By Yaneira Rodriguez
If the city does not address its rampant unhoused population, substance abuse crisis, and improve access to mental health services, public transportation will never be safe.
There have been 21 deaths in Los Angeles Metro buses and trains during the first three months of this year. The same number of deaths were reported for all of 2022.
According to Metro, there has been a 24% rise in violent crimes including assault, murder, rape and robbery since 2021.
Metro reported that the majority of deaths are drug related, possibly due to the high increase of fentanyl use since 2016.
Metro received 1,385 incident reports on narcotics use, possession or sales through the Metro Transit Watch App.
There has been a near 25% increase in crime and a near 100% increase in drug reports. The Gold Line, which is the train closest to East Los Angeles College, reported 192 crimes in 2022.
A considerable amount of the estimated 70,000 unhoused people in the Los Angeles area are substance users. Many of them seek shelter on the bus and rail system.
This prompted Metro to introduce a pilot program at the Westlake/MacArthur station where Metro Ambassadors, who are unarmed security guards, can call the police if they are unable to take control of a situation.
Classical music is also being blasted at the Westlake/MacArthur Park stop to drive down crime and increase ridership.
The music is used as a way to prevent people from spending too much time at the stations.
The music is fine for a couple of minutes, but becomes a nuisance after some time. Some online commentators have called this tactic inhumane and that it does not address the root cause of problems the Metro lines are facing.
L.A. Metro has also added more security cameras and lighting for an extra security measure.
Metro is also increasing their cleaning procedures on trains that includes power washing, wiping down high-touch points, reducing graffiti, vandalism and loiterism.
Metro hopes the extra cleaning procedures will help increase the feeling of safety for riders.
On May 2, officers shot a man at the East Hollywood station after allegedly assaulting a woman.
The suspect fled the scene and then stabbed a man before police were able to arrive.
According to an October 2022 customer experience survey, 75% of Metro riders are from low-income households.
Metro’s GoPass is a program that makes fares more affordable and is available to all students in the Los Angeles Community College District. Metro reportedly reached 10 million riders with its GoPass.
A great amount of students rely on public transit and the city owes it to them to create a safe environment.
It seems like it is difficult to feel safe on a Metro bus or in one of the stations. No one wants to have an encounter with a person who is mentally unstable or high on drugs and ends in violence.
For many students, using public transit is their only option. With the current negative attention Metro has been receiving, hopefully they continue to take the appropriate steps to address the issues.