During several hearings this session, the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee heard about annoying and sometimes criminal behavior occurring on buses, trains and at the stations of Metro Transit.
A few stories came from committee members themselves.
Rep. Brad Tabke (DFL-Shakopee) is proposing legislation he hopes will reset what transit ridership looks like, building confidence and increasing customers. It starts with a short-term intensive intervention focused on getting help through social services to those who need it.
The next step is a long-term program to ensure a safe and comfortable ride for everyone, Tabke said. HF1322 would create a Transit Rider Investment Program, uniformed personnel embedded in the transit system dedicated to helping passengers and enforcing the rules.
Approved Friday by the transportation committee with a delete-all amendment, the bill now goes to the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.
TRIP personnel would provide information, help passengers obtain social services if needed, ensure fares are paid, and accompany passengers who have a disability, are elderly or ask for assistance. They would receive training in crisis intervention, de-escalation, conflict resolution, locating social service providers, and administration of opiate antagonists such as Naloxone.
Tabke’s bill would also revise penalties for breaking the rules and authorize TRIP personnel to issue citations. Fines would be between $35 and $100. No ticket quotas could be imposed.
Subject to a citation and possible misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor charges would be: fare evasion, littering, smoking, alcohol consumption, urinating or defecating, vandalism or disorderly conduct.
Some behaviors that are currently misdemeanors would become violations of the code of conduct that are subject to removal but not a ticket. These include loud devices, food or beverage consumption or bringing animals other than service animals onboard. Sleeping is not listed in the penalties overview.
Having a tool to better enforce payment would improve the culture, said Rep. Nolan West (R-Blaine), as paying riders are more likely to behave by the code of conduct.
Rep. John Petersburg (R-Waseca) is concerned that people kicked off the train for bad behavior will just get on the next one. His bigger concern, however, is that the bill would not do the extra work needed to remove criminal behavior that has taken hold in the transit system.