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Seattle Transit Has A Problem.

Public transportation in Seattle has a problem: drug use. Specifically, illegal drug use.

According to the Seattle Times:

Bus and train operators say so many people are smoking drugs on Seattle-area transit that the fumes, and volatile behavior, create a hazardous work environment that discourages ridership.

King County Metro Transit workers filed 44 security incident reports regarding drug use in 2019, then 73 in 2020 and an unprecedented 398 reports in 2021, by Metro’s count. The database reflects both a real increase and more reporting, officials say.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, representing 4,305 active members, says stronger enforcement is needed, including more police and security guards, with greater authority to remove people. Besides toxic smoke, union officials said crews who maintain transit stops have been punched, spat upon and threatened. Many incidents don’t show up in official reports, union leaders say.

Narcotics smoking aboard transit took hold last summer, and now surpasses needles and marijuana in driver complaints. Since then, at least six operators asked to stop driving midshift, and 14 specifically mentioned feeling headaches, dizziness or irritated breathing.

This seems simple to us. Enforce the laws against illegal drug use. That would mean backing the drivers as well as other passengers. Get the illegal drug users off of the buses and trains so people who are following the law can ride without dealing with the stuff.

That solution makes too much sense because no one wants to throw people off the transit system.

King County suspended fare enforcement in 2020. Sound Transit light rail, also operated by Metro, converted from military-clad inspectors to educational “fare ambassadors” who contact only 2% of riders.

However, Metro is increasing its previous 30 security officers to a total of 70 by summer, training a few each week, said Neil Crosier, security superintendent. County Executive Dow Constantine will announce a new fare enforcement policy this month, an aide said.

The unarmed Securitas guards aren’t legally authorized to remove people for misconduct, except imminent safety risk to passengers or guards, Crosier said. They mainly help customers with directions, how to pay, and where to find free Metro-supplied masks, he said.

Fare inspectors are legally empowered to evict nonpayers, if county officials reinstitute fare enforcement. Fare enforcement personnel, both here and nationally, are considered by transit agencies to be a front line of surveillance to deter or report misconduct.

Seattle police officers don’t patrol county transit vehicles but will react to serious assaults. Drug use anywhere, including sidewalks and bus stops downtown, is a “lower priority than violent crime, and we spend a lot of our time right now responding to violent crime,’ said Detective Patrick Michaud.

Denver is having the same issues:

Drug use in Denver caused ATU Local 1001 there to declare Denver Union Station “a lawless hellhole” in December. A television newscast aired a worker’s video of defiant users. Police made arrests, and the transit agency closed restrooms after finding traces of fentanyl.

The loitering soon returned, said Local 1001 President Lance Longenbohn. Managers granted one train operator a medical leave this month, since drug smoke reaching her control cab triggered asthma, he said.

“People are smoking it on the buses and trains, in the station. We’re trying to bring back riders. People get on our vehicles and our stations and that’s what they see. It’s not a very attractive transit experience,” Longenbohn said.

When Seattle suspended requiring people to actually pay for riding the transit system, the result was inevitable. People started to ride the system without paying. Moreover, drug users and the homeless started to use the system more and more which drove the average, law abiding person off of the buses, trains and trolleys.

The folks who work for the transit system can’t throw people off the vehicles, and the police are too busy to respond to the illegal activity.

The solution?

Throw more money at the problem!

Washington state Rep. Jamila Taylor, D-Federal Way, said she will request $500,000 in state funds to employ outreach staff she calls “de-escalators,” on the A Line serving International Boulevard South. They would have expertise in addiction, mental health or housing, under contract with community organizations, modeled on the CAHOOTS crisis intervention team in Eugene, Oregon.

“If a person needs services, or needs to be removed from the bus, they can handle it, rather than the bus driver. The bus driver can focus on getting the riders safely to and from,” Taylor said. Police support would be needed, but not as the first option, she said.

How hysterical is that.

People breaking the law are not the responsibility of the police. People that are a public nuisance are not the responsibility of the police. People that are destroying public property are not the responsibility of the police.

Instead, let’s spend money on holding the hands of those who are breaking the laws and have demonstrated they are happy in that way of life.

The heck with the rest of the people who are trying to go to work, get home and travel in peace.

The law abiding citizens don’t matter any more. Yet they will be the ones paying for the “de-escalators” and the programs that aren’t working now.

It is a world gone mad where law abiding citizens are somehow the enemy of the state.



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