Can Metro Transit Fix Policing?

Green Line Cops

Metro Transit Police checking fares on the light rail. Photo by Bill Lindeke.

It probably seems like years ago. But, in actual time, it’s only been four months since February 2020. That’s when the Minnesota Legislature began debating a policy to change policing on Metro Transit trains and buses.

At the time, the debate centered around a “law and order” narrative. Everyone at the capitol seemed to agree that crime was a serious problem on Twin Cities trains and buses, and both parties at the legislature introduced policies to deal with public safety in the Twin Cities transit system. As you might expect, the proposals differed widely: Democrats wanted to create a set of “ambassadors” to deescalate social problems; Republicans wanted more police and penalties for gang members. The dueling press conferences were testy, to say the least.

[From Fox 9 News; Go to 2:00 to see the story about the grandpa from Lakeville.]

As the session came to a close in early May, negotiators proved unable to reach a compromise on changes transit policing, and, as is the case with much legislative policy debate, nothing actually happened.

Since then, of course, much has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has gutted government budgets, increased the precariousness of people experiencing homelessness, and shrunk transit ridership to a tiny fraction of former levels. And following the killing of George Floyd by four Minneapolis Police Officers on May 25th, and the demonstrations and arson that followed, communities all over the world have begun a protracted, public debate over the role of police in society. The moment seems right to revisit the public safety reforms for transit. But whether that happens, and what those changes would look like, remains up in the air.

 

Policing on Trains and Buses

Lrt Station Platform 2

A light rail station in Saint Paul.

Before the pandemic, murder, civil unrest and demonstrations, the conversation about transit and policing centered on policing approaches and punitive measures. 

On the one hand, the House Democratic legislation, authored by Representative Brad Tabke aimed to try and reduce the amount of actual police presence on metro area trains. Initially, the proposal would have reclassifying fare violations and funded new transit “ambassadors” to be deployed on trains and buses, equipped and trained to deal with social nuisance issues like smoking, fare evasion, visible intoxication, or and other problems that normally would require Transit Police.

In the DFL-controlled House, the committee debates over the transit ambassador proposal turned into a heated back-and- forth over how best to deal with crime and perceived disorder on Twin Cities light rail.

For example, in one committee hearing, Rep. Linda Runbeck, one of the House Republican leaders on the Transportation Finance and Policy Division, declared:

There are terrible smells, terrible sights, terrible events on the train. If we do not address it, and address it immediately, and in a forceful way, its out of control. It’s literally out of control.

Runbeck’s amendment, which she later withdrew, would have called for at least one police officer to be on every light rail train, who would “remove immediately the bad actors” before they became a problem.

As the proposal went through the House and Senate, a bipartisan compromise was reached that would have instituted part of Tabke’s initial proposal alongside stricter enforcement measures such as escalating fines for citations and six-month or year-long bans from transit following convictions.   

According to Tabke, the bill was withdrawn during final session negotiations with the Senate.

The whole thing kind of tanked; it was extremely frustrating. Many folks in the Senate are very supportive and would like to see this done sooner than later. We had a compromise bill that was supported. We were ready to go in the House, and we thought we had support in the senate.  We are very committed to still getting this done.

But Tabke is the first to admit that the conversation has changed since early May, even if legislative progress has stalled.

 

What Should Police do on trains?

As the light rail system has increasingly become a space of shelter for people experiencing homelessness, the issue of comfort and safety on Twin Cities transit has become a central narrative in political debate. As a result of the chronic housing issues and current approach to public safety, Metro Transit Police have to deal with everything from fare evasion (estimated to be as much as 20% of light rail riders) to nuisance issues such as sleeping or smoking, harassment to people dealing with substance abuse. This is not to mention the thankfully rare instances of actual violent crime on the transit.

How these various concerns are prioritized makes a huge difference for ensuring everyone’s safety and security on the bus or train, and puts the Police Officers into a difficult position.

That’s the focus of a study released earlier this year by East Metro Strong, a Saint Paul-based transit advocacy partnership, and a local consultant.

