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Metro: Don’t be charging your cell phone in our outlets

File: Red Line at 7th Street/Metro Center.
Todd Johnson/KPCC
Red Line at 7th Street/Metro Center.

Update 12/23: The mayor has responded to this story by ordering Metro staff to end the arrests of riders who charge their phones at outlets near platforms.

Previous post: That’s right Mr. or Ms. Rider: those electrical outlets on the platforms at Metro rail stops aren’t for you. And if you’re caught plugging in you might be charged with stealing electricity.

KPCC heard from riders that people were being ticketed for charging their phones on the platforms so we decided to check it out.  

As it turns out, there were no tickets issued for charging cell phones this year.

But three people were arrested and charged with theft of utilities for charging their phones, according to Metro spokesperson Paul Gonzales. Those arrests also included charges for possession of narcotics and counterfeit money.

Gonzales said the penal code for stealing electricity is 498 (B) PC.

“It all depends on where the electricity comes from,” Gonzales said. 

In this case, the electricity comes from Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).

“The electrical plugs are for maintenance use only, not for the general public,” he said. “It’s not free electricity.”

Maintenance crews use the electrical outlets for power washing the platforms or plugging in tools for repairs.

Blue Line rider Jescenia Rhodes, 58, of Compton, nervously unplugged her cell phone while waiting for the train at the Grand rail stop.

“I’m going to have to undo my phone 'cause they see me with my phone,” she said eyeing a group of maintenance workers in orange vests.

Rhodes escaped any trouble but the group of workers seemed to spook another rider, Kia Chandler of Long Beach, who was also juicing up her cell phone.

Chandler said a Metro deputy at the Del Amo station told her she couldn’t charge her cell phone in the electrical outlets so she unplugged and left. Chandler thinks it’s an unfair rule.

“What if you’re out here late at night and you need your phone charged, you need a ride?” she asked.

Gonzales said Metro rail trains run every 6 to 12 minutes and that’s not enough time to do any significant cell phone charging.

A lot of public transit systems across the country have electrical outlets at train stops or under train seats for maintenance and repair crews but not many provide outlets for the general public.

The Montreal Metro is an exception. According to a Montreal blog, the transit system offers a cell phone charging station with four cables.

But L.A. Metro doesn’t have plans to offer cell phone charging options for riders, according to Gonzales.

However if the suggestion is made to transit authorities, he said, they would take it seriously.