Sound Transit is taking on some important social and operational issues to end 2019: fare enforcement — and the end of the unfortunate “Red Line” name for its future Seattle-side light rail routes.
When CHS has reported on light rail fare enforcement over the years, it has never been good news. Last year, we reported on a video showing a rough “use of force” arrest for a reported fare enforcement issue aboard a train in Capitol Hill Station. This fall, Sound Transit scrambled to explain aggressive fare enforcement efforts against students on the first day of school.
Now, following a Seattle Times report in October showing how Black passengers are cited and punished disproportionately by Sound Transit fare enforcement, the agency is beginning a process to collect feedback on how to address equity and safety issues related to how it collects fares:
We want to hear about your experience and perceptions of checking fares on Link and Sounder. We invite you to complete the Fare Enforcement Survey below by Nov. 27. Your confidential responses will help us review our policies to ensure that we provide safe, equitable transportation opportunities for all people using our system.
You can take the survey here.
Sound Transit passengers caught not paying are supposed to get a warning. If they’re found to have skipped the fare again within one year, they can be issued a ticket. Sound Transit has temporarily stopped referring cases for misdemeanor charges. The fares are currently a critical component of funding Sound Transit’s lines. For light rail, the fares cover about 38% of operating costs.
Fare enforcement for Sound Transit and Metro is provided by Securitas, a private company under contract with the agency and King County. “Eighteen Securitas USA officers, all with at least two years of structured security or military and strong customer service experience, were hired as fare enforcement officers,” the company reported in a case study (PDF) on its work. UPDATE: As of April, Sound Transit reported (PDF) that the company had “roughly 30 fare enforcement contractor employees under the management of a co-located Securitas account manager.”
The survey is open through November 27th.
End of the Red Line
Meanwhile, this week also brought the announcement of a decision by Sound Transit brass to end the use of “Red Line” to describe its Seattle-side light rail line:
At today’s System Expansion Committee Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff informed members that, after hearing from the community and considering the issues, he has instructed staff to create a new naming system for our light rail services that ceases any reference to a “red line.” A couple of months ago, Sound Transit started using the term Red Line more broadly to represent our current Link service. We are preparing for the addition of a second system line and wanted to start building rider understanding of the current and coming line names. As the term Red Line became more visible we heard concerns from members of our community, that this term carries unfortunate associations with the punitive practice by lenders of “redlining.”
CHS reported here on the history of redlining in Seattle and the racist covenants placed on properties in Capitol Hill.
“These discriminatory practices caused widespread damage and inequities that have had a lingering impact to this day,” the ST announcement reads. “In response, we are going to identify a new system for identifying our routes. It’s the right thing to do, and we are grateful for the community members who encouraged us to take this action.”
Sound Transit’s Seattle-side lines were planned to be known as the Red Line while Eastside extensions would be the Blue Line. The designations had already been rolled out in the agency’s communications. Sound Transit says it will transition back to referring to the line as “Link” in the meantime before working out a “new naming convention” by March 2020 when “new signs and system maps will start to be developed for the opening of light rail service to Northgate in 2021.”
Update: Link Red Line has resumed normal operation and service at all stations. https://t.co/M07ANtyqYO
— Sound Transit – 🚆 🚈 🚍 (@SoundTransit) November 15, 2019