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St. Louis Transit Agency Begins New Discipline Policy To Improve Safety

Image shows a MetroLink train at an underground station in 2017. A validation machine is visible in the foreground.
File photo / Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
A new discipline policy allows the transit agency Metro to suspend riders who routinely break the system's rules or commit violence.

The St. Louis region’s mass transit agency, Metro, hopes a new suspension policy will reduce the number of serious problems on its buses, trains and platforms.

The board of the Bi-State Development Agency, which oversees Metro, adopted the Ride and Abide policy at its June 26 meeting, allowing Metro to suspend riders for major offenses. The first suspension, for assault, was handed down July 7.

“What we have found is that there is a small group of individuals who are responsible for the majority of what I would call rare but serious incidents,” said Kevin Scott, Metro’s general manager of field security. “The Ride and Abide policy allows us to directly address those individuals causing those problems on the system.”

Metro said it reviewed citation data from calendar year 2019 and found that 41% were issued to people who had received two or more. However, the agency did not include citations from the St. Louis or St. Louis County police departments.

Though prohibited conduct includes things like alcohol possession and not paying the fare, Scott said the policy isn’t targeted at those lower-level offenses.

“What we’re focused on are really serious criminal offenses, people that would pose a danger to the system or to the ridership,” he said.

So far, the agency has suspended five people, all for a year. Three assaulted a fellow passenger or agency employee, and two engaged in what Scott called “prolonged, sustained property damage.”

Riders who have been suspended could face trespassing charges if they are caught riding a bus or train, or on Metro property.

Transit advocates said they appreciated having a policy in place.

“Our goal was this would be one more tool in the toolbox to ensure the safety and security for all riders,” said Kim Cella, executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit, which helped draft the policy. “We know that ridership is down right now, and our goal is to help build ridership back on the system.”

But Gina Becnel, an organizer with Transit Rider Empowerment Project, said she was worried about the consequences of a suspension.

“If somebody commits a criminal infraction on the bus, and then they have a court date but they can’t get on the bus, it will really just lead to a deepening of that person’s experience of cycling into poverty,” she said.

Metro security officials said the policy includes a provision allowing suspended riders who rely on transit to make essential trips, including to court.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.