Lawmakers discuss ways to improve light rail safety

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There’s a push at the Minnesota state Capitol to make Metro Transit light rail trains a safer ride. 

A hearing to discuss a new bill is set for later this month that would add train “ambassadors.”

Both riders and train operators haven’t been shy about some of the issues on trains, with one of the big issues being drug use. But this legislation focuses on an increased presence in a two-phased approach.

“Safety is definitely something that needs to be addressed immediately,” said Ryan Timlin with ATU Local 1005.

In the most recent data, Metro Transit is seeing a 54% increase in crime reports from 2022 compared to the year before. Most notably narcotic use is up 182%.

“It is necessary that legislation takes action,” said Representative Brad Tabke, DFL-Shakopee.

That’s why Tabke is leading the way with legislation that would bring more presence to trains in the form of what are called ambassadors, an idea that was first introduced in 2019. 

“We need to have a bigger, greater solution for transit safety,” Tabke said.

The first phase addresses more social services on trains, to help anyone who may be experiencing homelessness, addiction, or a mental health crisis. Then comes the added conduct enforcement.

“If we have the discipline and kind guidance of people on board it will matter and it will help a lot,” said John Dillery, who uses public transportation.

Dillery spoke during a virtual committee hearing Friday morning and believes inspecting fares goes a long way.

“A laissez-faire, anything goes approach or anything like it would be an utter failure and will not make me feel more confident in the system,” Dillery said.

“We know that when there are people out there, eyes on ears on the system that the bad behavior starts to diminish,” said Drew Kerr, Metro Transit Spokesperson.

Metro Transit understands the frustration but believes this could help. The exact role of the ambassadors is still up for discussion.

“They’re not there to be enforcers in the way you think of a police officer, they’re not arresting people but they’re there to be present,” Kerr said.

With ridership currently half of what it was before the pandemic, there’s optimism from Metro Transit for a turnaround.

“The trend has gone upward and we hope it will continue to go upward,” Kerr said.

This legislation is set for a hearing on Feb. 23.

Metro Transit wants to continue to hear from you about your experience on trains to help them improve. To do so email them at or call 612-373-3333.