Visit the Train Station and Go To Jail

Some of you might remember Fullerton’s previous attempt to deal with homeless persons at the train station.  Those signs were removed not long after my blog post went live.  Fast forward to this week, the City has tried once again with a different strategy — declare the train station a “Paid Fare Zone” with threats of citation and arrest.

This attempt isn’t any better, taking the form of a metal scarecrow decorated with words.

Neither Penal Code 602.1(a) or Fullerton Municipal Code 7.105.010 require a fare to be paid.  The Penal Code section has to do with obstructing or intimidating a business and then refusing to leave when asked.  The Fullerton Municipal Code wording is clumsy and ambiguous in its own way:

7.105.010   Trespassing unlawful.
It is unlawful for any person to be upon any publicly or privately owned property at any time, except upon lawful business, or with permission of the owner or person entitled to the possession of such property. (Ord. 2799, 1992).

I doubt that ordinance was intended to declare public property off limits merely on the basis of convenience, as they seem to be doing here.  So it’s more than likely any attempt to enforce a “paid fare zone” under the guise of Trespassing would be decimated by a good, and maybe even a bad(!) attorney in court.

Nevertheless, this whole thing demonstrates an embarrassing amount of ignorance on the part of City Hall and the Police Department.

1. The “Paid Fare Zone” Must be Violated to Buy a Ticket.

A person wishing to buy an Amtrak or Metrolink ticket must access the platform — and violate the “paid fare zone” — before they’ve had an opportunity to look at the schedule board or buy a ticket.

Same story on the south platform, take five steps off this OCTA bus, and you’re immediately in violation.

2. Good Reasons Not to Have a Ticket.

Metrolink tickets have a 3-hour time limit on One Way, and the first segment of a Round Trip ticket.  Say you’re traveling somewhere like Ventura or Palmdale with a necessary layover in Los Angeles.  A ticket purchased too early will expire before reaching your destination, and subject you to a possible citation.  People in this situation often wait until the very last minute to buy a ticket.

Note the ticket expires at 6:43pm, three hours after purchase.

Amtrak tickets can be purchased on-board the train, meaning you won’t have evidence of a paid fare while on the platform.  This is not the usual way of doing things as you would normally visit the ticket office.  Nevertheless, they allow it.

Both Amtrak and Metrolink have e-ticketing options that allow purchase up to the last minute using a smart phone.

Any strategy that bullies passengers into buying tickets a certain way to comply with a “paid fare zone” is no good.

3. Passenger Safety.

Amtrak has two or three employees who remain indoors most of the time, and Metrolink has zero employees on site.  There is no dedicated security or police force.

Until this week, a person traveling alone could be accompanied by a friend or family member dropping them off until their train departs.  But now, fewer people allowed on the platform makes everybody less safe.   Who’s going to call the police, or intervene in a bad situation, if a lone passenger is being attacked and nobody else is around?

Elderly or disabled passengers will have added difficulty getting around and hauling their luggage to the train.  That’s because nobody is available to help.  There are no luggage carts like at an airport, and no employees on an electric cart to assist.  This is just another reason why a “paid fare zone” is a terrible idea.  Instead of allowing a passenger’s loved ones on the platform to assist them on/off train and help carry their belongings, it’s just a matter of time before somebody falls and suffers a traumatic injury.

My friend took the photo shown above.  The man in the wheelchair cannot wheel himself around and is dependent on others to help him.

How does the City expect people like him to get to/from the train when his caregiver must buy a ticket to legally be within the “Paid Fare Zone”?  That’s not only ridiculous, but probably illegal under ADA laws that protect caregivers.

4.  The Pedestrian Bridge is a Public Thoroughfare.

One of the justifications for building the pedestrian bridge in the early-1990’s was to connect the neighborhood south of the tracks with Downtown Fullerton so people didn’t have to cross the train tracks at ground level and risk getting hit by a train.

There’s literally hundreds of people who use the pedestrian bridge daily, many of them kids walking to/from Fullerton High School.  But under the “paid fare zone” they too must enter the zone without a ticket and risk citation or arrest.

