TriMet promises fresh eye on crime/Fearing Milwaukie’s MAX

The Oregonian reports that TriMet is under fire from the state legislature to “address real and perceived safety problems” on and near the light rail line or possibly face resistance by the state when it comes to appropriating future funding for rail expansion projects. In February, Trimet must report back to the legislature about the status of any safety improvements and the effects thereof. There was no mention of expanding the scope of the inquiry into the safety of public transit facilities in general, only safety of the MAX line, stations, and adjacent areas.

On Tuesday…Hansen acknowledged that the way the first MAX line was designed in the 1980s might be partly to blame for crime near stations.

The Blue Line to Gresham opened with some stops built next to Interstate 84, separated from businesses and neighborhoods by bridges that block views of platforms, Hansen said. Riders may feel more vulnerable there than at stops next to high-traffic streets and sidewalks.

But stops by streets and sidewalks make it easier to board without buying tickets. Critics have said those who don’t buy tickets are more likely to cause problems.

Hansen contended that perceptions of widespread fare evading may not match reality.

Half of riders use monthly passes, so they don’t pay a fare at stations, Hansen said. And police report that drug dealers pay fares so officers looking for fare evaders don’t catch them.

Hansen said he is willing to restrict access to a MAX station in Gresham as an experiment to reduce crime, as Bemis requested.

Read the full article here

Additionally, the Clackamas Review reports that some residents of Milwaukie are suddenly up in arms about the proposed light-rail extension to their city as a result of recent violence near a Gresham MAX platform. The article provides insight into the minds of some of the opposition to the years old, revived MAX project.

“If I had an old-fashioned telephone switchboard, it would have been lit up like a Christmas tree today” with calls on the light rail crime, Zumwalt, vice chair of the Historic Milwaukie Neighborhood District Association, told the council. “Someone is going to have to step up” and protect the city.

“In 20 years we’ll be sitting in a slum, and it’s up to you folks to do something right now.”

Mayor James Bernard assured a packed council chambers that the board would not allow a project until it has been deemed safe and unlikely to increase crime.

“I told TriMet if our police chief isn’t satisfied, I’m not endorsing the plan … and until he’s satisfied, I’m not going to be satisfied.”

But Bernard said he would like to see light rail come, noting benefits like sustainability, reducing oil dependence, redevelopment of downtown and access to jobs in the region.

The combination of these two points is key, as from my own personal experience I can testify that there are “real and perceived” threats to public safety at Milwaukie’s own transit center – where there is no MAX stop. The “real and perceived” safety of the transit-using public should be analyzed and addressed not just in the locations of MAX trains, platforms, and adjacent blocks, but at transit centers and bus stops as well. Additionally, residents of Milwaukie should take note that criminal activity has been an issue at their transit center years before ground will be broken for their light rail line. Our focus is better squared on improving public safety in general than it would be to attempt to prevent transportation options from being provided to the public because of misguided blame.

Read Fearing Milwaukie’s MAX

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