Light rail, bus crime gets lawmakers’ attention at Capitol
The issue of public safety on Metro Transit light rail trains and buses has now reached the Minnesota Capitol.
The House Transportation Finance Committee heard testimony regarding a bill that would address at least part of the problem. It calls for the creation of a transit "ambassadors" program that would be checking to make sure people pay their fares and act as another set of eyes looking for criminal activity and bad behavior.
"Where we are at the very top of my comments with Met Transit is not where we can be, where we should be," new Metropolitan Council Chairman Charlie Zelle told lawmakers. "In fact, it’s unacceptable."
The public transit system has been plagued recently by assaults, robberies and even a murder.
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Metro Transit is already looking at adding more "real-time" video surveillance and more officers patrolling trains and buses. Still, the general manager of Metro Transit, Wes Kooistra, said there are limits to what they can do.
"We’re not going to be at every bus stop, every shelter, every platform, every bus, every rail car, but we have to show a presence," Kooistra testified.
Some lawmakers voiced frustration that Metro Transit wasn’t more aggressive earlier when the criminal activity started to grow.
"This is not a new issue," said Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska. "It’s been around for quite a while. We’ve been talking about safety and security on the light rail system and the transit system in general for quite some time, and instead of getting better it’s getting worse, frankly."
The committee only took testimony at the hearing on Thursday and will vote on a bill within two weeks.