Metro regulates Union Station seating to keep homeless from panhandling, using station as shelter

Union Station in Los Angeles.
Union Station in Los Angeles.
E.J. Flynn/AP

Los Angeles County Metro has a new policy at Union Station to address complaints that homeless people are using the building for shelter — and panhandling. The policy began Monday.

The seating in the front of Union Station is now only available to passengers with tickets to board Amtrak or Metrolink commuter trains within two hours of their departure times, Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales tells KPCC.

"Our customers were being accosted, and in some cases couldn't even use the restroom, because people had gone in, and really set up camp in there," Gonzales said.

It's not all enforcement, though — Gonzales said Metro has reached out to local homeless shelters to help get the homeless people using Union Station the services they need.

"About 60,000 people go to Union Station a day, and these are commuters who are on their way places and they have the right to use the bathroom, and they have a right to use the restaurants, and they have a right to not be accosted by people seeking change," Gonzales said.

Metro says an average of 135 people a night have been using Union Station in recent weeks as a shelter.

"We had received a number of complaints about the state of Union Station in the overnight hours. The cleaning crews could not even get in to clean the place," Gonzales said, adding that the station needed daily attention to keep it clean, safe and sanitary, which he said was impossible with that many people sleeping there.

Security guards are now checking tickets in the seating area. Metro says seats are not open to riders who use bus and rail, because that service is more frequent compared to commuter rail. Gonzales also noted that those waiting for Metro buses would be directed to the Transit Plaza nearby.

Seating had previously been limited in the overnight hours, but this is now being expanded as part of this pilot program, Gonzales said.