“In response to legislators requests, and requests from the East Metro Strong board, we commissioned this work,” said Will Schroeer, the head of East Metro Strong who was a co-author of the report on transit and policing. [Learning from Rider Security and Service Programs, Final Research Report, April 28 2020]

The report looks at how other transit agencies around the country have tried to reform the sometimes-punitive transit police systems by shifting how fares are collected, or how their riders are connected to social services.  The big takeaway, according to Schroeer, is that police are not always the best solution to the problems posed by transit security.

“Across the country, other transit agencies have faced similar challenges, that Metro Transit is facing,” he said. “[They] have responded to those challenges by deploying non-sworn police officer staff, and that mouthful contains couple important distinctions. The staff they deploy may be part of the P.D., but not be sworn officers. Or maybe they are unrelated to the transit P.D.. There are different ways and models to go about that.”

During the legislative debate, the report helped to put Tabke’s “transit ambassador” proposal into context. Following programs in places like San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle, the report suggests shifting policing of fares from a “traditional police approach” to a “customer-oriented enforcement” that would decriminalize fares, treating them as the equivalent of a parking ticket. 

For people who have been focused on transit safety for years, the proposals were a welcome start.

“Right now a lot of what the police do is just fare enforcement, which doesn’t alway make the system safer for everyone who rides it,” explained Amity Foster, one of the leaders of the Twin Cities Transit Riders Union, who advocate for a fare-free system across the entire metro. “For us, having something like the transit ambassador program is a step in the right direction.”

As the bill changed, and a lot of the alternatives to policing were removed, Foster wound up disappointed with the outcome.

“It ended up getting pretty watered down,” said Foster. “We think a real ambassador program is one where the folks in it are trained to deescalate, where they’re given the resources they need to provide real safety to people on the bus and train.”

 

Did George Floyd’s Death Change the Discussion?

Since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officers,  the original goals of the legislation have been rekindled, and the conversation has turned away from what Rep. Brad Tabke calls “more punitive measures.”

“After the murder of George Floyd, it became very clear that that language was no longer viable, and that the house was not going to move forward with it,” explained Tabke. “It no longer fit the moment. the things we care about and value we said we declined to move forward with that version any longer.”

During the recent special session, DFL and GOP leadership had seemed to agree on a reduced, compromise position that Tabke calls the “administrative citations.” The policy change would shifted fare evasion citations from a criminal misdemeanor to an administrative citation, with a table of escalating fines for repeat offenders. It would kept the thousands of fare evasion citations from clogging up the court system, without reducing the effectiveness of the enforcement. 

But as the negotiations progressed, according to Tabke, Governor Walz re-introduced the original ambassador program back into his final proposal. When the Republican-controlled senate balked, that killed transit police reform legislation for a second time. 

Even now, Tabke has not given up hope.

“I am cautiously optimistic there are many folks in the senate who clearly understand that this is an important thing to get done,” he explained, when asked about the possibility of a second special session occurring later this summer.

Stp Central Station Skyway Tower

A police camera at Central Station in Saint Paul.

In the meantime, even as police reform and abolition conversations are enveloping Minneapolis City Hall, Metro Transit Police are still expected to be the one-size-fits-all solution to security on the light rail on Hennepin County Government Plaza. The vision of a transit system that relies on ambassadors, equipped with Narcan and de-escalation training rather than guns and armor, seems just over the horizon.

And for others, riding the bus every day, a future of enforcement-free transit remains the goal.

“Making fares free would reshape role of police,” Amity Foster of the Transit Riders Union told me. “The current system of policing is clearly not working; they don’t fully meet the needs of the riders.  And drivers also need to be safe. We need a system that works for everyone.  Having a fare free system and a transit ambassador program, like transit reps who are trained in de-escalation, who have access to resources like mental health providers, would make the system safer across the board.”

Ambassadors are also a huge step for Will Schroeer who is thinking these days about COVID-19. Back in May, Metro Transit added a mask requirement for all its riders. But how to enforce this policy or whether the agency has funds to hand out masks to those who need them is another story.

