Latest Independent Scorecard Reveals Continued Progress on Metro Transit Security
St. Louis’ regional effort to improve safety and security on the Metro Transit system is making significant progress, according to the latest independent security scorecard by measuring the implementation of safety and security recommendations. WSP, in partnership with East-West Gateway Council of Governments, completed its third quarter assessment of Metro’s progress and has made the presentation of the findings available for the public to review here. (or https://www.ewgateway.org/transportation-planning/corridor-planning-metrolink/metro-security/)
These quarterly independent assessments specifically track progress of a series of recommendations outlined in a Comprehensive Metro Security Strategy agreed to by bi-state area leadership, police partners and Metro, and unanimously approved by the Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners. All of the recommended actions fall within six categories and are detailed in the scorecard, which includes information on progress, objective evidence used to measure progress, and the responsible entity or entities for the progress.
“The Q3 2020 assessment shows progress in all categories, and the successes being achieved are a direct result of unprecedented collaboration between multiple partners with a vested interest in creating a safer, more secure transit system,” said Taulby Roach, President and CEO of Bi-State Development, which operates the Metro Transit system in eastern Missouri and southwestern Illinois. “While there is still room for improvement, it’s important for the public to know we are making progress and to understand we are working closely with our law enforcement partners from the St. Louis County Police Department, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department to create the safer transit environment we and our customers demand.”
Following are some highlights of the specific progress by category as captured in the third quarter scorecard.
Security Strategy – Third quarter progress includes the establishment of collaborative, functional working relationships between law enforcement, Metro and contracted security. Roles are clearly defined and documented in the contracts and in the Security Plan, and have been approved through State Safety Oversight. Security, safety and emergency management have been combined and the emergency management program is now fully integrated with safety and security. More proactive communication and media strategies are being used to keep the public and other stakeholders up to date on changes related to Metro security.
Police & Security Staffing – Leadership of all three components are now aligned and the transit security program direction is supported by all partners. Metro’s Transit Security Specialist staff position has also been redefined to focus on customer-engagement and positive interactions with transit riders. Each level of security staff is being provided the proper tools to support their roles as they work as a more coordinated, collaborative and complementary team to prevent issues and to appropriately respond, when needed. Deployment is currently based on weekly data and active zone security staff deployment and now includes MetroBus. Oversight at each security layer has been strengthened.
Procedures & Training — Standard operating procedures have been updated to support these roles and responsibilities. The Passenger Code of Conduct is being enforced and a new Ride and Abide policy has been approved and is being equitably applied, something that will be ensured through the formation of a new oversight group that will also be involved with appeals. Several individuals are currently excluded from riding the system for assault or other serious rule violations. A comprehensive training program is under development and includes a focus on de-escalation, dealing with mental illness, and other topics. Law enforcement partners are being included in these training opportunities.
Fare & Fare Enforcement – Legal authorization is now in place for citation in all jurisdictions. A holistic fare system program is being reviewed and there is clear guidance and direction for passengers about fare zone requirements. Communication between Metro and its partner agencies around fare enforcement is improving. Deployment changes allow for additional joint “fare sweeps” to address fare evasion.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) – Security design criteria are under development to guide consistent application of security concepts across the current system and any future expansions. Signage and wayfinding are being updated. A CPTED evaluation of the system is complete and staff are participating in design reviews to apply CPTED recommendations. Lighting and sight line strategies have been developed to support security.
Technology – Closed Circuit Television access is now being provided to law enforcement. Approved grant monies will be used to upgrade cameras and some technology elements. Passenger Assistance and Emergency Telephones are being evaluated for functionality, and the locations of fare machines and validators are being assessed as part of the fare evaluation program. All uniformed and field-deployed Metro Transit Security Specialists are also now equipped with Body Worn Cameras. While this wasn’t a specific step required as part of the security strategy, it is a great addition to help ensure transparency and accountability.
The collaborative effort that is contributing to all the progress recently garnered the attention of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, which presented East-West Gateway Council of Governments with its 2020 National Award for Excellence in Coordination and Partnership for the work done on the Metro Security Assessment and Strategy Project. Jim Wild, Executive Director of East-West Gateway, announced the award during the organization’s virtual board meeting on Oct. 28th.
“Without all the hard work and cooperation and willingness to have the difficult conversations by everybody involved, this wouldn’t have been possible,” said Wild. “I’d like to thank everyone, Bi-State Development, all the elected officials and the business representatives that have been involved. It’s nice to know we’re being recognized nationally for our work.”
While the progress made to date is worthy of recognition, all parties involved in the regional efforts to enhance security on the Metro Transit system agree that more needs to be done. The Q3 2020 scorecard calls attention to some focus areas where additional progress should be made. COVID-19 has slowed some progress on additional training initiatives. Implementation of some CPTED and technology recommendations are dependent on funding. And, while functional communication currently exists, the recommended use of a single radio channel is dependent on political agreement.
“We’re proud of the incredible progress of our team over the last year, and we will continue to build on that and address these outstanding issues,” said Kevin Scott, General Manager of Field Security at Metro Transit. “We remain committed to strengthening the partnerships and strategies that enable us to deliver the safe, secure, comfortable experience that will continue to rebuild the region’s confidence in our transit system.”