New bill would add oversight to Met Council to combat crime on light rail system

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As violent crime escalates on Metro Transit’s light rail lines, Minnesota lawmakers will now debate a proposed bill that would require Metro Transit to hire an independent company to conduct a top-to-bottom safety audit.

Light rail train operator, Honey Darling, told the Legislative Commission on Metropolitan Government the light rail has become an "embarrassment" and is "unsafe" on a daily basis for Metro Transit employees and riders alike.

"We’ve had murders on our platforms and murder on our trains," said Darling. "We’ve also had numerous rapes and we’ve pleaded with management with safety grievances, safety reports and it’s all fallen on deaf ears and we are begging people to listen to us."

Darling said every day, Metro Transit employees are put at risk by what she described as "constant criminal activity and behavior," which threatens the viability of the system.

"If we want people to keep using light rail as it is intended, something needs to be done," said Darling. "We have one of the largest police forces in the metro area, yet there are very few Metro Transit Police [officers] scheduled to work the night shift when the majority of the crime happens."

Minnesota legislators propose change to improve Metro Transit experience for riders

Rep. Paul Torkelson, (R-16B), told the Legislative Commission on Metropolitan Government (LCMG) he has proposed a bill that requires the Met Council to hire an independent company to conduct a full-scale safety audit of light rail trains.

"It’s the Metropolitan Council and Metro Transit’s job to get this back in order," said Torkelson. "They’re taking some steps but I am not sure they’re being aggressive enough."

The Met Council’s Judd Schetnan told lawmakers the agency agrees "there is a problem that needs to be addressed," but said it would require more than a year-to-year, one-time financial commitment from the legislature.

"We welcome any opportunity, or idea, which could make things safer on [light rail trains]," said Schetnan. "But, I don’t want us to lose track of the fact that if this is an ongoing, sustainable plan, we have to make sure we can afford it."

The first safety bill for Metro Transit and light rail trains will be heard next Thursday when the State Legislature convenes.