Metro Transit bus crime rates low

With fall semester well under way, many new University students are eager to explore the Twin Cities. But the thought of taking a bus to get around the metro area is too nerve-racking for some.

“I would not go on the bus by myself at night,” first-year student Ingrid Barrett said. “I’ve been harassed before.”

Some students said they are either too scared to ride the bus or would only ride during the day with friends. But Metro Transit crime statistics paint a far different picture.

There were approximately 5,500 reported incidents of crime on buses in 2003, out of more than 67 million purchased rides, said Ronald Ottoson, captain of administration at the Metro Transit Police Department. That amounts to approximately .008 percent of all rides.

This year’s statistics, so far, point to a similar crime rate in 2004. Metro Transit said there have been more than 3,000 reported incidents out of almost 33 million purchased rides, or approximately .009 percent.

While some students avoid the bus, nearly one in four University students have already purchased semester-long U-Passes, said University Parking and Transportation Services. Approximately 13,600 U-Passes have been sold for travel on Metro Transit buses.

Some University students concerned about bus safety said they are new students originally from suburban or rural areas.

“I was nervous at first,” third-year commuter Joelle Penisten said. “You see a lot of things you aren’t used to seeing.”

First-year student Jenna Williams said her mother raised her to be paranoid.

“I feel pretty safe, but not 100 percent,” she said.

Students comfortable with the bus cited familiarity as a reason. The more frequently students use the bus, the safer they feel, they said.

“I feel safe enough. I’ve never seen any violence before,” transfer student John Smith said.

Some student perceptions change when it comes to light rail.

Senior Charlie Knutson said he’s optimistic about light rail.

“The light rail is the greatest thing ever,” he said.

Metro Transit said that there have been approximately 400 reported incidents of crime on the Hiawatha light rail line since its launch in late June. That is out of approximately 1.4 million purchased rides. The .003 percent crime rate is less than half of the rate for bus riders.

-Freelance editor Steve Snyder welcomes comments at [email protected]