Partisan Metro Transit surveillance bill passes

A bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee this week intended to increase security on light rail trains, limit fare evasion, and allow administrative citations to be imposed. These measures are in response to numerous media reports of violence and other disruptions on light rail trains. Multiple light rail conductors testified in the Legislative Commission on Metropolitan Governance on incidents they have experienced on LRT and how unsafe they have come to feel on trains.

The bill requires the Met Council to develop a rider code of conduct, designate ‘paid fare zones’ at every self-service, barrier-free fare station and implement public safety monitoring and response activities. These include placing live-coverage security cameras that monitor the entire area of every station and vehicle, installation of a public address system at every station, and real-time monitoring of passenger activity.

The bill creates administrative transit enforcement officials to cite light rail passengers that fail to provide proof of fare payment. Inspectors would be required to perform compliance inspections, issue citations, and obtain assistance from peace officers if passenger activity threatens public safety.

While all legislators acknowledge that safety measures on LRT need to be improved, these statutory changes do not represent a consensus. Republican legislators have been quick to criticize metro safety on behalf of their constituents but have not collaborated with metro legislators to find bipartisan solutions.

Legislators agree that safety is a priority on light rail trains, but this bill is not a realistic solution to the problem. Further discussions between the Met Council, Metro Transit Police, and other stakeholders will be necessary to comprehensively address public safety on the light rail. One successful idea from other jurisdictions being pursued in the House is the creation of transit ambassadors, individuals present on trains and at stations to assist, monitor, intervene and connect marginalized members of the community such as homeless people with needed services.

As the bill moves forward, Senate DFLers will continue to advocate for a clean bill that prioritizes safety while lifting up our society’s more vulnerable members. (SF 3912)