5.  Railfans

People have visited the train station to watch trains and socialize with others for over a hundred years.  There’s nothing inherently strange about it.  Anybody raised in Fullerton was probably brought here by their parents at a young age to do the same.

There are small, informal groups of railfans who do this on a more frequent basis and congregate on the platforms various days of the week.  Some of these groups include current/former/retired City employees.  We also have railfans from other parts of the United States, Canada, Europe, and sometimes Asia who visit Fullerton just for this reason, and they frequent many of the downtown restaurants.

The regular Fullerton railfans are an extra set of eyes and ears for any sort of bad situation or suspicious activity.  Railfans have pulled suicidal people off the railroad tracks, and have come to the aid of injured railroad employees or passengers before.   They’ve also prevented high speed derailments at the train station by noticing track or equipment defects gone undetected.  Many of the police calls for service originate with one of the railfans noticing something not right.

All of these things make Fullerton a better place, all at no cost.  To expel them from the platform because they don’t have a ticket is foolish.

~~~~

The fact these signs are intended to drive the homeless away should be painfully obvious.  There’s no other justification to put them up.  My sources at City Hall are saying FPD Cpl. Dan Heying in his role as Homeless Liaison Officer, Dave Langstaff and Ty Richter in Public Works, the City Manager’s office, and Deputy City Attorney Ivy Tsai are all involved.

I’d like to believe this is an innocent mistake on the part of the City.  But the speed at which the signs are removed (again) will be the real test.

Chronic Failure Setting The Bar Low

30 thoughts on “Visit the Train Station and Go To Jail

  1. They’re obviously trying to give themselves a way to chase away all the homeless. Too bad the city’s incompetence prevents them from doing it legally.

  2. I’m not quite clear on this issue… We (the legitimate tax-paying citizens of Fullerton) should do everything we can to support and help the freely elected officials on our beloved City Council. I, for one, am perfectly willing to be the first person to step in line at one of downtown Fullerton’s many esteemed tatoo parlors and have a barcode emblazened on my forehead, so that any city staff can scan me at a moment’s notice with my blessing, and thus know without question that I am indeed an authentic and sincere Fullerton Train Station Lover, and not just some homeless person who is trying to shamelessly take advantage of the fresh air, blue skies and pleasant atmosphere that the platform has to offer, on somebody else’s dime, despite the great pains the city has taken to provide such amenities.

  3. Hey Curlee
    Years ago there was an off the charts story that you and some railfans saved a conductor’s finger pinched in a baggage car door when the fullerton fire department never showed up. Fuzzy details for sure. Something about disassembling the door and holding him up on the side ladder so he didn’t faint and tear his finger off. You’re too modest to brag so I had to ask

    BTW we appreciate all you do for us.
    signed, your friends at CNOC

    1. Thank you, whoever you are at Amtrak CNOC.

      That’s a really old story and mostly true. I can’t believe my name is even associated with it. The conductor on train 4 was trying to close the baggage car door (from the outside) when it closed on her hand. She was pinned to the outside of the train with her feet a good 4 to 5 feet off the ground. I want to say BNSF called the wrong fire department so there was a delayed response. The guys holding her up on the outside deserve all the credit. All I remember doing was getting a pipe wrench and prybars off the locomotive to loosen the door rollers so we could rotate the door away from her hand.

  4. Train hopping station to station, (no ticket) soliciting money, and plain loitering, are always an issue at many stations among other things.

  5. I just want to thank the City of Fullerton for screwing up a perfectly good place to sit, have lunch and enjoy a PUBLIC PLACE. If you idiots want to get rid of the homeless, then get rid of the homeless instead of screwing it up for the general public. What kind of idiots are running your city anyway. Can’t think past your ass or what? Get with the program and do your jobs and leave the general population alone.

  6. Oh yeah, let’s kick the homeless off the platform.

    I fail to see the point. Doesn’t that mean they will go to other public areas instead?

    1. I know several of Fullertons homeless folks. A few went to school in Fullerton with me. Modt don’t bother people and move around town during the day. I’ve encountered some homeless people who have mental issues that need immediate attention. But in general, most are calm and fairly well behaved, and a few need to be escorted down the road. Yes, many of them smell, but they’re still people. In a capitalist
