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Readers: MetroBus & MetroLink Are Equally Safe

April 8, 2015 Crime, Public Transit 5 Comments

I’ve been a regular rider of public transit in St. Louis for a few years now, I’ve never felt unsafe or witnessed any crime. Still, a recent assault on a train has many concerned.

Talking to people over the years some would only ride MetroLink light rail, they’d never consider MetroBus. I’ve asked [white] people if they’d ridden public transit, a common answer was “Yes, MetroLink.” Most are shocked when I tell them I use MetroBus far more often than MetroLink.

The vote count Sunday was low, but I liked the fair results:

Q: Which mode of public transportation do you think is the safest in St. Louis?

  1. Tie/equal 11 [45.83%]
  2. Bus (MetroBus) 6 [25%]
  3. Light rail (MetroLink) 5 [20.83%]
  4. Unsure/no answer 2 [8.33%]

Despite the hysteria on the local news, both MetroLink & MetroBus are largely safe modes. I’d be more worried about driving on I-270 than being assaulted on public transportation. I’ll leave it to others to dig through piles of data.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    I agree with most of what you’re saying. Physical assaults on both Metrolink and Metrobus vehicles are rare occurances, as are physical assaults at Metro’s stops and stations. The real issue is one of perception – most people, if they end up being attacked, want some assurance that someone will be there to help AND will actually intervene – “eyes on the street”. Waiting at an empty bus stop, waiting on a deserted Metrolink platform or riding in the second car when it’s either nearly empty or packed with people that scare you are all situations where the perception of danger is likely far worse than any actual danger. Unfortunately, perception IS reality when it’s you, and not just an academic discussion of “facts”.

    There are actually two separate issues that need to be addressed, the recent, publicized, assault on the train, and past assaults, primarily on Metrolink platforms. What’s most disconcerting about the on-train assault isn’t that it happened – life happens – it’s that no one, on a nearly-full train, appeared to care or tried to intervene. Yes, there was video, yes, there have been arrests, and no, there have been no convictions (and will likely not include any severe punishments). The issue is that a young punk is first taunting, then beating up, an older person, of a different race, and NO ONE appears to say anything, to intervene, to try and stop the assault! That is far scarier than any actual assault, the fear that you’re alone, even in a crowd.

    What’s problematic with assaults on Metrolink platforms is that Metro’s security consists primarily of video surveilance and unarmed, low-paid, security guards, not actual police officers – when an assault happens, the on-scene, physical “security” does not (and legally can not and should not) physically intervene to either stop the violence or to detain the perpetrators. Young thugs know this, and groups of young, stupid, bored(?), teenagers have apparently figured out that it’s “fun” to go wild and randomly beat up people, whether it’s on a Metrolink platform or in the Loop. Until there are severe consequences for this kind of “fun”, many people will simply choose to avoid the potential confrontations.

    I’ll repeat, perception is reality. Neither you nor I have been assaulted on public transit, but that doen’t mean that I don’t have my fears. There are times when I will avoid the rear car on the train (out of an abundance of caution) and there will be times that I will choose to drive (instead of waiting for a bus), but that usually has more to do with the day’s (poor) weather or an unworkable schedule – my bus stops are rarely “scary”, but are, many times, unprotected from the weather (and waiting, out in the open, in crappy weather, sucks). Life is full of choices, including choosing to use public transit (or not). Metro can only do so much to provide a “safe” environment, the larger society is an equally important, if not a larger, part of the equation.

    • Nikole says:

      I am a former St. Louisan. In the very early years of Metrolink I took a train from the airport into the city. The car was full of young people and one of the kids was being taunted by a group of punks. He was sitting by the window and the punks began to punch him so his head banged the window, over and over again. Nobody on the train said anything; they were certainly afraid of this bunch as was I. I was the only white person on the train and wasn’t overly afraid for my own safety but I could not take a chance and do anything to help this kid. The punks finally stopped and got off the train and nobody said anything even afterwards. I have taken the train many many times since then. It is a wonderful convenience. The conductors are usually so cheerful and sometimes entertaining. The riders are just trying to get where they are going, no drama. But every time I get on Metrolink from the airport now, I try to look around and choose what I think is the safest car.

    • Justin says:

      It is unfortunately quite common for no one in a group of people to help someone who is in trouble or being assaulted; this relates back to a phenomenon studied is social psychology. In fact, people are more likely to help someone if there are the only person witnessing the crime. For instance, Researchers staged a man attacking a women and when only a single person witnessed he/she was more likely to try and stop the man when compared to group of people. What researchers find that when a part of a group the responsibility of helping is diffused to others, whereas when someone is alone the responsibility lies only with them. I believe this phenomenon has been found across cultures and calls into question the idea of “safety in numbers”.

    • Fozzie says:

      Heck, even the security guards are getting beat up on the platforms lately.

      How do think these hooligans are getting to the Galleria or the Delmar Loop these last several months? (They ain’t carpooling.) Even if assaults are rare, there is an element waiting to cause trouble — whether on the trains, platforms, or other locations.

      I don’t blame people for avoiding the potential for an encounter.

  2. JZ71 says:

    This quote from Charles Jaco (in the St. Louis American) should be of concern for anyone in growing a viable, regional transit system: “Sources close to Stenger say he’s unhappy with Metro, especially the failure to extend MetroLink to South County, and is seriously considering advocating reduced county funding to Metro, perhaps instead opting for a version of county-run transit along the lines of the system in Madison County, Illinois.”


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