Los Angeles Metro Uses Classical Music as Hostile Architecture to Combat Homeless Crisis and Safety Concerns

“We are piping in classical music, you probably heard that, so we’re still evaluating that,” said Conan Cheung, chief operating officer of Los Angeles’s Metro, to a crowd of tech and mobility consultants at an “innovation forum” held earlier this mo at Station. “It’s actually working beautiful well,” he added with a chuckle, and the crowd laughed with him. The forum was ostensibly about increasing ridership on the city’s trains and bs, numbers have plateaued at around seventy-five % compared to pre-pandemic levels. But Cheung wasn’t talking about attracting commuters

. The relentless rain and near-freezing temperatures over the latest two months have driven people to seek shelter in the system’s underground stations, and the classical music was an effort to drive them back out. Cheung described the move as making the “system more enjoyable and comfor for the people who it as a transit system.” The music — described to me as “earplugs-at-a-concert loud” by one commuter — is the audio version of hostile architecture, bumpy benches and spiky surfaces are employed to hold those who have number else to go out of sight.

The crisis Metro is facing is real, and it’s not just about ridership. Just in the first months of two thousand twenty-three, twenty-one people have died overdoses on the system. The Westlake/MacArthur Park station, just W of downtown, classical music started playing latest month, was deemed a “hot spot” by a Metro report that showed “open-air drug sales” happening on the aboveground plaza. Surveys also indicate that riders perceive less secure riding the trains than they did before the pandemic, and women in specific are choosing not to ride beca of it. Adding to the feeling of abandonment, service frequencies across the system aren’t reliable, creating long and sometimes unpredic waits.

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