Seattle is experiencing a drug issue on it’s Metro. Smoking drugs on transit has become a bigger problem lately. 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. Besides drug use, union officials said crews who maintain transit stops have been punched, spat upon and threatened.
The union endorsed Bruce Harrell for mayor, who ran on a theme of law and order, and has asked state lawmakers for help. The public now wants to see what he will do.
“We’re after the criminal activity, the smoking drugs, the assaults, the deterioration of transit,” said Local 587 Vice President Cory Rigtrup. “The solution is to restore transit, make it welcoming, bring back passengers.” Local 587 is expected to consolidate workers’ reports into a complaint with the state’s Department of Labor & Industries alleging workplace hazards.
Metro General Manager Terry White stated, “Absolutely, we are a microcosm of what’s happening regionally and nationally.” He also added, “We should not be coming down on a totally punitive side. We should figure out how we serve community. Hopefully we’ll be putting some things in place, where you’ll see more police on a coach.” White also anticipates new outreach and alternatives for homeless passengers, something he considers a mostly different issue from the smoked-narcotics trend.
“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,” Local 1001 President Lance Longenbohn said.
The head of security said that Metro is increasing its previous 30 security officers to a total of 70 by summer and they will be training a few each week. County Executive Dow Constantine will announce a new fare enforcement policy this month, an aide said.
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