      society there will always be homeless
      people. Welcome to America. Land of the free.

  7. Jesus Christ, Curlee you clearly have too much free time on your hands. The whole idea of the signs is to keep piss-soaked bums away from the platform. I’m sure you’ll appear before the city council to pontificate on this as well and we’ll all sit back and watch the staff dismantle you once again.

    1. I agree. I love it when government stooges make up fake laws just to get rid of annoyances. Now that could never be a bad thing right?

      Maybe someday they make up a fake law to arrest idiots like you – ya know, just for annoying honest people.

  8. *OK, here is your thought balloon for the day: A family of 10 goes to the Train Station to see off their Uncle who they haven’t seen in 15 years. He has a ticket. The rest of the family…NOT! The Cops come and arrested for standing on the corner. America. Love it or leave it….eh? “You’ve got papers?” “Resisting Arrest for hugging your uncle without our permission!” City Managers have way too much time on their hands to develop Code Enforcement Regulations which require little or no oversight by the City Council or the People! We remember when they failed to put up Red Light Camera Signs to alert folks that the intersections were Camera Enforced…however.
    Selective Omission and Selective Commission……stay alert folks!

  9. So I can no longer see off my wife when she leaves for San Diego? And oh, I can’t be waiting to pick her up on return trip when she’s carrying a few extra things?
    Don’t forget, the homeless really don’t care if they’re rousted, and they’re not going to abandon the station. Sadly only the law abiding folks will.
    Well maybe start to charge admission for Public Library, since there’s homeless folks there too.

  10. I’ve met friends for lunch at the Santa Fe Cafe on the Fullerton Station Platform while we watched trains go by. Several times I’ve met friends at the Old Spaghetti Factory and we’ve requested a railroad view. We’ve also enjoyed the food and watched the trains from the patio of Hopscotch, and I’ve dined with friends at Stubrik’s. When I’m doing errands in the area, I often stop by, get something to eat and watch the trains pass. I’ve used the pedestrian bridge to access the Fullerton Railroad Days. All done without buying a ticket. I have legally visited the station when I changed to/from the local Pacific Surfliner to/from the Southwest Chief to go east. At times I have traveled with friends and we left Los Angeles on Metrolink, got off at Fullerton to watch a few trains, then continued on another later Metrolink train. My friends and I have spent money in the station area many times, but if this new ordinance stands, it will reduce our visits to the area.

  11. Good write-up. I’m an out-of-stater who makes a point to ride a train to Fullerton to hang out for a few hours, grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants (in the past that was Knowlwoods, and more recently, the Spaghetti Factory), and watch trains. It appears that Fullerton no longer wants my business with their animosity toward people trying to enjoy a few moments in their town.

  12. Not being a resident of Orange County, I am very displeased to read of the City of Fullerton’s City Council proposal/enactment of this new policy. I come down to Huntington Beach to visit my sister, and will generally make it a point to drive to Fullerton to watch the parade of trains. As many of the previous comments have stated, it is a great place to have a snack (at the Santa Fe Café), and watch the trains. While I believe that this new ordinance is pretty much un-enforceable, (the Fullerton P.D. has bigger fish to fry), and a staff of paid security (who pays – the city of Fullerton, Amtrak, train riders?) is a costly venture to say the least. I wish all those who oppose this measure/ordinance great success at having it repealed – and very soon!

  13. To any Fullerton municipal official,

    The Fullerton Depot is an internationally known site for railfans. Until recently the station area housed a series of webcams accessed daily by hundreds of railfans via the Internet. To prohibit access to the station grounds for non-fare paying patrons is folly, and will prove injurious to the city.

    First, is the city trying to drive the comic book store and the Santa Fe Cafe out of business? I frequent both businesses on a regular basis. Is this some attempt to force Metrolink to more rapidly begin service at the Placentia station? I can list several inconsistencies in the city’s methods. Whatever the reason, it is an ill-fitting solution to the issue the city is trying to solve.

    I respectfully request that the city immediately rescind the cited ordinances and take down the signs on the platforms. It is certain that legal challenges will ensue if the signs remain. Save time and city funds, and do the right thing for all residents and visitors.

