Imagine Los Angeles’s transit stations filled with leafy trees and greenery, bustling with street vendors, illuminated by brighter light fixtures, and equipped with restrooms, with staff available and on-site 24 hours a day to help with questions or concerns.
That’s the vision of Alliance for Community Transit (ACT-LA), a transportation equity advocacy group that staged a takeover of the 37th/USC Silver Line Metro station lower level platform last week to show what a safe and welcoming station would look like.
For a day, the station, which is located underneath the 110 freeway, was filled with cutouts of a tree with flowers, a paleta cart, benches, and trashcans and recycling bins throughout the station’s lower level platform.
Organizers, who are themselves Metro commuters, discussed the importance of a public transit system that “puts people first” with riders. Some members wore bright yellow vests as an indication that Metro should have more staff in the stations.
“This is not just a one-day event. We are working to bring this vision to life through engaging our membership and transit riders,” Laura Raymond, director of ACT-LA, said in a statement.
“We invite all Angelenos to join the conversation and add to the vision of a safer Metro system,” Raymond adds.
Ruth de la Rosa takes the Silver Line bus from El Monte to South LA every day for work. Sometimes she clocks in as early as 6 a.m., or leaves by 11 p.m., and commutes more than an hour.
The stations are “very dark,” she said. “If there was a street vendor, it wouldn’t be so lonely and dark.”
Transit stations should be a “welcoming environment” that serves the public the same way a library does, said Raymond.
The 37th/USC Silver Line lower level platform is located directly beneath the 110 freeway in between one-way streets, where there aren’t many people on foot. The station does not have any restrooms. Riders said people urinate in the elevators and many times commuters have to take the stairs up to the platform.
While there are light fixtures throughout the lower level platform, riders said it’s still not enough to feel safe—especially at night.
Instead of physical changes, Metro has focused on adding more police to stations “which we know is not going to actually solve the [safety] issue,” said Raymond. “Instead of criminalizing transit riders, we really want to reframe how Metro is looking at safety.”
According to surveys and focus groups facilitated by Metro, Raymond said, young black males don’t feel safe when they see police on transit systems.
“We’re interested in a safe strategy that makes everyone feel safe, especially youth of color,” she said.
Fanny Ortiz, a member of the East LA Community Corporation, said her 21-year-old son was hanging out with his friends at the Gold Line’s Mariachi Plaza station in Boyle Heights when the police told them they had to leave.
Seeing police officers at stations “triggers her anxiety,” she said.
“It’s important to make Metro conscious of how their system criminalizes our youth,” Ortiz said.
To improve the safety and security on LA’s transit system, LA Metro partnered with three law enforcement agencies in 2017. The Los Angeles Police Department patrols all buses and transits within the city of LA; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department patrols within major parts of the county; and the Long Beach Police Department patrols in its city.
“The multi-agency law enforcement model is working, helping increase the felt presence of police on our system, reducing response time and helping deter and prevent incidents that provides a better customer experience for all riders,” said Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero.
“Our goal is to make safety our number one priority for all our customers,” he said.