CA: Rail Line Security is Upgraded

The expanded night service on L.A.-area subway and light rail lines is an example of local leaders responding to the needs of the public.

Officials announced last week that Red Line, Purple Line and Blue Line trains will run every 10 minutes between 6 p.m. and midnight, seven days a week. Those trains between Los Angeles, North Hollywood, Long Beach and Koreatown currently run about every 20 minutes in the evening. The change, backed by sports promoters and cultural organizations, marks a recognition that Greater Los Angeles has a vibrant nightlife.

Unfortunately, officials failed to tout a separate change in Metropolitan Transportation Authority service that might help to make more people feel comfortable riding the region's subway and light-rail trains at night - increased security patrols and other stepped-up safety measures.

It's a point they should emphasize as part of the stepped-up service. Statistics show MTA's rail lines have a low crime rate. Even so, a fatal stabbing in August on a Red Line subway train in Hollywood, and the stabbings of two people this month in an incident at the Red Line's Hollywood and Western station, may have left patrons jittery.

After the August killing, the L.A. Daily News asked officials to investigate whether the best possible security, emergency and law- enforcement procedures had been followed, and whether there are larger implications for the safety of the region's mass-transit system from - in the worst scenario - terrorism.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa directed MTA officials to review transit security operations.

Last week, a Villaraigosa spokesman said law-enforcement staffing across the system has been increased since August. The Sheriff's Department has added 101 deputies and other personnel, a 24 percent rise. MTA added 12 staffers to its own security force, a 13percent rise. Closed-circuit cameras and license-plate readers at MTA parking lots are being upgraded.

As low as officials say the crime rate on MTA trains and buses - at 2.77 serious crimes for every million boardings in 2010, is better than the streets - stepped-up security should make passengers even safer.

Another thing that should make people even safer at night: More frequent service at night will bring more patrons to the system, making trains and platforms more crowded, a natural protection against criminal activity.

In many major cities, the thought of riding the subway at night can send a chill up the spine. The Los Angeles area is not one of those places. Our rail system is safe and, apparently, getting safer.

That's a fact local officials should play up as they try to persuade residents to make public transportation an ever-more-vital part of the life of the region.

Copyright 2008 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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