“The need for [ambassadors] on transit is even more now,” said Schroeer. “People have been extraordinarily cooperative with Metro Transit’s request to not ride if you’re not essential. But as we start returning to work and to play, a city only works if a certain number of people are on transit. And for folks to feel comfortable getting back on transit having some of these staff on board would be helpful with that.”

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54 Responses to Can Metro Transit Fix Policing?

  1. dennis July 8, 2020 at 10:05 am #

    The Ambassadors will need the police to protect them.It has been several years since I seen a police on the train,the police has been avoid the train .I avoid riding LRT now rather ride the buses than deal with the rowdy behaviors and being threatened .
    NYC subway is bad and crowded but I felt safer than riding the GreenLine.
    Smoking on the Greenline is very common and they homeless and people leave garbage on seats and on the floor.
    Making transit free will not deter crime it will make it worse. Right now the buses are free the homeless moved to the buses are the troublemakers .Transit always had issuses but it got worse since the LRT opened.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 9, 2020 at 10:07 am #

      They would. But ambassadors can do a lot of things to improve the situation before police intervene, and would be far less dangerous.

  2. Monte Castleman July 8, 2020 at 10:10 am #

    I don’t have any philosophical objection to making transit “free”, as after all I’m part of society and roads are also “free”. But practically speaking haven’t cities that tried this backed off because it encourages the kind of anti-social behavior mentioned in this post. After all if transit is “free” there’s no disincentive to use it as a hangout or loitering spot rather than transit and if a person gets kicked off they can just board the next bus that drives by.

    Also I wonder since it’s known that the transit ambassadors will be unarmed (I’m presuming they wouldn’t be allowed to carry personally owned weapons) how long it will take until we get start getting assaults on transit ambassadors.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller July 8, 2020 at 10:16 am #

      Do we get frequent assaults on DID ambassadors? On train conductors? On bus drivers?

      Is it really any different from what bus drivers already do unarmed?

      • Monte Castleman July 8, 2020 at 10:23 am #

        Bus drivers don’t approach people and tell them to stop smoking.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller July 8, 2020 at 10:26 am #

          Uh, yeah they do.

        • Matt Eckholm
          Matt Eckholm July 8, 2020 at 2:17 pm #

          You’ve written pages about how you never would ride buses, so forgive me if I doubt your firsthand knowledge of anything to do with buses.

          • Monte Castleman July 8, 2020 at 5:12 pm #

            So I’m incorrect and if someone’s smoking, the bus drive stops the bus, then walks back and confronts them about it? I learn something new every day.

            • Jeb Rach
              Jeb Rach July 9, 2020 at 10:41 am #

              They’ll usually make a PA announcement of some sort telling people to stop. If that doesn’t work, then they’ll call for the police (which is the only other resource they currently have) to come to the bus.

              Bus drivers also aren’t expected to be extensively trained in de-escalation tactics, and have a primary duty of safely operating the bus on streets. It seems reasonable to expect that a non-armed transit ambassador could handle many of the smaller and nuisance violations, given that they’ll have more extensive training and have handling those situations as their primary job duty.

      • Monte Castleman July 8, 2020 at 10:24 am #

        And violence against bus drivers actually is enough of a problem they’re putting on those Plexiglas partitions.

      • Tim July 9, 2020 at 9:14 am #

        I don’t know about the others you mention, but yes, assaults on bus drivers have been a pretty well-documented problem for a while. Metro Transit has acknowledged as much, and it’s been a major area of concern for the drivers’ union.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller July 9, 2020 at 11:55 am #

          By “pretty well documented” you mean “have happened occasionally but pretty rarely” (assuming that when they happen they get reported in the media).

  3. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller July 8, 2020 at 10:13 am #

    Two things. First, we’ve surely learned by now that asking police officers to solve problems created by a lack of investment in and caring for our citizens doesn’t work. It’s not the fault of the police that there are unhoused people seeking shelter on trains and they really can’t be asked to fix it because they can’t fix it. They can harass, intimidate and seek to jail, but those things do nothing to fix the actual problem.

