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Opinion: Turnstiles Are For Fare Collection, Not Public Safety

April 19, 2017 Crime, Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Opinion: Turnstiles Are For Fare Collection, Not Public Safety

Many, including regional elected officials, letters to the editor, and others, are pushing the idea of turnstiles as a way to increase public safety on our MetroLink light rail system. Incredibly ill-informed because turnstiles, physical & virtual, are meant to combat fare-evasion.

Heavy rail systems like Chicago’s EL, the NYC subway, and DC’s Metro, have long had turnstiles to address fare evasion.They still have crime issues on trains & platforms. Turnstiles do not prevent crime.

CTA’s Brown line train at the Chicago Ave station, February 2017

Light rail systems, like ours, have been proof-0f-payment systems. This significantly reduced initial costs and making the system more welcoming. Some closed systems are even removing their turnstiles to increase ridership:

By nixing fare gates, public transit agencies emphasize ease of access over making every last rider pay. Europe got into “proof of payment” systems—where wandering personnel request evidence you paid your way—in the 1960s. They made it to American shores, mostly in light rail systems, by the 1990s.

Now, 21st century tech is making it easier than ever to blow up the turnstile. Modernized, cash-free fare payment methods—like reloadable tap-and-go cards, or apps that let riders use smartphones to get tickets, Apple Pay-style—speed up boarding. Passengers don’t have to struggle past fare gates. They can board through any door, instead of pushing through a bus’s front entrance to pay the driver.

The result: Faster vehicles, less crowding, and thus more frequent service, leading (hopefully) to more riders overall.  (Wired: Ignoring Fare Evaders Can Make Mass Transit Faster—And Richer)

Here Metro St. Louis has been updating stations with a high tech fare gate that will hopefully be ready soon.

In relative terms, the installation of turnstiles has a fixed investment cost, so the price increases linearly based on the number of stations in a system, not based on the number of riders or the length of a route. As a result, it makes more sense to install them in cities where each transit station handles a high number of users. (The Transport Politic: Are Turnstiles Worth Their Cost?)

The source above lists a number of cities and the cost to add turnstiles. In 2009 they estimated it would take St. Louis & Portland OR 45 years to break even on turnstiles, Charlotte NC was the only one higher at 50 years. The 2009 cost was $1.25 million per station — roughly $1.4 million per station in current dollars. With 37 stations in the system that’s $52 million!  Entering & exiting the system would be more cumbersome for everyone — some paying riders would very likely stop riding. Many of the 4% that currently evade fares would struggle to get to work.

Turnstiles do not prevent crime, from May 2015:

The leading crime on the CTA, theft, was down 38 percent, from 514 thefts reported in the first four months of 2014 to 320 thefts during the same period this year. The decline comes on the heels of a 26 percent drop during all of 2014 compared with 2013, the Police Department reported. Last year saw the fewest serious crimes in the previous four years, according to police statistics.

Robberies, the second most common crime on CTA property, declined 20 percent through April of this year, to 92 reported incidents from 115 for the same time a year ago, police data show.

The data so far this year indicate on average four serious crimes a day on the CTA, which provides 1.6 million rides each weekday. (Chicago Tribune: Safety tips for riders as summer kicks transit crime into high gear)

From July 2016:

Some CTA riders are concerned after a recent spike in crime. Police issued a community alert warning of two men robbing people at gunpoint on CTA trains and at CTA stations. Surveillance photos of the suspects were released overnight. Police are also investigating a stabbing.

Police said the men showed a black handgun and used pepper spray on their victims. After taking their cell phones, wallets and cash, police said the suspects exited the train at the next stop or jumped over turnstiles as they ran from the stop. (ABC7 Chicago: CTA RIDERS ON ALERT AFTER RECENT ARMED ROBBERIES, STABBING)

Turnstiles do not prevent crime, from NYC:

A disgruntled straphanger waved a gun at an MTA worker because he was upset over service disruptions, cops said.

The irate passenger confronted the 44-year-old worker just before 12 p.m. Monday on a Brooklyn-bound A train, police said. (Fox News: Angry NYC subway rider pulls gun on worker over bad service)

Turnstiles do not prevent crime.

Metro’s planned 2015 fare gate system was to help reduce fare evasion:

When we roll out smart card technology next year, the lights on ticket validating machines will let you know if your Gateway Card has enough money stored on it to take Metro. In the future, if your smart card is not valid for travel, the light will flash red. The lights are being turned on for testing on the MetroLink system.

The Gateway Card will offer a more convenient, secure way for you to pay Metro transit fares. Instead of paper tickets or passes, the Gateway Card will contain a computer chip that stores Metro passes or cash value. The fare is automatically deducted when you tap your card on fare equipment each time you ride. (NextStop Blog: MetroLink Ticket Validator Machines Lighting Up)

Turnstiles physical & otherwise do not prevent crime. Their goal is to increase fare recovery without reducing ridership in the process. That’s it.

Sadly just over half of those who voted in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll have bought into the notion that turnstiles can reduce crime:

Q: Agree or disagree: Adding turnstiles at MetroLink light rail stations will greatly improve public safety.

  • Strongly agree 9 [13.04%]
  • Agree 8 [11.59%]
  • Somewhat agree 19 [27.54%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [2.9%]
  • Somewhat disagree 6 [8.7%]
  • Disagree 12 [17.39%]
  • Strongly disagree 12 [17.39%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [1.45%]

Please don’t be fooled by the turnstile magic bullet.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Would Turnstiles Improve Safety On MetroLink?

