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Mayor Bass relinquishes helm of LA Metro board to Supervisor Janice Hahn – Daily News

Mayor Karen Bass passes the LA Metro board’s gavel to Metro board chair-elect Janice Hahn, a Los Angeles County supervisor, during Metro’s “State of the Agency” at Union Station in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass struck the gavel one last time, ending her term as chair of the LA Metro board, then passed it to Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who triumphantly raised the wooden gavel above her head.

The ceremonial change of leadership for the county’s massive transit agency took place in front of 300 Metro employees, media and officials at the annual “State of the Agency” ceremony Wednesday, July 10, in Union Station’s historic ticket hall.

Minutes before, Bass had announced Hahn as the new chairman, representing the 4th District in the South Bay and Southeast LA County. With a wide smile, Bass said, “Yes, I’m smiling, Warden Hahn.”

Bass and Hahn couldn’t be more different in terms of their familiarity with the LA Metro. Bass took the helm of the 13-member board a year ago, seven months after he was sworn in as mayor of Los Angeles. Getting LA Metro up and running was an uphill battle, even though she made good on her promise to set up a homeless navigation center in South LA where unhoused subway riders could be directed off the trains and buses can run overnight.

Bass was inserted into LA Metro’s problem with mentally ill riders who have committed violent crimes and scared off riders, including women whose use of the Metro lags behind men’s.

After several crimes in the spring, including two murders of passengers in unprovoked attacks, Bass ordered an “increase” in law enforcement and subway security across the system’s six rail lines and 108 stations and 120 bus lines covering 1,447 square kilometers.

“If you’re on transit, you demand to be safe, feel safe and demand a clean bus or train,” Bass said in his closing remarks.

Hahn, who has served eight years on the board of supervisors, brings to the position — which rotates each year — a legacy of transit experience from her family roots.

She spoke of her late father, Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who in 1980 rallied voters to pass the first county tax, Proposition A. The half-cent sales tax paid for the first rail line, the Blue Line from downtown LA to Long Beach (now part of the A -line). Kenny Hahn’s 1980 sales tax measure led to three additional half-cent sales taxes being approved by LA County voters: Prop. C 1990, Measure R 2008 and Measure M 2016.

Local tax dollars helped pay for the Regional Connector, which opened in July 2023 with three new stations in downtown LA. The $1.8 billion project was funded in part by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, pushed by President Joe Biden.

Completion of a 9.1-mile extension of the A Line through Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne and Pomona is scheduled for early 2025. The extension of the D (Purple) Line under Wilshire Boulevard will open some stations by the end of next year and eventually the line will connect DTLA to the VA facilities in Westwood.

Construction of the East San Fernando Valley line, the first light rail line in the San Fernando Valley, will begin later this year, CEO Stephanie Wiggins announced. “We take trains for people from Van Nuys to Pacoima,” she said.

Plans to extend the Green Line to Torrance have begun. The new Airport Metro Connector Transit Station is also set to open later this year. However, passengers and employees going to LAX will need to take a shuttle bus from the Metro station, up to LAX Automated People Mover Project is ready. That project is scheduled to be completed around April 2025.

Wiggins said that despite safety concerns, the total number of drivers has increased every month for 18 months. Weekend ridership is almost at the same level as 2019 before the pandemic, she said. Wiggins said more families ride during off-peak hours to music and sporting events.

“I’m optimistic because we’ve taken the most car-dependent region in America and built the second-busiest transit system in the country,” said Wiggins. “Faced with the incredible challenges in our region, we are coming back.”

LA Metro serves approximately one million people each day. As board chairman, Hahn will make it a million and one, promising to run the system more regularly and report what she sees.

“And at every Metro board meeting, I will call out what was wrong and needs to be fixed and I will also praise what was right,” she said during an interview. “It will help me, as chairman, to have a rider experience.”

Hahn cited four priorities: safety, homelessness, rider experience and supporting Metro’s 11,800 employees.

A new Metro Public Safety Department approved by the board in June will focus its own officers on trouble spots, while adding more homeless outreach teams, as well as teams to help those addicted to drugs, she said.

“We’ve heard from cyclists who are afraid to take Metro home, and bus operators worried about their safety,” Hahn said, adding that she’s heard from many who feel safer seeing uniformed law enforcement on their routes.

She said the new police force will take several years to get up and running, so until then, more law enforcement presence is the answer. “We need to have law enforcement right now on our platforms and on our trains and our buses.”

Several Metro Transit Security officers stand at the entrance to the A Line Lake Station in Pasadena, stopping those who do not TAP and pay their fare as seen Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (photo by Steve Scauzillo, SCNG).

At the A Line Lake Station in Pasadena on Wednesday, Metro Transit Security officers stood at the gates making sure people paid their fare by tapping the electronic reader with a prepaid TAP card. A man was rejected. And a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputy asked passengers to show their TAP cards when boarding the train at Union Station.

Commuters use their tap cards to exit at the North Hollywood subway station on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. Locking the exit gate is a way to catch those who haven’t paid their fare and remove those who leave without paying from the train. Some see this as a way to ward off the homeless or drug users, who often take the train for shelter. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Metro began locking the exit gates a few months ago in the North Hollywood B (Red) Line station. By requiring a push to exit, it alerted nearby police officers to those who failed to pay their ticket. Some received warnings, others paid on the spot, while others were sued for non-payment.

Wiggins cited enforcement of non-payers, along with more teams targeting homeless riders and those with unaddressed mental illness and extra law enforcement, when asked if the agency is addressing crime and safety.

“I’m optimistic about where we’re going because of our contributions to addressing these issues,” she said in an interview. “I see a way forward.”

She said more security measures will be put in place at the July 25 board meeting.

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