    Second, a story of how transit police had been handling fare enforcement. Awhile back, I was across the aisle from a young man who hadn’t paid the fare. The officer told him, “it’s no big deal, I just have to call it in and if it’s the first time [might have said not a bunch of past times] it’s not a big deal.” The officer called in his name and then gave him a card to show if he got asked again and walked away. From my perspective (recognizing that I’m a middle aged white dude), it was a highly professional and appropriate interaction. It was likely frightening and embarrassing from the perspective of the young black man interacting with the police, though.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 9, 2020 at 10:09 am #

      A good story. What I’d like ambassadors to do is work with fare violators to get them TAP cards. It’s a very easy process to sign people up. Imagine if folks who are currently skipping fare instead got access to a reduced fare program?

  4. Daniel Choma
    Daniel Choma July 8, 2020 at 10:58 am #

    I’ve always thought the criminal misdemeanor charge for fare violation is kind of bananas.

    Fare violation is something, but it isn’t a violent crime. Calling it that just empowers the police to have a wide berth of powers that is asking for trouble.

    Keep in mind, our state laws punish fare violation with a stronger charge than sexual harrassment.

    That allows the police to charge mainly children skipping out on fares with a “crime” that carries the penalties of an actual crime such as assault. It can deeply and negatively effect a child’s life.

    Now add the reality that the cops pick up black kids 8x more frequently than white kids and you start to see a real systematic issue.

  5. dennis July 8, 2020 at 11:57 am #

    METC does not care about the safety of the riders.They have signs on the door that face covering are required yet it is not enforced.It will be impossible for the drivers to enforce most of the time but they can drive pass people who are waiting alone at bus stops.
    Automatic announcement should be made when ever the doors are open
    There are no social distance on the buses yesterday the bus was amost empty a woman came in she sat behind a guy then came over and sat behind me .The seats should be blocked off to promote social distancing and start collect fares to keep off the non-essiental trips, a lot more homeless are riding the buses now taking up valuable seats This morning a woman off of the bus wrapped with a large blanklet .

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 9, 2020 at 10:08 am #

      Ambassadors could also hand out masks.

  6. John Abraham
    John Abraham July 8, 2020 at 1:45 pm #

    Great, well researched post Bill. As I sit in my super-heated apartment that is uncomfortable somewhat due to humanity’s intractable ability to reign in emissions for decades, I was also struck by the overall theme of our state “leaders” to do anything but for a long while now. Amazing that such basic understanding of society as to why people feel the need to board transit in lieu of living somewhere must still be at a punitive, punishing level. I am struck by the overall malaise in society of both recognizing how difficult these challenges (homelessness, poverty, police brutality, basic food needs) are and the seeming inability of enough people to want to do something about them. Is there a legislative solution to this (other than voting them out in a few months)? Doubtful. But as the more astute commentators/writers here point out, these are society-wide problems that are impossible for armed thugs going onto transit to “solve.” Much, much more difficult is beginning to answer the question of why would someone in an appallingly rich city like ours need to “live” on a train?

  7. Marc July 8, 2020 at 1:48 pm #

    Proposal:

    Make transit free for anyone over the age of 55.

    Older people are rarely criminal and very rarely violent criminals. Let’s get them riding transit and increase the ratio of well-behaved people on the train. It will keep the trains from being empty, at least during the day. An empty train is a creepy train.

    This would also have the benefit of removing higher-risk drivers from the road and decreasing emissions.

    We could even experiment with negative fares for that demographic during non-peak hours. If we want to change the nature of policing then citizens need to take more responsibility for each other’s behavior. Elders have a role in moderating behavior in many societies, it might work here too.

    In my youth, I was on my best behavior when Grandma was watching.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 9, 2020 at 10:10 am #

      Free for everyone or nobody. Teenagers have just as much need, IMO.

      • Marc July 10, 2020 at 1:05 pm #

        Thanks for the response Bill.

        I’m not suggesting that we make transit free for 55 year old people because of need; my thought is that their increased presence on transit will make transit feel safer and encourage wider use.

