Rantz: Shocking video shows light rail used as homeless shelter

A Sound Transit employee has taken a shocking video which shows around 30 homeless people using the Sound Transit light rail as a homeless shelter.

The video was recorded in the early morning of Monday May 2 at Angle Lake station. The unidentified employee walks the full length of the trams as the homeless men and women mostly slump, passed out. It looks like there are only two paying customers on the light rail.

Sound Transit employees are said to be fed up with the lack of action from Sound Transit management, as operators have been complaining about this issue since the start of the pandemic. A Sound Transit spokesperson said the “severity of the issue displayed in the video is of particular concern”, but called this situation “new information for us.”

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Shocking video illustrates the problem of non-enforcement of tariffs

Sound Transit has not engaged in traditional fare enforcement since council members declared the practice racist.

During the pandemic, the homeless have taken advantage of lax policies. Now the homeless have effectively taken over some Sound Transit light rail trains. It is common to see homeless people sleeping on multiple seats or slumped in a chair.

The problem is most pronounced in the early morning and late evening. A Sound Transit staff member tells me this happens regularly.

“While most day riders have a safe and reliable experience, issues are acute when ridership numbers are low and support staff are weaker, such as early morning and later in the evening” , a spokesperson for Sound Transit told the Jason. Rantz show on KTTH.

It’s unclear when homeless people enter the light rail, but they run at 5 a.m. at the earliest and don’t run overnight. This means homeless people come in early in the morning, making an unpleasant and unsanitary morning commute. The spokesman said trains are only sanitized once a day unless there is a visible problem that needs attention.

Where is the security?

Sound Transit’s security providers are supposed to prevent this from happening. But that’s not the case, prompting Sound Transit to consider a new provider.

“At the end of the line, our security provider is supposed to walk through the train and ask all passengers to exit. This interaction also serves as a wellness check for the rider, to ensure they are responsive. The provider security did not fulfill this obligation in this case,” the spokesperson said.

In a recent incident with King County Metro, a presumed homeless passenger collapsed in the back of the bus. He was found unresponsive at the end of the shift, after the bus had been parked at the base in downtown Seattle. He was declared dead.

“For many reasons, including situations like this, we were already in the process of renewing the security contract,” the spokesperson explained.

In the meantime, Sound Transit is considering various solutions, including partnerships with the Behavioral Health and Recovery Division of the King County Department of Community and Human Services. The agency does not intend to use law enforcement, as the board does not trust police officers to act without bias and believes the criminal justice system is unreformable.

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Is Sound Transit safe?

An agency spokesperson believes that taking the light rail is safe. He is wrong. How can it be so with so many homeless people sleeping on the light rail?

If the agency doesn’t act quickly, an inevitable conflict will erupt and someone is bound to get hurt. A member of staff tells me that he has witnessed attacks and does not always feel safe.

Safety concerns aside, who would feel comfortable on a light rail in these conditions?

Sound Transit suffered a severe financial blow after it stopped enforcing fares due to questionable complaints about law enforcement involvement. And their new fare enforcement system doesn’t require passengers to show ID if they’re suspected of riding without a ticket – a giant loophole that means anyone can ride for free without consequence.

As more and more people resume their pre-pandemic commutes and travel to and from the airport, will they witness this mess of homelessness and stick to it or go back to using a car? We can know if this problem is not immediately resolved.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. To follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, instagramand Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

Jose P. Rogers