King County Executive Dow Constantine transmits new transit safety report to the King County Council to achieve long-term vision of safe, accessible, and equitable transit to support community well-being. King County Metro also unveils near-term actions to address safety on buses.
Guided by Executive Constantine’s declaration that racism is a public health crisis in 2020, King County Metro launched the Safety, Security, and Fare Enforcement (SaFE) Reform Initiative with two goals in mind: to create a new vision for Metro’s safety and security functions, and to eliminate disproportionately negative outcomes of safety and security policies and practices on customers and employees, especially for Black, Indigenous, and other people of Color (BIPOC). The initial SaFE Reform report was transmitted to the King County Council last week.
Metro worked with diverse community-based organizations and engaged with roughly 8,000 individuals—including community members, customers, and Metro and Metro Transit Police employees—throughout a year-long, four-phase engagement process. Together, these stakeholders developed a vision statement of a, “safe, accessible, and equitable transit that is co-created to support community well-being,” supported by several concepts outlined in the SaFE Report transmitted to the Council.
Community members identified three consistent themes. First, community members expressed a clear desire for an increased presence, a timely and appropriate response if a danger arises, and that support shows up in an equitable way. Second, Metro should make the expectations of its Code of Conduct clear and should ensure that small transgressions are not a pathway into the criminal legal system. And third, Metro should partner with community-based organizations to improve non-transit resources available to customers, and assist customers in crises related to fares, homelessness, mental health, etc., at various locations throughout the transit system.
The proposed initial concepts outlined in the report reflect the robust SaFE Reform Initiative work that is still underway with community. Each of the proposed initial concepts requires additional engagement with BIPOC community members, community-based organizations, bus riders, and employees to identify specific costs, features, functions, and timelines. Metro will continue working with both internal and external stakeholders to do this work in the weeks and months ahead.
Near-term actions to address safety on buses
Since last summer, in response to increased concerns onboard coaches, Metro increased security personnel, specifically focusing on routes with higher reports of incidents. Metro is in the process of hiring more than 50 additional Transit Security Officers to provide 24/7 visibility and support across a broader range of routes. Metro continues to monitor and adjust security deployment to support the ongoing safety of both operators and riders.
However, some inappropriate behaviors are taking place that can impact the health and safety of employees and other transit users. In the coming weeks, Metro is also utilizing community feedback from the SaFE Reform Initiative to implement near-term updates to policies and practices related to inappropriate conduct and misuse of the transit system. Metro is working with Metro Transit Police and service providers to implement new policies to address drinking, illegal drug use, and smoking on transit.
Additionally, Metro is developing a pilot program in response to a small number of instances of customers who do not deboard when their bus has completed its route and is set to return to base. Metro’s approach to these riders continues to be guided by compassion and aims to connect those in need of behavioral, housing, and social support with those opportunities.
In cases where individuals have rejected those resources and services, and continue to affect Metro’s ability to provide on-time transit service or the safety of our operators, Metro Transit Police will assist in removing these individuals from the bus. Metro will monitor the pilot and, in coordination with employees and community partners as part of the SaFE Reform effort, determine refinements and future steps.
While the SaFE Reform report acknowledges the limited ability of transit to affect broader societal upstream problems, the proposed initial concepts in the document are crafted to contribute to the well-being of Metro customers and employees. King County and Metro continue to develop these policy improvements with community members, employees, labor partners, and other King County departments to increase safety today, and to engage with transit riders to shape the policies of the future. Together, Metro will continue to advance the Executive’s True North vision of making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive.
- Safety, Security, and Fare Enforcement (SaFE) Reform Initiative Proposed Concepts
- Executive News: “Executive Constantine unveils 2021-2022 budget, calls for major investment in housing, advancing an anti-racist agenda”
- King County Metro: SaFE Reform Initiative
- Public Health – Seattle & King County: “Racism is a public health crisis: The transformation starts here. It starts with us.”
Through authentic engagement with bus riders and our workforce, the SaFE Reform Initiative brings the lived experience of community members, customers, and employees to make transit a more welcoming and secure environment for everyone. These preliminary strategies advance our journey to being a racially-just county where all of us can thrive. While we work to implement these longer term strategies, Metro will prioritize the same values as they take immediate actions to improve the safety and experience of Metro’s riders and employees today. -Dow Constantine, King County Executive
The SaFE Reform effort is a step in the right direction to bring community voices into the process and practice around creating safe transportation systems. At first, I was skeptical, but the effort seeks to address injustices, with concurrent benefits to healthy communities, environments, and the workplace. Access to safe transportation is an essential component for safety and wellbeing and no peoples or places should continue to experience harm or lack of basic services. As a Native person, I am thankful for the opportunity to work on an effort that seeks to create a healthy basis that is responsive to people from diverse backgrounds. I hope these efforts continue creating opportunities and respectful relationships with communities that are harmed by our current systems as violence is not okay, especially when it comes to policing or distribution of services. It is imperative, especially with emergency planning or climate extremes, that we lean into our values as we have the ability live and thrive in concert with each other and the environment; leaving a legacy for the future to dream. -Pah-tu Pitt, SaFE Equity Team Member
At King County Metro, we believe mobility is a human right and that everyone has the right to move. Across our organization, we are holding ourselves accountable for the role we played in allowing historical systemic practices that cause harm to persist. Through the SaFE Reform process, we intentionally sought out the voices of historically marginalized and silenced communities, and committed to an inclusive process of co-creation from start to finish. I thank community members, customers, and colleagues for their dedication to advancing safety and expanding opportunity. -Terry White, King County Metro General Manager