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Metro Transit “TRIP Agents” to start riding light rail trains in bid to boost safety

by Staff

MINNEAPOLIS — Metro Transit is expanding its contract with a private security company to add two dozen “TRIP Agents” to its light rail trains with the aim of improving the safety of its riders.

The public transport operator unveiled its Transit Rider Investment Program (TRIP) on Thursday in partnership with Allied Universal.

RELATED: WCCO rides the light rail with Metro Transit leaders amid safety concerns

Starting Friday, 24 agents clad in royal-blue uniforms will ride the METRO Green and Blue lines daily between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

“Ensuring the safety of our employees and riders is our top priority,” Metro Transit general manager Lesley Kandaras said. “They will have responsibilities inspecting fares and issuing citations, but they are also receiving training to better assist our customers.”

Metro Transit says the agents will also enforce its code of conduct, help riders navigate routes and schedules, and provide information on “social service programs.”  

WCCO


The agents are also trained in de-escalation techniques, and will administer first aid, including the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

TRIP Agents will work in concert with Metro Transit police officers and its community service officers (CSOs), who have been tasked with checking fares and issuing citations since December. CSOs will soon transition to working on buses.

Since January, Andy Baseman with Mental Health Minnesota has worked to change the conditions on the light rail. It’s one of 10 community groups on the mission.

“I’ve got that space in my heart and I’ve got the ability and know how and I like to show people we don’t have to be a statistic,” Baseman said.

Baseman said he used to be part of the problem — he’s a recovering meth addict, sober for three-and-a-half years — and now he’s here to help solve it.

RELATED: Man who died on light rail train in St. Paul remains unidentified nearly a month later

Metro Transit said the TRIP program is part of its 40-point action plan to boost light rail safety and security. The plan also includes beefing up police and CSO recruitment efforts, partnering with 10 local community groups to provide support for riders in need of social services, and adding more security at high traffic stations.

Other tactics include the posting of “Your Role As Rider” signs at all transit stations, and playing audio recordings of children reminding riders that smoking isn’t allowed through PA systems at stations and on trains.

Metro Transit Police Chief Ernest Morales announced earlier this month crime on light rail trains increased by 25% between 2022 to 2023, but reports of crime were starting to trend downward. Ridership increased by 15% during the same time period.

A WCCO crew rode on both the METRO Blue and Green lines last spring and witnessed open drug use. Weeks later, while interviewing Morales, a WCCO crew saw his approach to public safety firsthand when a woman in the midst of a mental health crisis approached him and expressed her desire to end her life.

“We can send you to a hospital, get you somewhere warm where they’ll feed you, but I definitely don’t want you out here with those thoughts in your head,” Morales told her. “One thing I won’t assist you with is harming yourself. I can’t allow that to happen.”

RELATED: Crime increased on light rail from 2022 to 2023, Metro Transit police chief says, but signs of improvement showing

The woman eventually agreed to accept the help of fellow first responders who came to the scene.

“We can’t force individuals to seek services, and this is a frustrating situation when we want to help,” Morales said. “We need more services for the homeless population, but especially mentally-incapacitated individuals.” 

Earlier this month, a WCCO crew rode with Morales on a train just days after a man was robbed and shot in the stomach on a train in St. Paul.

“I want people to feel comfortable, I want people to feel safe, and that’s the overall goal,” Morales told WCCO’s Pauleen Le. “Numbers are impressive, but perception is reality.”


EXTENDED: Metro Transit debuts new “TRIP Agents”

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