MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Metro Transit took a hard hit during the pandemic. Overall ridership dropped by 55%, with little improvement today.
With people returning to work, and venues moving toward full capacity, Metro Transit says it’s investing millions of dollars into safety.
Sage Fehrman almost exclusively rides the light rail system in the Twin Cities. When she rides, she knows she’s always taking a risk.
“I’ve seen a lot of drug deals that have happened on the light rail, just like on the platforms, and I believe there should be more security,” Fehrman said.
Which is exactly what Metro Transit is committed to improving. General Manager Wes Kooistra announced Thursday that $4 million in annual investments will go to “improve customer service and safety.”
Right now, Metro Transit has 137 full-time police officers on staff. With this new investment, Metro Transit Police Chief Eddie Frizell says they hope to hire 20 more, as well as more community service officers, which are college students in training to be in law enforcement.
“Right now we’re backgrounding over 30 individuals with an opportunity to come in our next academy classes,” Frizell said.
He also detailed how virtual security will tighten. Look up and you’ll see there are already security cameras on every platform, train car and bus.
“I do like the fact that they have cameras, but I do not believe they actually check the cameras,” Fehrman said.
Chief Frizell says they’re using the $4 million to hire more staff to monitor the cameras full time, so nothing is missed.
“It’s a system that allows our police officers, even in their cars or the real time information center, to see inside of all 91 cars,” Frizell said.
Starting next month, Metro Transit will add or restore routes where they expect service to increase, like offices and college campuses. Several routes were suspended over the last 16 months.
Metro Transit gave this statement to WCCO about their police force and Community Service Officers:
Community Service Officers (CSO) will go through training before working on light rail trains and they will always be paired with full-time Metro Transit Officers, while on the clock. The CSO positions are part time and paid. They will be suited with Tasers and flashlights, no guns. Once a CSO completes the program, they will be enrolled in the police academy to become a full-time officer.
The Metro Transit Police Department prides itself in being 47% diverse, with their staff speaking 16 different languages in total. Diversity in women and BIPOC will be priority in their recruitment process.