    Sincerely,

    Landon Miller,
    Lake Forest

  14. Okay just because their is a sign up there are railfans that have miss behaved. The reason why they put that sign up is people and railfans loitering on their property. Fullerton Train Station is owned by BNSF and partially the city of Fullerton. Amtrak and Metrolink also partially own the station. Railfans are their for not any particular reason or to board a train its called loitering. Best thing to do to railfan is go on public property like a side walk. Just because your a railfan doesn’t mean your special and get a special pass. You wanna argue with security or cops its gonna make all the rest of us look bad. So its best to put up with it or get whats coming. You argue you get a ticket that simple.

    1. Jesus Christ, there are so many factual errors in this stupid statement I think I’ll just let it stand on its own as a tribute to ignorance.

  15. Hello, I am a fellow railfan and I am going to do my railfanning anyways with or without this ordinance. This is a very ridiculas ordinance. Alot of railfans have visited this place for years and I am going to sign a petition to see if this can be removed. This really doesn’t have anything to do with vagrants I don’t think. It’s just about power and the city doesn’t have money so it see a opportunity to cite people without tickets to get on the train. Something does smell offly fishy if you ask me.

  16. “Dave Langstaff and Ty Richter in Public Works, the City Manager’s office, and Deputy City Attorney Ivy Tsai are all involved.”

    Too bad these morons can’t deliver an elevator project in under 8 years. Just sayin.’

  17. The homeless don’t frequent the track area very much anymore. I would have to think these signs where someone’s brilliant idea based on a single complaint not a continuous problem.all those don’t feed the bird signs where a result of one frequented who fed the birds. That don’t park your bike here sign by the spaghetti factory went right at the spot where on bike was locked to the tail for a length of time.the one thing that has made fullerton special compared to other cities, are the free parking and the freedom to enjoy a historic landmark and watch the trains.I would like to know who’s bright ideas are ruining this town….most likely an outsider .

  18. How about one can ask the businesses at the station, Tony Bushala’s tenants btw, how they feel about the signs? Maybe they are over transients relieving themselves inside and outside of their businesses and having their customers dwindle because of this. Or maybe riders are tired of the urine smell as the walk over the bridge and through the corridor?

    Or maybe every time I see a sign I can make it about me.

  19. This action by the city could be a preemptive strike to ward off the masses of homeless and criminals that have since vacated the Santa Ana River. Although not the perfect solution by any stretch of the imagination, I’m guessin this knee jerk reaction of a law was the best solution that could be accomplished in the shortest amount of time. Sadly, if laws against disorderly conduct, public intoxication and public urination were enforced, maybe this debate would not be taking place. However on the other side of the coin is the ACLU that will sue the city, the police force and officers personally so that actions public urination is “acceptable under the circumstances “.
    This is a complicated problem with many causes. One cause that is rarely examined is something called “personal responsibility”. While there are genuine cases of victims of circumstances, there are also many cases, perhaps the majority, in which these homeless folks simple chose the wrong path in life. Because of their poor choices are we all supposed to suffer the consequences? I say no. A recent survey at the Santa Ana River showed that a whopping 70% of the so called homeless refused help or Government services and preferred to live as they do. What do you do with this element that simply wants to live on the streets and make life miserable for everyone else. And by the way, this problem is not unique to a capitalist society, socialist and communist dictators all have their ways of dealing with this problem from press blackouts about the problem
    to mass arrests. I too frequent the station and have seen these signs. It did raaise my eyebrows but I had no problems enjoying that station as I always have. I understand the problems the city is facing but I hope they can come up with a better long term solution to this issue rather than this strange and illegal approach they have chosen.

  20. “I’m guessin this knee jerk reaction of a law was the best solution that could be accomplished in the shortest amount of time.”

    WTF? THERE IS NO LAW. THERE IS JUST A SIGN WITH MADE UP BULLSHIT ON IT.

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