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Changes to light rail prioritize safety, ridership

The new safety plans use community-based groups to help riders suffering from addiction, homelessness or mental health issues.
A light rail train departs from the Stadium Village station for downtown Minneapolis on Jan. 15, 2017.
Photo by Maddy Fox
A light rail train departs from the Stadium Village station for downtown Minneapolis on Jan. 15, 2017.

Metro Transit officials are aiming at reducing crime, improving cleanliness and increasing ridership on the light rail with a new safety plan.

The safety plan comes as part of a state-passed transportation bill in May, which officials began implementing in June. Under the plan, officials will work alongside community groups such as A Mother’s Love, RADIAS Health and Circle of Discipline to address mental health and social service needs on the light rail.

RADIAS Health and A Mother’s Love work with the Metropolitan Council on the Metro Transit Homeless Action Team by helping the homeless using the light rail for shelter find housing, while Circle of Discipline works to improve young people’s physical and mental well-being.

“Safety and security includes identifying and addressing existing safety and security concerns and building a transportation system that avoids future problems,” the Met Council said on its website.

Additionally, the Transit Safety Intervention Project (TSIP) will use community service officers who can “intervene” with riders experiencing homelessness, addiction or mental health issues instead of police officers.

Community groups will also provide resources for people experiencing homelessness to keep them and other riders safe, according to a RADIAS representative.

University of Minnesota professor of Urban and Regional Planning Yingling Fan said programs like TSIP reduce crime, but also help people who would benefit more from interactions with community members than police officers.

“Having more community service officers will be important, not just because of crime, but it’ll connect people who really need community service to the right resources,” Fan said.

Fan said her research indicates many riders, especially those from minority communities, are more trusting of community members than police officers.

To fight light rail fare evasion, Metro Transit also created the Transit Rider Investment Program (TRIP). Non-police officials will issue administrative citations, similar to parking tickets.

Previously, police officers would issue misdemeanor citations for fare evasion which are rarely prosecuted. 

With the Taylor Swift concert drawing in more than 100,000 fans to Minneapolis on June 23 and June 24, more attention was given to the logistics and safety of the light rail.

University student and Swift concert-goer Catalina St John-Hernandez said she would like the light rail to be consistently as safe as it was the day of the concert.

“I did feel safe using the light rail. However, in the past, I haven’t,” St John-Hernandez said. “I would like to see the light rail become a safer form of public transportation, especially for women and individuals who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Other changes to the light rail system are coming from the Safety and Security Action Plan passed by the Metropolitan Council in March. This plan includes increased monitoring of security cameras and more security officers beginning Monday as a result of rider and staff input.

Additional ongoing facility improvements at multiple light rail stops were also approved in the bill, which will be funded by a 75-cent metro-area sales tax.

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