They started making their crime stats public in early April, promising to use the numbers to target problem spots. St. Clair County immediately tripling the deputies to nine, focusing on evening hours and spending $300,000 on MetroLink security in Illinois. Bi-State then promised to spend an extra $20 million on security out of the $361 million budget they just approved.
On Monday, the Illinois and St. Louis government and law enforcement leaders announced a unified police command — with one commander and one radio system and one headquarters — would patrol the system instead of continuing to rely on separate fiefdoms with variable staffing and limited interaction.
Bi-State is fueling the effort with $20 million, which they committed without increasing bus or light rail fares. That’s a plus.
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“We based the $20 million estimate on putting a law enforcement officer on every train and every MetroLink platform as well as evaluating all options like technology advancements, personnel, as well as studies to look at physical changes to the stations on the system to restrict access. Every option is on the table,” Bi-State spokeswoman Patti Beck said.
That might include turnstiles, which have been the recent call to action.
Bi-State in the past said the region did not have the money to block off the system when it was built, doing so would be very expensive and their system of checking tickets was the industry standard, resulting in a 4 percent rate of ticketless riders compared to a national average of 6 percent.
The tune has changed. A task force is starting to get safety consultants to look at access control, which could include turnstiles.
“The open design of MetroLink was the region’s least expensive option 30 years ago,” Bi-State President and CEO John Nations said. “Clearly, now the physical aspects of the system need to be re-evaluated and redesigned.”
MetroLink gets people to work and play, and is thus an important factor in the local economy and in reducing traffic congestion. That’s why we’ve put so many tax dollars into it.
Ensuring passengers are safe and willing to use the system without feeling like they are on an unhappy thrill ride is key to keeping it a viable option and protecting our investment.