Ridership on the MetroLink light-rail system in St. Louis has dropped from 17.5 million in fiscal year 2014 to 14.9 million in fiscal year 2017.
MetroLink is a 46-mile, 37-station light rail system that stretches from St. Louis Lambert International Airport to Illinois.
Bi-State Development President and CEO John Nations testified recently before the Missouri House Subcommittee on Mass Transit Security in Jefferson City.
“There’s no question we saw an uptick in the incidents on our system, and security has been labeled by our passengers as their number one concern on the system,” Nations says.
Nations tells Missouri lawmakers that riders are complaining about loud music, obscene language and “bad behavior” on these trains.
Thousands of people use MetroLink daily to get to work, as well as to St. Louis Cardinal baseball and Blues hockey games downtown.
Bi-State Development communications director Patti Beck tells Missourinet ridership is down 11 percent in fiscal year 2018.
Metro Transit Public Safety Chief Richard Zott testifies they need a dedicated transit police force.
“When you police a transit system, it’s critical that you have a lot of visibility,” Zott testifies. “And that means your officers have to be on the trains all the time, not for an hour, not for two hours, all the time.”
Zott tells the subcommittee that St. Louis County has 44 officers dedicated to MetroLink security, and St. Louis City has nine officers.
Zott says there are about 120 private security officers, primarily on platforms. Some of the private security officers also handle fare enforcement.
He says Metro has security as well, and that St. Clair County, Illinois now has 15 officers.
The trains cross the Mississippi River into Illinois.
Subcommittee Chairman State Rep. Mark Matthiesen, R-Maryland Heights, says some of his constituents in Maryland Heights and St. Charles won’t ride MetroLink to Cardinal games in St. Louis, because of crime concerns.
“Many people are simply afraid for their lives right now and would rather drive to the ballgame (Busch Stadium) instead of take MetroLink and are willing to pay that $20 parking fee just to ensure they get there safely,” Matthiesen says.
Zott tells lawmakers there are cameras on the MetroLink trains, along with emergency buttons on platforms. Zott says the drivers have alarms.
Chairman Matthiesen tells Missourinet he was shocked to hear testimony from Bi-State officials, who say St. Louis County officers had threatened to arrest MetroLink light-rail officers.
Matthiesen says he’s also concerned to hear that some crime data hasn’t been given to Bi-State Development, which operates the MetroLink.
“I think it’s time that we get all parties to the table to take a look at how we are handling the crime, what we can do to improve it, and more importantly it seems like there’s a breakdown of cooperation from agency to agency,” says Matthiesen.
MetroLink officials testify that St. Louis Police have been riding the trains with their officers, saying visibility is a deterrent.
Richmond Heights Police have also stationed officers on the platforms, near the Saint Louis Galleria shopping center.
Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and State Rep. Mark Matthiesen, R-Maryland Heights, which was recorded at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City on March 14, 2018: