View Complete Article by Kelly Goff at Daily News

Faced with complaints about human waste near an Orange Line stop in Winnetka, a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority panel on Wednesday approved a study looking into issues caused by a lack of restrooms on the bus line.

Residents and businesses located along the city’s bus and rail lines have voiced concerns that alleyways and walkways along busy routes have become default bathrooms for riders, creating unsanitary conditions.

The Winnetka Neighborhood Council, representing neighbors who live near the Orange Line’s Pierce College stop, sent a letter in June to school officials, Metro and other elected and appointed officials who have a hand in monitoring the vast system, complaining of human waste and trash that has littered the surrounding area since the station opened, often from well-heeled riders.

“The residents didn’t have these problems before the Orange Line came in,” said Bettie Ross-Blumer, assistant secretary for the Neighborhood Council and an area resident. “One resident who lives close to there just told me he saw two people with books under their arms come and urinate in the alleyway behind his house.”

The motion approved by Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee was sponsored by county supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mike Antonovich and City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who all sit on the board of directors for Metro.

The motion directs Metro Chief Executive Arthur Leahy to have staff investigate the concerns of the Neighborhood Council and work to mitigate the problems relating to the lack of restrooms at the Park-and-Ride station, which has space for 391 cars, and report back to the committee in January. It also directs staff to look at the possibility of installing restrooms at the location if the problems can’t be corrected any other way.
Metro spokesman Rick Jager told the Daily News earlier this month that at the inception of the system, the board decided not to include restrooms in its station, citing cost concerns. But the motion indicates there may be some flexibility in that stance.

“While Metro has a long-standing policy not to install portable bathrooms except at major transportation hubs, we must look into the concerns raised by the Winnetka community and insure that all our stations are safe and clean,” the statement said.

The motion also directs Leahy and Metro staff to report back within 90 days with a more comprehensive assessment on the potential need for bathrooms throughout the system.

Currently, there are three Metro-operated restrooms in all of the system’s stations. The two green-domed self-service restrooms along the Orange Line at Van Nuys and North Hollywood are not among them; those two bathrooms were funded by a city grant and are maintained by the city of Los Angeles.

Metro isn’t alone in limiting restrooms on its line. The Chicago Transit System closed its facilities to the public in the 1970s, while the Washington, D.C., Metro has one self-cleaning toilet in the whole system. Bay Area Rapid Transit has 44 bathrooms open to the public, though it closed its downtown San Francisco facilities after Sept. 11, 2001, citing terrorism risks.

There has also been concern over what agency has responsibility for mitigating the waste problem along the lines. The small areas behind noise abatement walls are Metro’s responsibility, but neighboring alleyways mostly fall under city jurisdiction. And while littering or defecating in public is a crime, jurisdiction between LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department changes depending on exactly what land it happens on.

Still, Ross-Blumer says while a solution may be a long way off, the request for a report is a step in the right direction for residents struggling with the problem.

“It’s encouraging. It feels like someone is listening, even if it will take a while,” she said. “It’s very encouraging.”