        More teenagers will have the opposite effect.

  8. Elizabeth Larey July 8, 2020 at 2:12 pm #

    I used to take light rail from University Ave to downtown Mpls for Lynx games. After the increase in shootings downtown, I stopped going. One by one, my friends have stopped taking light rail also. None of us feel safe anymore. There are a lot of other people who feel the same. At least with police presence you know you won’t be harassed.
    Allowing homeless people to ride for free is wrong. This is not how it was presented to people in the community when the Metropolitan Council was looking for support. Billions of dollars have been spent. Think of what that money could have done for affordable housing. Too late now.
    Homeless people were housed in the Hilton hotel, and the drug and prostitution became so rampant the were kicked out by the owner. Then they moved to Powderhorn Park. Where the drug use on prostitution continues. Last weekend 3 sexual assaults occurred.
    Doesn’t anyone on this site think this is a problem? Building affordable housing for the homeless will do nothing until someone is willing to do something about the crimes they commit. This is nothing like the city I moved to in 1978. The good news is my realtor just told me my house is now worth 30K more than it was before the riots started. People are listing their houses in the city and moving farther out to get away from density ( so much for the 2040 comp plan) and crime. So I guess I should be thankful for that.

    • Antonio July 8, 2020 at 7:14 pm #

      I’ve seen enough Minneapolis cops hurt people on buses to not feel safe by any proposal to add cops to transit. Why would I feel safe on a train or a bus seeing a person who carries a gun and who can use lethal force without facing accountability? Why would anyone? Maybe if people had money, or a home, or were white they would feel safe by seeing a cop. That’s not a reality for many in the city.
      Sending in cops to harass folks isn’t a solution. There are better ways that address bigger problems like homelessness that are more effective and are better morally than cops.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller July 9, 2020 at 12:00 pm #

      You know YOU won’t be harassed. By now you should know that the police being around means other people WILL be harassed.

      And yes, the city has significantly less crime than 1978. It’s very different.

  9. Matt Eckholm
    Matt Eckholm July 8, 2020 at 2:19 pm #

    We could always solve fare enforcement by getting rid of fares and do away with the ridiculous metric of profit in judging the success of transit.

    • Elizabeth Larey July 8, 2020 at 4:44 pm #

      It wasn’t sold to the public as a free service. If i remember correctly they were predicting a break even. Nothing is free, somebody has to pay for everything.

      • Matt Eckholm
        Matt Eckholm July 8, 2020 at 4:57 pm #

        Nobody would have ever predicted a break even for transit via fares in the United States. We build these knowing that they are largely a public good and not a profitable enterprise.

        I’d like to see how much it costs to hire police to enforce fares, and see if that number is larger than the amount we lose to fare evasion. I doubt it’s larger than the total farebox return, but it could be a start.

      • Sheldon Gitis July 13, 2020 at 10:32 am #

        Relative to the costs of driving, public transit, while not free, is a bargain. It’s a lot less expensive, safer, and more efficient to move a busload or trainload of passengers to and from school and work and other daily activities than to move private passenger vehicles to and from those destinations.

        Dealing with car traffic and crashes and theft and other car related incidents, for example, accounts for well over half of all police work. If fare enforcement was eliminated, and replaced with the transit ambassadors, policing transit would be virtually free when compared to the costs of policing driving.

  10. david July 8, 2020 at 5:27 pm #

    Whenever I travel I avoid expensive Hotels right now the homeless are staying at Doubletree and ,two of the more expensive hotels in downtown St Paul Most of them are smoking all the time outside all day .One would think the Counties would put them in a cheaper hotel such Motel 6 ,Days INN etc.

    • Monte Castleman July 8, 2020 at 6:09 pm #

      Speculation- a lot of the cheaper hotels are probably still doing a brisk business in renting rooms to locals for prostitution, young lovebirds hooking up, wild parties, and narcotics dealing. So it’s the places formerly frequented by business and middle class leisure travelers that have large blocks of rooms available and are desperate to make a deal for any kind of income. I’ve been told the Holiday Inn in Bloomington is another place currently used to house the homeless.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke July 9, 2020 at 10:11 am #

        Honestly, that is wild speculation. I would not make assumptions like this.