April 16, 2017 Crime, Featured, Public Transit, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Would Turnstiles Improve Safety On MetroLink?
Please vote below

After two recent fatal shootings regional officials are looking for solutions:

After meeting privately for more than an hour Wednesday, St. Louis Mayor-elect Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said they have a framework to improve security along the light-rail line that connects the three counties.

The announcement comes after two fatal shootings on MetroLink last month. At a news conference after the closed door meeting, officials offered few details other than to say physical barriers, such as turnstiles, were needed. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Today’s poll question is about turnstiles & public safety:

The poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

Moral Crusader George Peach Charged In Prostitution Sting A Quarter Century Ago

March 13, 2017 Crime, Featured, History/Preservation, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Moral Crusader George Peach Charged In Prostitution Sting A Quarter Century Ago

The following is a slightly updated version of a post I did 5 years ago…

A year and a half after I moved to St. Louis a huge scandal broke — 25 years ago today:

The chief state prosecutor for the city of St. Louis, who has spent most of his 15 years in office crusading against obscenity, pornography and prostitution, was charged today with a misdemeanor offense of patronizing a prostitute.

[snip]

Since being elected as circuit attorney in 1976, Mr. Peach has led a fight to rid St. Louis of pornography and prostitution. In the 1980’s he was responsible for closing the city’s major pornographic book and video stores. Last June, he endorsed changes in city ordinances that would make jail mandatory for prostitutes, pimps and customers who are second-time offenders. (New York Times)

Peach was busted three days earlier, on Tuesday March 10, 1992,  in a hotel in St. Louis County. In the days immediately following his arrest on the misdemeanor charge local officials were debating if he should resign or run for a 5th term as prosecutor.

ABOVE: AP story from 3/15/92, click to view article

A January 2004 story in the Post-Dispatch recounts many the sorted details including more criminal activity:

In an eight-month Post-Dispatch investigation in 1992, reporters disclosed that Peach financed his extracurricular activities with cash from a confidential city checking account he controlled. He also took money from a fund set up to aid crime victims. (Link no longer available)

A number of years ago an independent hollywood company began raising money to produce a film about Peach’s downfall, myself and many others donated money to help get the film made:

Heart of the Beholder is a 2005 drama film that was written and directed by Ken Tipton. It is based on Tipton’s own experience as the owner of a chain of videocassette rental stores in the 1980s. Tipton and his family had opened the first videocassette rental stores in St. Louis in 1980. Their business was largely destroyed by a campaign of the National Federation for Decency, who objected to the chain’s carrying the film The Last Temptation of Christ for rental.

The film won “Best Feature Film” awards at several film festivals. Critic Ryan Cracknell summarized the film, “There’s no shortage of material for writer-director Ken Tipton to work with here. That alone makes Heart of the Beholder a film of interest. It is in many ways a politically charged film as it touches on issues of freedom of speech, religious beliefs and all out fanaticism. Still, I didn’t think it was charged with enough balance and I think a large part had to do with the film’s inconsistent pacing.” (Wikipedia)

As one of thousands of uncredited producers I got the film on DVD, but here’s the trailer:

You can watch the entire film online, view chapter 1, do not watch at work! The film is also available on Netflix.

I recall a video store on the south side of Olive between Compton & Grand, now part of Saint Louis University’s campus, that closed in the early 90s. I only visited the store once, not sure if it was one of Ken Tipton’s Video Library stores or not.

– Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Police Headquarters Opened Two Years Ago Today

July 19, 2016 Crime, Downtown, Featured 2 Comments

On Saturday July 19, 2014 — two years ago today —  the St. Louis Metropolitan Police showed off their new headquarters on Olive between 19th (which they had closed) and 20th

Saturday morning before the ribbon cutting
Saturday morning before the ribbon cutting
The open house began while the festivities were still going on outside. We started at the top, 7th floor, and worked our way down floor by floor.
The open house began while the festivities were still going on outside. We started at the top, 7th floor, and worked our way down floor by floor.

The building isn’t new construction, it was previously an office building.  On the day of the police headquarters open house they had some vehicles out front.

A vintage police vehicle
A vintage police vehicle
And what appears to be a former military vehicle
And what appears to be a former military vehicle

Nobody questioned the military vehicle out front, but three weeks later Michael Brown was shot &  killed in Ferguson. Many others have been shot by police in the last two years.

Recent shootings of black men in Baton Rouge & St. Paul, followed by the shooting of police officers in Dallas, Ballwin, and Baton Rouge, demonstrate we still have considerable work to do.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Opioids/Herion vs Marijuana — Are They Equally Dangerous Drugs?

Please vote below
Please vote below

In late April singer Prince died at age 57, the corner found he died due to an opioid overdose:

Toxicology tests for Prince concluded that the entertainer died from an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl, according to a report on his death by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office.
Fentanyl, prescribed by doctors for cancer treatment, can be made illicitly and is blamed for a spike in overdose deaths in the United States. It’s 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. (CNN)

Heroin is an opioid:

Heroin is an opioid drug that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance, known as “black tar heroin.” (drugabuse.gov)

Prescription opioids include Vicodin & OxyContin. The government classifies drugs relative to each other in five levels, here are the descriptions of the two most dangerous as described by the DEA:

Schedule I

Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:

heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.

Schedule II

Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous. Some examples of Schedule II drugs are: 

Combination products with less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin

For today’s poll I’m contrasting opioids/herion (Schedule 1 & 2) to marijuana (Schedule 1):

The term “dangerous” is how ever you define it.  The poll will close at 8pm tonight.

Wednesday I’ll share my thoughts with the non-scientific results of this poll.

— Steve Patterson

 

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