Thursday’s P-I had an interesting article about rider-on-driver violence and Metro’s efforts to combat it.  Basically, they’ve shifted from off-duty police officers to a dedicated transit police force, and seems to have some positive effects.

It should surprise no one that the No. 7 is by far the worst route, with ten times the usual number of assaults.  That’s partly because the 7 has the heaviest ridership in the system, but it’s also because of socioeconomic problems in the Rainier Valley.

Since the 7 and Central Link will serve more or less the same population, there’s both a danger and an opportunity here for Sound Transit.  Because there’s a limited number of stations and many more riders per vehicle, it’s much more cost-effective to provide comprehensive security at stations at ground zero of a low-intensity gang war.  On the other hand, if ST lets these kinds of problems develop on the train, just a few incidents will gain Link a reputation for being dangerous and other neighborhoods will become hesitant to give “that element” easy access to their neighborhoods, opening the door for Tim Eyman or the legislature to come in and mess everything up.

We have a situation where the cost of prevention is small and the consequences of failure could be fairly severe.  I suggest they invest in the prevention.

11 Replies to “Bus Violence”

  1. I would like to point out that “socioeconomic problems” do not always lead to voilence. This is the PC excuse for bad behavior.

    More on topic in Prague it really struck me how the bus drivers were behind a plexi sheild. If we moved the payment off bus we could do the same, at least for routes like the 7.

  2. The link drivers are behind locking doors, though this won’t stop muggings or violence on board trains between passengers.

  3. Certainly a strong show of ‘Transit Security’ presence would at least get Link the reputation of being a no nonsense place for bad behavior.
    That said, it requires a large upfront investment in security at nearly all the stations, all the time – which doesn’t come cheap. Officers need to have the ability to spot problem rider groups, and follow them on the train, with enough help at other stations to remove them from the train and station if things continue to escalate.
    Gang bangers are at least smart enough to know when they can get away with crap, and when they have to just keep things cool. You don’t see a lot of gang violence in or around the Westlake Mall, because of all the security, but get a few blocks away, and things get pretty roudy at times on 3rd Ave.
    Your right, all it takes is a couple of gang wars on the trains to be branded as the ‘Worst Place in Seattle’.

    1. The issue of gang and other violence and vandalism on Central Link is a very real one and certainly one that we need to have a spirited debate on both on this blog and as a community.

      I think we can say for sure that for the early days of Link opening next July, security and maintenance will be high on the agenda and any issues resolved quickly, but outside of this immediate time frame and it is anyone’s guess what will happen. Even during the construction of Link, there have been vandalism issues – witness the train ‘parked’ on display on the I-5 over the Summer that was tagged within hours of being there to everyone’s embarassment. The SODO stations have also been tagged at various times without there even being access and there is graffiti at the base of some of the supports of the Tukwila Station.

      Again, if we have these issues while construction engineers are still working on building the thing, who knows what we will get when the spotlight is off Central Link.

      Sound Transit is aware of this problem and last time I asked them about it, they said that maintenance and security in and around the stations and along the elevated portions of the line would be high priority, but I am unconvinced that we won’t have a smorgsbord of tagging on many of the elevated columns leading to the airport and around Tukwila. I just hope that Central Link through the Rainier Valley in particular and through the elevated sections will have a beneficial socioeconomic effect on the communities they serve. We only have to see what Tacoma Link has done for Tacoma to provide us with reasonable optimism that things may change for the better in these poorer areas of the city.

      As for the buses, I think that a lot of the stress around riding the more problematic buses such as the 7 or the 174 comes from the fact that these are buses where fewer people have passes and more folks are liable to be fumbling for change that is more likely to be incorrect than is the case on the more affluent commuter routes. Believe me, this is not an issue of being pc or not pc, it is a fact. I have been on many different routes on Metro and I can tell you that the 174 and 214 for example represent two extremes of what is socio-economic reality. On the 174 hardly anyone has a pass and on the 214, close to 90% or more do and clearly this has a huge impact on how quickly and efficiently you can load or unload a bus.


    2. Two comments:

      1. Light rail can be secure even in the worst neighbourhoods. The Los Angeles Blue Line passes through the infamous Watts and Compton areas. However, the gangs have pretty much agreed the train is “neutral”, not part of any gang’s turf. AIUI, the train is pretty safe for innocent passers-through.

      2. While there may not be a lot of *physical* incidents at Westlake Mall, when I was in Seattle in 2002-3, there was a serious problem with rowdy teens making fun of people. The environment was so intimidating I would take the 7 or 43 from the Temporary Library to the U District instead of walking past Westlake to take the 71, 72, or 73.

      1. When I was a troubled youth, I would hang out at westlake, skateboard, drink beer and cause mayhem and misery. I think it’s actually much better now than when I was there as a teenager, though this was the late 90s rather tahn 2003.

    3. The sooner “fare” collection can be eliminated or moved off transit vehicles the better. No driver should be dealing with this issue, ever. Proof of Payment should be obtained at TVMs, ATMs, Bartell’s, and 1000s of other convenient locations in the area. If needed, “Proof of Payment” and “Bad Behavior Patrol” teams of radio-equipped (and perhaps armed) fare inspectors/police officers can randomly ride the trains and buses in all areas monitoring fare compliance and acting out behavior. First, and foremost, eliminate those fare boxes and keep the drivers focused on driving.

  4. Third and Pine, as everyone who travels downtown, knows is one of the biggest trouble spots around. I personally would like to see uniformed cops on that corner. I have seen people assaulted on outside Century Plaza while mall security looked on. When I said something to them they said the street was the cops responsibility.

    #1 The one time I witnessed an assault on a driver the bus was moving. I was on the #71 to Wallingford riding East on 65th. Some crazy girl who had been belligerent to many passengers, got up and told the bus driver to stop the bus. The driver said she would have to wait for the next stop. The rider cussed out the driver and when the bus stopped, she through her cup of coffee, including the cup, into the driver’s face. Luckily, the driver was not hurt. The coffee was only luke warm. Some of us waited for the cops, I had seen which house the girl ran into. I’d say 90% of the other riders got off and walked home or to the next stop.

Comments are closed.