The Deepening Transit Crisis: L.A. Times Reports Drug Use on Transit

An article by the L.A. Times earlier this week has raised the temperature of the debate about drug users and crime on rail transit. Concerns about public safety on transit are a common symptom of post-pandemic transit around the country.

2 minute read

March 17, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


A homeless encampment is set up outside a transit station, next to bike share stations and a ticket dispenser.

Kit Leong / Shutterstock

“Since January, 22 people have died on Metro buses and trains, mostly from suspected overdoses — more people than all of 2022. Serious crimes — such as robbery, rape and aggravated assault — soared 24% last year compared with the previous,” according to an article by Rachel Uranga for the Los Angeles Times.

The article has been the talk of social media all week, with advocates and public officials weighing in on either side of the issue. The article suggests that ridership on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is suffering as a result of the perceived public safety risks on the system—particularly on the system’s rail lines.

Commuters have abandoned large swaths of the Metro train system. Even before the pandemic, ridership in the region was never as high as other big-city rail systems. For January, ridership on the Gold Line was 30% of the pre-pandemic levels, and the Red Line was 56% of them.

Eventually, the article discusses the Ambassador Program, launched by metro at the beginning of March after being announced in June 2022:

In response to such concerns, transit officials committed $122 million over the last year trying to make the system — composed of 105 rail stations and more than 12,000 bus stops — feel safer by placing 300 unarmed “ambassadors” to report crimes and help passengers. It’s part of what officials like to tout as a “multilayered” approach to improving a system that’s become emptier and more dangerous over recent years — even as billions have been sunk into expansion of the rail lines.

The article also provides details about the fentanyl crisis in Los Angeles and the ongoing debate about how best to react. In the meantime, transit is in the midst of a crisis of multiple dimensions—with ridership, funding, policing, operator shortages, and public perception, just to name a few.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023 in Los Angeles Times

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