        • Sheldon Gitis July 13, 2020 at 10:38 am #

          Honestly, wild as it may sound, it makes a lot sense, and appears to explain what’s happening. If you think it’s such a wild idea, what’s your explanation?

  11. John Dillery July 8, 2020 at 6:43 pm #

    I have been a transit planner for 42 years.
    Free fares have been tried in many locations around the USA and the world, but never were sustained. A “good” such as transportation -without even a nominal cost, becomes unappreciated, that is just human nature, sorry, but true. Then fiscal conservatives, always present in government, are philosophically opposed to free goods, too. We must be realistic. We used to have free fares for seniors during the non-rush hours, didn’t last.
    Please let’s learn from others around the world and also learn from our own history!

    Homelessness is the great shame of the richest country in the history of the world. Homelessness is NOT a problem transit can solve, so we need to reverse the well-meaning winter time protection order to allow homeless people to ride trains all night. Face the music: the answer is government supported affordable quality housing backed by strong mental health care. A workable society requires two-way respect.

    I know that our Minnesota – only way of doing proof-of-payment (POP) transit fare enforcement doesn’t work. Virtually every other system I know of with POP fares employs conductors (ambassadors, if you prefer, same thing) to check fares – These transit employees are quickly BACKED by police as needed.

    Many proof of payment systems place ticket validators and basic ticket vending machines ON buses and rail cars as well as at most stations. This give one confronted with not having paid fare on-board a civilized way to immediately correct their error or violation, usually with much less confrontation. We could adopt these options! Far better than a reactionary call for a cop on every transit vehicle! I think that the original Mn House bill on this topic was on the right track and the bill should be revived by clear headed leaders.

    • Marc July 8, 2020 at 8:38 pm #

      John,

      Thanks for this great response. Can you tell us what cities have tried free fares for seniors and why it did not last? I know that the state of IL had it, but removed it due to politics and budget. Are there any other good examples or links?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 9, 2020 at 10:12 am #

      I agree, John. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller July 9, 2020 at 12:05 pm #

      It’s why the Smithsonian is but a distant memory. And roads, remember them? Man, I miss a good sidewalk. Public Parks, so sad to see them go.

      The fares are there to keep the “wrong” people out.

    • Sheldon Gitis July 13, 2020 at 10:46 am #

      You don’t like free fares, fine, but why have fare enforcement? Seems like the enforcement is more costly and troublesome than it’s worth, especially on a train or bus where there’s no fare box.

      • John Dillery July 18, 2020 at 5:34 pm #

        Fare enforcement is a mark of civilization or at least a good example of how civilization works well. Not paying a fare is just as llegal as it is for you or me to walk out of the store without paying for what we took from the shelf. I want to live in a place that is civilized to the point where we pay for what we take. Thank you.

        • Sheldon Gitis July 20, 2020 at 8:16 am #

          How is it, that someone with contract parking at the U of M, who rides the train fare-free between the 3 stops at the U, often multiple times on a daily basis, is participating in the overwhelming ridership success of the LRT line, but someone living in the Frogtown, Summit-University or Midway neighborhoods of St. Paul, who has no car and no parking contract, and occasionally rides the train some very short distance between 2 or 3 stops somewhere between Rice Street and Snelling, is a criminal participating in the fall of our civilization? It’s amazing, to put it mildly, that someone could think someone living in the Frogtown, Summit-University or Midway neighborhoods of St. Paul, traveling a very short distance between 2 or 3 LRT stops on University Avenue, is stealing if they do not or cannot pay the fare, yet when some jerk with a reserved parking space in the parking ramp connected to the Humphrey Institute travels fare-free between the 3 stops at the U, they’re contributing to the success of the “Green” line. Go figure. If riding the LRT fare-free is stealing, then the 10s of thousands of U of M Parking customers riding fare-free between the 3 stops at the U, are thieves.

