Expo’s Homeless

Posted on December 14, 2015 by

The Santa Monica to Culver City link of Metrorail’s Expo line will be up and running in a few months and I need to raise an uncomfortable issue.

I’ve taken the train a lot from Culver City to Downtown over the past year and have had a very positive experience. It’s reliable, enjoyable and for someone who grew up as a transit rider – the BMT from Bay Parkway to Broadway – it’s a real throwback to be on a neighborhood rail line again. I particularly like the stretch between La Cienega and La Brea with an elevated expansive view of the LA Basin all the way to the Hollywood sign.

Soon, Expo heads to the beach through or near some of the westside’s more exclusive neighborhoods – Cheviot Hills, Beverlywood, Rancho Park, Westwood – and I’d like to see those residents on the train. It will require an adjustment. Westsiders can be pretty parochial but I’m sure many who never take the bus will be willing to give light rail a shot.

Here’s my worry:

Expo Line appears to be safe and its passengers courteous. But I’ve also noticed – at various times during the day – riders who use the train because they have nowhere else to go. The appalling level of homelessness in Los Angeles County inevitably forces people to reside in train stations as well as board the cars.

For regular passengers that can be unpleasant and unsanitary.

It’s a complicated and difficult subject because homelessness is a symptom of economic and social inequality and it’s shameful that our cities and county are not responding appropriately.

But the opening of the route with stations at Palms, Westwood / Rancho Park, Expo / Sepulveda, Expo / Bundy and the three stops in Santa Monica will be a pivotal test of whether Metrorail can attract and hold onto new riders.

Word will spread quickly in these protected communities if riding the train is perceived to be menacing in some way.

And then we’ll never get those westsiders out of their cars.

Comments (4)


  1. Casey says:

    I ride public transit almost every day, and I often see people sleeping on trains or at subway stops. The only way to solve this problem is to invest in affordable housing and permanent supportive housing. Unfortunately, until recently the City of LA was more interested in prosecuting the homeless than in helping them, and this has only exacerbated the situation. But a permanent solution will not be reached until ALL the cities in LA County start working together to get people off the streets. We need to press our elected officials to create pragmatic policies that can actually be implemented, and then we need to make sure that they follow through. Homelessness is not just a problem for the homeless. It affects all of us.

  2. Kathleen Yasuda says:

    I WISH more West-siders would ride the train… get out of their $80,000 Teslas and REALLY save the planet by riding the trains.

    I ride the train and have been happy to see it getting more and more crowded, even before the end of the line is complete.

    But I think that realistically, this extension is more for the nannies and house cleaners, busboys and dishwashers to get to work than for the homeowners to get around.

    Maybe for transit-savy tourists too, but I think it’s unrealistic to expect significant numbers of the Cheviot Hills, etc. crowd taking the trains.

    • Scott Zwartz says:

      The entire mass transit system is for the poor. The unofficial motto for the subway is “Leave the brown underground, save the light for the white.” It’s both a racist and an elitist agenda, but that is what the data shows.

      The poor, who are more minority, are the major users of mass transit and among the poor, the poorest of the poor use the subway the most. When poor people are given cars so that they are independent of subways, trolleys and buses, they find and hold higher paying jobs. Whether the social engineers like it or not, cars are crucial for people who want to fully participate in Los Angeles.

      The single thing which we could do to reduce poverty is give cars to poor who do not own cars.

      The single thing we can do to keep poor people in poverty is restrict their transportation options to mass transit.

  3. Peter Olney says:

    I am a big rail transit booster and what Kathleen calls a “transit-savy tourist”. I live in the Bay Area but come to LA frequently and have been forsaking the car for the rail. I can get from LAX to El Monte, CA in an hour and 15 minutes. Most of my LA friends have never even rode the rail in LA. I tell all Bay Aryans to spend a day in LA riding the rails and discovering this amazing City.

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