Los Angeles County Metro leadership may consider changes to its end-of-the-line policy in which trains are cleared of all riders when they’re taken out of service, something that some Long Beach officials claim has contributed to the city’s 62% increase in people experiencing homelessness.

Metro’s Executive Management Committee met Thursday morning to discuss the practice, which is done to ensure trains are empty before they are returned to secure rail yards for cleaning and maintenance.

While the county’s 2022 homeless count showed a more modest 4% increase, Long Beach’s count showed an explosion in the population of people who are living in some state of homelessness in the city.

It’s unclear what options Metro might consider, but some members of the committee suggested putting more outreach workers on trains during the day to offer services to the unhoused before they’re forced off trains at the end of the night when most shelters and other services are unavailable.

A report is expected to come back to Metro’s full board of directors at some point in the future, with more data on how this policy is affecting cities within its service area.

Because Long Beach is at the end of the A-Line, formerly the Blue Line, all Metro trains going out of service at the end of the night, typically between midnight and 1 a.m., are cleared and sometimes that puts people experiencing homelessness into the streets of Long Beach.

The City Council called on Metro earlier this month to reevaluate the practice and County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who is also on Metro’s board of directors, asked for the report.

“I’m hoping that we don’t just evaluate the policy, but look at what we can do differently,” Hahn said Thursday.

Long Beach officials and residents, including councilmembers Cindy Allen and Mary Zendejas, pressed Metro to act, or provide the city with more resources so it can provide services to the people forced off the trains every day.

However both Allen and Zendejas, who represent Downtown, had previously objected to a motion made by Councilmember Suzie Price earlier this month to ask Metro to reevaluate its end-of-the-line policy, saying the data didn’t show there was an issue. They ultimately voted in favor after a wording change to the letter.

As outraged business owners and residents in Downtown have pressured Long Beach officials to do something, Allen said in a followup interview Thursday that the data might now show something should change. She said she had been working with Metro in 2021 before being drawn out as the area’s representative through redistricting.

Allen pointed to Hahn’s remarks that a recent count at the Downtown A Line station on First Street showed over 63 people exit the train and stay in Long Beach, which was dramatically larger than what a survey showed in June 2021.

“If those are the types of numbers we’re seeing per day, this is urgent,” Allen said.

She added that the services need to be provided outside of “banking hours” because homelessness is a round-the-clock issue and people need services at all times of the day. Having Metro pay for more quality-of-life officers during off-hours or having a bus that could transport people to an open shelter are some of the things Allen said could help.

Earlier this week, Hahn also called on the county to partner with Metro to provide more outreach on Metro’s trains and buses. Other members of the committee were supportive of Hahn’s request, but cautioned that Metro should be clear with cities like Long Beach about what it can and cannot do, and that those cities should also have to be part of the solution.

Director James Butts pushed back on the request and said the agency should focus on what its core mission is—mass transportation—and said the approach to the issue should be based on how it affects ridership within Metro’s system.

“I don’t think anyone has the right to tell someone based on their housed status where they can get off the train,” Butts said.

A report from Metro identified a list of obstacles that the agency has in trying to address homelessness on its routes.

The agency doesn’t have enough adequately trained staff to provide outreach to individuals, so it’s now looking to partner with the county. It’s looking to double its outreach staff from eight to 16 and hire about 300 transit ambassadors over the next few months.

While the agency is spending about $5 million annually in funds meant for transit operations to support homeless outreach, it says it’s not nearly enough, according to the gap analysis presented Thursday.

The county also lacks 24-hour shelter operations, which Metro officials said they could pursue but would need additional funding. It could also require developments built on Metro property to house formerly unhoused people rather than just require that the new units be affordable.

Long Beach asks Metro to evaluate policy of forcing people off the A-Line at its terminus Downtown

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.