          Riding public transit fare-free is not stealing. Public transit is not a bag of Cheetos at the QwikStop. Just as your gasoline purchase does not pay for most of the cost driving, fare revenue does not pay for most of the cost public transit. Public transit, like public schools, public libraries, public police and fire, and public roads, is funded with public tax dollars, not user fees.

          Eliminating fare enforcement during off peak periods on vehicles with no fare box is not the end of civilization, it’s just common sense cost-benefit analysis.

  12. angela July 9, 2020 at 5:49 pm #

    Why is when police fine people they are racist.They are doing their job and help prevent other crime when they are on the trains .I see them fine white people but majority of the riders are minorities it is obvious they will get fine ,many just get a vrbal warning.
    My coworker was riding the train for years
    without paying he finally got caught and had to pay the $180 .He has money to smoke and gamble ,every pay day Friday he
    goes to Mystic Lake and stay there til Monday morning because he gets free room.Transit isn’t free ,asregular rider too often I see people get on the bus without paying very few driver just ignore them to avoid confrontation.

  13. John Dillery July 10, 2020 at 9:22 pm #

    Free fare for seniors was tried here in the Twin Cities, I think in the late 1970s and early 80s maybe. Operating subsidies are not a well-funded in our transit system, especially by local governments, when compared to other US metros. Chronic and cyclical operating budget shortfalls have lead us to increase fares and to look for many ways to increase revenue, such as charging a nominal fare for seniors. Recently, our Metro Transit fares were covering roughly 25% of the operating cost of the bus and rail system, which is on the high side for most US metros our size. Another interesting change that I noticed in our cities over the last few decades is the now common arrangement of buillding owners providing a van or small bus for senior residents’ use at our many senior housing complexes. This has taken away some of the demand for transit by seniors over the years. Do you really want transit here to come at lower cost or even be free? If yes, then you have to support a much bigger committment by local governments to fund operating subsidies. Most other metro areas in the USA support bus and rail transit operations on the county level thru a dedicated share of their sales tax. The state usually doesn’t fund transit operations to the extent it is doen in Minnesota. Why can’t our metro counties make the same committment?

  14. Pete Barrett July 12, 2020 at 6:40 pm #

    I recall in the mid 70’s when what we then called the MTC had free fares for youths, or “yoots” if you prefer. My Dad knew a bus driver, and he hated it. Kids would just ride for the sake of riding. if the got kicked off for acting up, no problem. They had no skin in the game, so they’d just wait for the next bus. He wasn’t talking about minority kids either, it was white kids.

    One thing that might possibly work would be a pass revocable for cause. Yup, I get it, the rules can get enforced against minorities while the white folks get winked at. We should be able to figure that out.

    • John Dillery July 18, 2020 at 5:26 pm #

      Yes, basicaly, free fares are not practical and socially unwise.

      • Sheldon Gitis July 20, 2020 at 8:37 am #

        Speaking of unpractical and unwise, wasting transit funding on off-peak fare enforcement on vehicles with no fare box is worse than worthless. The costs for enforcement, including cops and arrest warrants for unpaid fines and court costs and possible incarceration and all the rest, far exceed any possible revenue gain.

        If I’m not mistaken, the overwhelming majority of fare revenue comes from frequent riders who are not buying a single fare each time they get on the bus or train, but rather, purchase monthly passes or some other less expensive bulk GoTo pass or whatever they’re calling it these days. During peak periods, when most of the fare revenue is generated, most riders could simply display their transit passes on a lanyard around their neck or in some other visible place, and then, some limited random enforcement of the relatively few single fare passengers could be done at minimal expense.

        Fare enforcement is not the way to deal with the conduct of those using public transit. If rider behavior is the issue, that can be dealt with the ambassadors and armed police if necessary.

        Continuing to do off-peak fare enforcement on the trains and BRT vehicles is just stupid. It has no revenue benefit, and may actually deplete revenue for transit and law enforcement.

