Metro-East News

Here’s what MetroLink is doing to improve safety, cut costs in St. Clair County

In an effort to increase safety and security, new brighter and more-efficient lights are being installed at MetroLink stations.

The $571,415 project adds LED lighting at the 11 MetroLink station in St. Clair County, replacing the current halogen lights through a partnership with Ameren Illinois. Fairview Height’s Pyramid Electric was awarded the contract for the project.

St. Clair County Transit District Managing Director Ken Sharkey said the new lighting is hoped to make MetroLink stations safer and more affordable to run due to LEDs’ brightness and affordability.

“It’s kind of important this time of year when it’s going to be a little darker — people will feel safer walking to their car,” he said. “It was a good investment.”

The project is expected to reduce electric costs at county MetroLink stations by roughly 60 percent and the transit district will be rebated up to 15 percent for construction costs. Sharkey said the project would most likely pay for itself in a year and a half.

SCCTD Board of Trustees Chair Herb Simmons said the new lights will make the stations easier to patrol during the evenings and help riders feel safer.

“These improvements will add more of a daytime visibility at night for our patrons using the Metro Transit system and Park-Ride lots at the transit centers,” Simmons said. “The improvements will assist our security personnel in policing our facilities, helping to reduce possible crime in the area.”

Sharkey also said the Sheriff’s Department believes the lighting will enhance the camera footage taken at the stations which also can aid police.

“They’ll have better images to be able to go after and prosecute people who might be offending and breaking rules,”

Taulby Roach, president and CEO of Bi-State Development, the agency that manages MetroLink, said the upgrades are a strong addition to the other safety improvements being made to the Metro system.

“Adding customer amenities and new infrastructure to our MetroLink stations are areas we are focusing on to improve safety and comfort on our light rail system,” Roach said.

In August, Bi-State Development hired a team of three people to lead a public safety team entrusted with the development and implementation of a comprehensive security program for the transit system.

The focus on improving safety comes as a result of a growing public perception problem. However, a study conducted by New York-based firm WSP USA Inc. found crime rates on the MetroLink aren’t a major problem.

It also found if customer experience and service improved, the public’s perception would improve with it.

In 2018, a Belleville News-Democrat investigation found there was less than one violent crime — such as homicide or robbery — on MetroLink for every 100,000 boardings in 2016, and 1.4 violent crimes per 100,000 boardings in 2017.

St. Clair County Transit District is currently in the midst of a 9-month study into its system dubbed Transit Vision 2020. More than 1,200 riders and non-riders have been surveyed during the study.

In a recent report, 49 percent of those surveyed said safety concerns keep them from using public transit.

“Our number one priority is our riders. This program demonstrates that priority while being fiscally responsible as an agency,” Simmons said.

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Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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