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The Minnesota Daily

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Opinion: How safe do you feel when riding the train?

What are Metro Transit and University officials doing to consider the safety of students who ride the train?
Image by Ava Weinreis
Is riding the light rail worth the safety risks?

The Metro Transit light rail is a significant cornerstone of our beloved University of Minnesota. Every time I see the light rail roll in, I think about what interesting characters I may encounter in the car destined to stop in front of me. Most students can agree that there is rarely a dull moment once you enter those sliding doors. 

For as long as I have been a student at the University, I have never turned down the opportunity to hear a crazy Metro Transit train story from a fellow student. Having been a part of or witness to the unusual antics that occur on the train is an experience you hardly ever get on any other type of public transportation. It is a right of passage for any University student. 

While the unique individuals on the train can make for an interesting ride, they can also make for a concerning one. 

Student safety is an important subject matter — especially when you recount all of the incidents that have taken place at the University. Still, the inappropriate activities that occur on the train are often ignored or downplayed — some chalking it up to something that should just be expected from public transportation. 

Melody Gochez, a second-year student at the University and a Minneapolis native, had been riding the train for years before enrolling at the University. However, Gochez feels unsafe at times when using the train, saying there are often people smoking, hitting things and not staying appropriately in their spot.

“People usually get into fights inside the train,” Gochez said. “I’ve also seen some guy get escorted out of the train by paramedics.” 

Witnessing this type of behavior is not rare for those who regularly ride the train, even so, it shouldn’t be something that is expected. Dealing with the inconvenience of uncomfortable situations shouldn’t be necessary for students trying to just get to class.

Gochez said the people who smoke usually congregate in the middle or end cars of the train. Because of this, Gochez and many other students choose to ride toward the front where the floors are clear of trash and the passengers are typically other students.

Shouldn’t students feel comfortable riding in any part of the train?

In May of 2023, the University entered into a contracted overtime agreement with the Metro Transit Police Department and began the Transit Service Intervention Project, according to Metro Transit Police Chief Ernest Morales III. Within this partnership, the University will pay UMPD officers overtime to patrol the light rail and display a uniform presence to students. 

“I feel safer,” Gochez said when asked about the police’s enhanced presence. “I see them a lot at night and I feel safe waiting because I know if something happens at least they’re there.” 

Though some students have felt the presence of the campus officers and the persistent effort for change, others are indifferent toward it.

Emma Bryant, a first-year student at the University, said the train lives up to its minimal expectations, but she doesn’t mind it. 

“It’s dirty, smelly and kinda scary,” Bryant said. “I take it every day to West Bank, but that’s like two minutes on the train.”

Most students are aware of the uncleanliness of the train and the rowdiness of some of the passengers, but because of their limited time on the train, students often disregard those concerns. 

Morales said it is important for students to report these incidents so they can be stopped. By simply texting a photo of the issue or explaining your concern to 612-900-0411 you will not only receive a response but also will assist the Metro Transit Police Department in allocating resources to regulate the specific issue at hand. 

“I don’t want anyone putting themselves in a dangerous position,” Morales said. “I just want people to call out behaviors that you don’t want to see. If we don’t speak up for what we want in society, we will not normalize what is acceptable behavior.”

Riding the light rail shouldn’t be something that is dreaded, and inappropriate behaviors shouldn’t be something that is normalized. For students who aren’t used to the complexities of the Twin Cities concrete jungle, approaching the train shouldn’t be a daunting thing. 

“As community members, it is incumbent upon us to stick within our community and to say wrong is wrong,” Morales said.

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  • Yve
    Mar 9, 2024 at 1:06 pm

    I love how important it is to speak up, because behaviors that might make someone else endangered! However, I feel like the police presence on the trains makes me feel more nervous – given Minnesota’s history with police brutality, do you think it is wise or not to have more police ride on the trains?