        Also, during off-peak periods, why run the buses and trains empty? Eliminate the fare and increase the ridership. The more people on the buses and trains, the better. It costs the same amount to run a relatively empty transit vehicle as it does a relatively full one. And more people on buses and trains means fewer people driving, which is a good thing.

  15. Sheldon Gitis July 13, 2020 at 10:51 am #

    “It would kept (sic) the thousands of fare evasion citations from clogging up the court system, without reducing the effectiveness of the enforcement.”

    How do you avoid reducing the effectiveness of an ineffective, or ill-effective, practice? What’s clogging up the court system? Warrants for unpaid fines? Do you think the fare evaders are going to start paying the fines just because they’re reduced from $200 to $50 or whatever the amounts may be? The costs for fare enforcement, including the cops and courts and all the rest far exceed the benefit of some small increase in fare revenue. The transit riders’ solution is the only solution. Get rid of the fare enforcement altogether. If you want transit ambassadors on the trains and buses, fine. Just stop doing the worse than worthless fare enforcement.

  16. Angela July 13, 2020 at 11:42 am #

    It is terrifying to ride the trains ,it is lawless on the train ,transit fare enforcement help deter some crime.
    Either way they will still need to Police ,the Ambassadors will be additional cost that will be ineffective .I have seen the people defying the Police orders at the transit stations so the police just avoid the trains.
    Everyday people are smoking in the train,loud and obnoxious they are also threatening people ,I got threatened just because I turned my head around the guy behind was in my face shout at me I saw another guy did the same thing a few days later.
    Some of the thing I saw on the train are no tlimited to a kid start a fire on the strain,threwing lighter fluid on the floor under my seat,couple having sex ,men fondling themselves ,2 of my coworkers got assaulated at the stations ,peole urinating at the stations and in the trains , these anti-social behavior is terrifying>One night about 10 people were fight on the track stopping the trains after the police had just chased them away ,10mins later they came back.
    I would be nice to go fareless but this will encourage more anti-social behavior on the buses .It will be cheaper to go FARELESS , if the people will behave there will be no need for the Police .
    Seattle had to curtail the fareless Zone because of the homeless riding the buses ,right now many are riding the buses now that fares are being collecting

  17. Pete Barrett July 14, 2020 at 6:03 am #

    How many cars, not trains but cars, would have an ambassador? If I see another passenger urinate on the train, then I suppose I text someone, what does the ambassador do when he or she arrives five or ten minutes later? Is there a dna test to find out whose urine it is?

    If every car doesn’t have an ambassador, how many will have one? I’m not saying it wouldn’t work, I’m just trying to figure out what this would look like.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 14, 2020 at 9:44 am #

      The legislature funding proposal changed quite a bit during the session. They ended up with money for only 10 ambassador staff, so 5 teams working 2 train lines for 6 months. It was pretty scaled back from the original idea, which would have been much larger.

      • Pete Barrett July 15, 2020 at 6:21 pm #

        Ten??? Seriously??? Ten??? For a 24/7 operation?

        That sounds like wetting your pants outside in January. It gives you a warm feeling, but only for a little while.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke July 16, 2020 at 11:14 am #

          Like I said, it was watered down in the partisan negotiations.

          • Pete Barrett July 16, 2020 at 5:54 pm #

            Yeah, if you’re watering with Niagara Falls.

            Talk about being set up for failure.

    • Sheldon Gitis July 14, 2020 at 2:40 pm #

      How ambassadors on the trains and clean restroom facilities/port-a-pots at all the train stops? Seems like a place to pee is your solution to pissing on the train and I suspect the train platforms as well. If you gotta go, you gotta go.

  18. Dean July 17, 2020 at 1:32 pm #

    Maybe if the Police do their job and spend more time on the trains there wiill be fewer incidents.
    I see the police hanging out on my bus at 11PM on several occasions with very few riders,this is not even a high ridership route.
    One in a car driving behind the bus another inside the bus.Yesterday I saw on following the A line with about 5 riders in the bus.The Police just drive around the cities aimlessly Maybe METC should have a plan.It has been years since I seen a police on the LRT.I ride it daily.They used to patrol the rail often when the LRT first opened.

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