By JON KAJI
Metro, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, plays a vital role in shaping the future of public transportation in the county. Its mandate encompasses the design, construction, and operation of a safe, reliable, affordable, and efficient transportation system.
The C Line extension, Metro’s plan for the South Bay, is a significant part of its rail system expansion and promises greater connectivity and accessibility for communities in the region. However, as we applaud these initiatives, we cannot ignore the pressing concerns of safety and security that have become increasingly evident on Metro’s system.
For me as a member of the Torrance City Council, addressing safety and security on its system is a prerequisite for progress and my support of Metro’s current plans to extend the C Line into Torrance.
Safety and security are paramount for any public transportation system. Passengers must feel safe while commuting, and the communities served by Metro must trust that their well-being is a top priority.
Unfortunately, in recent times, these fundamental expectations have been compromised, primarily due to the presence of unsheltered individuals who have turned Metro buses, trains, stations, and facilities into makeshift homes, restrooms, storage spaces, and even places to engage in other illicit activities including drug use.
The consequences of this situation are evident and alarming. Violence on Metro vehicles and at bus stops and stations has surged, putting the safety of employees and riders at risk. Commuters are rightly concerned about their well-being during their daily journeys, and this fear is eroding public trust in the Metro system and in Metro as an agency.
Moreover, there is a growing perception about the underreporting of these activities, which further exacerbates the problem. A lack of transparency and accountability only serves to undermine public confidence and hampers efforts to address these pressing issues effectively.
Additionally, Metro’s end-of-the-line practice of ejecting homeless individuals into those communities at the end of each rail line has wreaked havoc as each of those cities has been deluged by an ever-growing homeless population, not to mention the impact this must cause to these individuals.
The urgency of this situation cannot be overstated, especially considering the planned extension of the C Line into the city of Torrance. While this expansion holds immense promise for the community, and my expectations that such a system could close the huge equity gaps that exist in our community, its success hinges on Metro’s ability to provide a secure and reliable transportation option.
If commuters, residents, and businesses do not feel safe using the system, the C Line extension may face significant opposition and challenges to its implementation.
As a member of the Torrance City Council, I implore Metro to address these safety and security concerns immediately. Sending Metro-branded customer service staff to bus stops and rail stations providing information about connections does not create a sense of personal safety and security needed by the average Metro rider – a mother riding the system with her children.
First and foremost, Metro must openly communicate its commitment to ensuring passenger and community safety by taking proactive steps to these concerns about safety on its system.
Metro must invest in enhanced security measures, both in terms of personnel and technology. This includes increasing the presence of security personnel on buses and trains, improving surveillance systems, and implementing measures that deter criminal activity.
Transparency is crucial in rebuilding public trust. Metro should establish clear reporting mechanisms for incidents on its system and regularly update the public on its efforts to improve safety and security. This transparency will hold Metro accountable for its actions and demonstrate a genuine commitment to resolving the issues.
Ultimately, addressing safety and security concerns on the Metro system is not just a moral imperative; it’s essential for the success of ambitious projects like the C Line extension into Torrance. Without a safe and secure transportation network, the benefits of expanded rail service will be overshadowed, just as it is right now, by concerns about personal safety.
Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was established. The Transportation Security Administration was tasked with protecting passenger aviation. Metro needs to take a similar approach to ensure the protection of the riding public.
Metro plays a vital role in shaping the future of public transportation in Los Angeles County. However, for me to support the C Line extension, Metro must prioritize safety and security as a fundamental part of its mission. By taking swift and decisive action to address these concerns, Metro can not only enhance the safety of its passengers but also build trust and support within the community, ensuring a brighter future for public transportation in Los Angeles County.
Only then can I consider any one of the options Metro has put forth in its current plan for the C Line extension.
Jon Kaji is a Torrance city councilman representing District 1. Opinions expressed in Vox Populi are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.