night in Downtown Long Beach. Metro clears its trains at the end of the service day, which is typically around 1 a.m., to take the trains to its service yard just north of the Wardlow station for cleaning and maintenance.
Those people are currently required to leave the trains at the Downtown First Street platform where a Metro bus back to Los Angeles is available, but few other formal services are offered.
Metro held a community meeting in the Wrigley Neighborhood near the Willow Station in March to get community feedback on the hub and was met with a variety of concerns from residents who said that the hub would hinder the area’s ability to attract new businesses, potentially create public safety issues and continue a trend of underserved communities shouldering the responsibility of homeless services projects.
The Willow Street Station and the Wardlow Station are the only locations where Metro owns property in Long Beach, and a feasibility study conducted by the agency found that the Willow parking lot was flatter, less utilized and could be closed without affecting transit parking or traffic flow.
Metro’s analysis noted that both locations in Long Beach had no community support for a hub to be located there.
The Willow site was projected to cost about $1 million annually to operate in addition to the initial buildout that could see modular housing brought in with the potential for limited construction to run utilities to the site.
Metro estimated the site could serve up to 50 people per night, and it would include short-term crisis beds and 24-hour resource navigation services.
Surveys conducted by the agency found that people riding its trains had a high likelihood of wanting to move off the streets if shelter or services were available.
Of the 321 people Metro surveyed since January, 64% said they were willing and ready to be connected to housing or other services. The surveys also found that 69% of people said they had experienced unsheltered homelessness during the previous 30 days, and 69% also said they had been homeless for at least one year.
“There is a common misconception that people experiencing homelessness are resistant to services and housing — that is not the case with people experiencing homelessness on Metro,” the report said.
Point-in-time counts conducted by the agency over the past five months looked at 12 of the 13 end-of-the-line stations it has in its network and how many unhoused people exited the trains there each night. Union Station in Los Angeles had the largest observed total with 137 people exiting the train per night, followed by North Hollywood, which had an average of 112.
Long Beach had the sixth-highest nightly average, with 39 people recorded leaving the trains each night.
The city asked Metro in October to evaluate the end-of-the-line policy after residents and business owners in Downtown said the nightly emptying of the train had led to increased vandalism and security issues.
Like other agencies, Long Beach declared a state of emergency over homelessness in January and has sought partnerships with city entities as well as the county and Metro to find solutions for the unhoused population.
As Metro continues to weigh other options, its board of directors could also declare its own emergency for homelessness. Doing so could allow it to enter into contracts for social services faster with an emergency declaration.