Metro riders complain of transients sleeping on trains: 'They seem to be wanting to run a homeless shelter'

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Early morning Metro riders say the trains are often filled with Los Angeles' homeless people sleeping. Some have even dubbed it the "Red Line Motel."

"They seem to be wanting to run a homeless shelter instead of a choo-choo train," said Brian Glendhill, who takes the Metro every day to and from work to avoid traffic and the high price of gas.

Glendhill said the smell is concerning, and when a homeless person gets removed by police for sleeping or not having a Metro card, he claims they simply walk across the platform to another train.

"It's a bad way to start the morning. You can't sit down, afraid of sitting in someone's soiled seat. The seats are cloth so they stay damp. and so it's 45 minutes of standing," Glendhill said.

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Like any transit system serving a major metropolitan area, there have been incidents of crime and lewd acts on the train or at stations. Though violent crimes on the metro are rare, riders complain the high number of homeless makes them feel unsafe, causing some to take other forms of transportation.

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"Riding the train at night is just scary. People try and talk to you and you have to ignore them, keep to yourself," said Neicy Tovar, who added she doesn't take the train alone.

"If we're going to continue to grow ridership, we have to make sure every rider has a positive experience. That's addressing perceptions of safety, security, homelessness," said Alex Wiggins, Metro's chief system security and law enforcement officer.

For the past five years, Metro ridership has declined. Wiggins said that's a trend seen by many transit services across the country and is due in part to an increase in ride-share services and the low cost of owning a car. But, Wiggins added a crowded Metro means a safer Metro.

Over the last two years, Metro has doubled its police presence on all six rail lines and bus routes to increase passenger safety. Currently, Metro has 593 law enforcement officers assigned to stations and trains every hour. Wiggins said the goal is not to kick the homeless off trains, but to get them into housing.

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"We have 40 social workers that work in teams of 5 and 22 law enforcement officers dedicated exclusively to conducting outreach with the homeless population and looking to give them an alternative to taking shelter on the transit system. We've been at this for a couple of years now. Of the 5,000 who they've had contact with, half have accepted assistance," said Wiggins.

On Thursday, metro's contract with the L.A. County Department of Health Services was extended for two years for homeless outreach services. To address the falling ridership, Metro has launched a next generation bus study to improve service.
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