The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

Mayhem on the Metro Green Line

Illustration by Ingrid Barrera

“Ladies, please be careful when riding L.A. Metro. I just had to file a police report for battery. Stay safe.”

My hands shook so hard that I almost missed the “share” button. There was a foul prickle on my lips that countless toothbrushing, mouth washing and even a few shots of vodka later that night couldn’t purify.

It took a few fumbles, but I did it. Within seconds, my story was up on Instagram.

From there, for the next 24 hours, people would see the post. Hopefully, they would take it as a warning.

It was after 10 p.m. on Sept. 27, 2022.

Someone tried to grab me on the Metro Green Line one hour ago.

I was not having a good day when I lost my favorite travel mug on my commute that morning. It was a cheap thing from Target, but it could keep two cups of coffee warm for hours. Without it, I didn’t have the caffeine I needed to get through my workday.

At the time, I was an airline customer service agent at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Although it was the end of the summer travel season, we were still running five flights a day to our hubs in Europe.

By the end of the day, after checking in hundreds of passengers going as far away as Frankfurt, Tel Aviv, and Delhi, I just wanted to go home.

I got on the Aviation/LAX Station train just after 9 p.m.

The car was empty and filthy. Crumpled fast food containers and spent seed shells crunched underfoot as I took a seat near the driver’s door. I put my earbuds in and pulled up Instagram, settling in for the 10-minute commute back to Redondo Beach.

The next thing I knew, hard and calloused fingers clamped down over my mouth. The eye-watering stink of stale urine and B.O. filled my nose.

I freaked out.

“What is wrong with you,” I shrieked. The man who grabbed me stumbled backward.

He was disheveled, with a patchy beard, a tattoo scribbled on the right side of his face and dirty checkered pants sagged low enough to expose a pair of bright green shorts underneath.

I continued to scream like a banshee straight out of a nightmare, hurling insults and shaking my Hydroflask like a club. He screamed back but never made another charge at me.

Maybe he didn’t expect me to fight back. The car was empty, except for me, him and the driver, who was safely insulated in the little cabin at the front.

When the train pulled into the next station, I sprinted outside and grabbed the nearest Metro employee.

“I need to file a police report.” I jerked my finger at my assailant. He stumbled out the sliding doors, screaming at me from across the platform. “That guy grabbed me.”

By the time two officers arrived on the scene, my assailant had fled on a departing train. Still, they took my report and promised to call back if they found anything.

That night, I became one of the 1,290 violent crime police reports filed on the Metro in 2022.

Aside from a follow-up call from a detective months later, I haven’t heard back.

Two years later, they haven’t caught the guy who grabbed me.

The following morning, I was back at the Redondo Beach Station.

I didn’t come back as a show of bravery. I had to go to work, and the Metro was one of the few reliable ways I could get to LAX.

There is an LAX employee parking lot. However, parking passes start at $60 and there is a months-long application process. Skyrocketing gas prices and a need for a sustainable lifestyle also made me mindful of my commute.

L.A. Metro reported that ridership increased to over 23 million passengers in October 2022. However, a 2022 Customer Experience Survey found female ridership dropped from 53% in 2019 to 46% in 2022.

The biggest issue facing female riders is safety or the lack thereof.

My attack wasn’t the only incident I’ve experienced. I’ve ridden the Metro from Santa Monica to Torrance and seen things.

I was late to work once because the driver had to call in sanitation to remove an overflowing trash bin. I’ve seen fights and screaming matches erupt. I’ve been threatened. I’ve seen commuters immediately get off a train and wait for the next one because the car reeked of rotting garbage in the middle of summer.

I once saw a woman urinate on a seat.

Riding the Los Angeles public transportation system is like taking a trek on Fury Road.

A month after the incident, I was back on the light rail from the airport. This time, I was in Seattle.

I was jealous.

There was no trash, weird smells, graffiti, or zombie-like riders staring vacantly into space with glassy eyes. Just a clean car and riders keeping to themselves while a Sound Transit employee checked tickets.

I’ve ridden public transportation in London, Tokyo, and New York City. While each city’s rail line has its quirks, they all share one thing: They all felt safe.

What was it that these cities were doing that Los Angeles wasn’t?

In September 2022, L.A. Metro announced its Metro Ambassador program. While riders reported feeling safe since the program began, I’ve only seen the Ambassadors near Downtown Los Angeles.

The farther away one gets from Los Angeles, the wilder and more unpredictable the Metro Rail Line becomes.

It remains to be seen what the long-term effects the Ambassador program will have on Metro’s ridership.

Although surveyed riders said they feel safer, I have yet to see ambassadors appear on the Green Line connecting the city to the airport.

I still take the Metro to work, but now I stand with my back to the driver’s door. I can’t leave my back unguarded anymore. The other day, my roommate came up behind me to ask a question, and I panicked.

I don’t look at my phone anymore. I hate that I must sacrifice my post-work Instagram and podcast ritual to make myself feel safer.

Until the L.A. Metro makes some long-term and lasting changes, I constantly look over my shoulder.

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