Trouble on Metro Transit

Metro Transit needs to quickly put an end to bus violence.

Public transportation often has a reputation for being unsafe, but the actual numbers of homicides are remarkably low. Of 16,692 homicides in 2005, only one took place on public transportation. Now the Twin Cities’ own Metro Transit is pushing up these numbers in a disturbing trend. Already this year, Metro Transit buses have been host to two homicides and an additional nonlethal shooting. As Metro Transit enjoys a recent surge of popularity, serious measures need to be taken to ensure its continued success.

With last year’s high gas prices and the fashionableness of reducing one’s carbon footprint, 2006 brought in the most Metro Transit riders in over 22 years and a 5.9 percent increase from 2005. Additional success of the Hiawatha Line and progress on the Central Corridor Light-Rail Transit Line thrust Metro Transit into headlines. All this hard-won, positive publicity is now threatened by perceived danger on buses.

Metro Transit employs its own police force: 23 full-time and 146 part-time officers. Through the course of a day, officers have a mix of responsibilities including riding on buses and responding to calls. Expanding the police force is not necessary or financially reasonable right now, but it could be beneficial to find ways to increase visibility; perception is often the most important aspect of security.

Metro Transit needs to respond quickly and inform citizens about its efforts to curb this violent streak. Increased police visibility needs to be a higher priority. If nothing else, Metro Transit should take steps to acknowledge the violence and reveal a plan to deal with it.

Even if financial constraints limit the amount of real action that can be taken, Metro Transit should take this time to reassure customers that safety is being improved, and that, for the time being, bulletproof vests are not required attire.