For King County Metro, nothing is more important than getting our riders and employees home safely. Our goal is to be your number one choice for mobility and we want everyone to feel secure and welcome throughout their entire transit journey.
In January 2021, we began our agency-wide Safety, Security, and Fare Enforcement (SaFE) Reform initiative to achieve our long-term vision of safe, accessible, and equitable transit to support community well-being. The two goals of SaFE Reform are to create a new vision for Metro’s safety and security functions, and to eliminate disproportionately negative outcomes of related policies and practices on customers and employees, especially for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). 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.
We heard your strong desire for a visible customer support and safety presence on our system, and a timely response if a potentially dangerous situation develops. You also made clear how important it is that Metro and our partners show up in the right way. That can mean answering a mental health crisis or similar situation with resources rather than force, prioritizing de-escalation when that’s the safest approach, and doing the work ahead of time with community to be fully culturally competent. We’re also engaging with local organizations to proactively provide longer-term resources and supports not just in Seattle or online, but in other parts of our county, too.
Guided by community engagement, Metro launched three near-term actions to respond to increased concerns aboard coaches. First, we expanded our transit security officer services geographically to cover a broader range of routes and transit hubs, and their service hours to provide 24/7 coverage. We monitor and adjust their deployment regularly, informed by customer and employee reports. Second, we updated our approach to the small but impactful number of incidents where a rider refuses to exit the bus when it has completed its route and would otherwise return to base. Only as a last resort and after the rider declines to be connected to nearby services, Metro Transit Police or transit security officers now give the rider the choice of leaving on their own or assisted by officers. This new policy allows us to be respectful of the rider and to connect more people with needed services, while also increasing the safety of our employees and better utilizing our resources. Third, Metro’s 70 current transit security officers represent a net gain of 10 employees since August 2021. Although unfortunately delayed by workforce challenges, we’re hiring 70 more.
We understand the frustration of our customers and employees when broader societal challenges—from street-level crime to drug use—show up on or near transit. We remain committed to working with our law enforcement and jurisdictional partners as they tackle these difficult issues. We also make clear the expectations of the “Ride Right” code that has always been posted across our transit system, including specific mentions that alcoholic beverages, harassment, and smoking are not permitted under penalty of law.
Metro is working to update our existing “Report it to Stop it” campaign against sexual harassment and we are developing broader bystander intervention resources. In specific response to anti-Asian hate incidents, we are partnering with the Chinese Information Service Center and other stakeholders to ensure community members have in-language information and customer forms to report any incidents.
As an agency that is values-driven and data-informed, we ask customers to report emergency situations immediately to 9-1-1. However, even if it is not an emergency, please still report the incident. The King County Sheriff Office’s non-emergency telephone line is 206-296-3311. Metro Customer Service can be reached by online form, social media, or telephone at 206-553-3000.
To better provide rider-centered service information, we’re engaged with community members through our Customer Communications Improvement Initiative. This effort aims to ensure we’re providing resources that are accessible to all and that every rider feels safe, comfortable, and welcomed.
We similarly encourage all of our employees to report both urgent and less than urgent incidents. Having the best information allows us to better allocate resources and to continue to improve your transit network.
At some point you need to prioritize the safety and respect the sane, paying passengers over creating this amount of processes, communications and mitigations for some of the scenarios where evidently the individuals you’re trying to talk to are not in a clear mental state to respond. I’ve reduced my public travel to near zero because of the perceived risk I am facing in the buses.
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