Rantz: Shocking video shows light rail train used as homeless shelter

May 8, 2022, 12:00 PM | Updated: May 9, 2022, 10:08 am
Homeless Light Rail...
A shocking new video shows dozens of homeless people sleeping on a Sound Transit Link Light Rail train in Angle Lake. (Screengrab)

A Sound Transit employee took shocking video that shows approximately 30 homeless people using light rail as a homeless shelter.

The video was recorded early morning last Monday, May 2, at the Angle Lake station. The unidentified employee walks the entire length of the light rail cars as homeless men and women are mostly slumped over, passed out. There appears to only be two paying customers on the light rail.

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

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Shocking video epitomizes the problem of no fare enforcement

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

During the pandemic, homeless people took advantage of the lax policies. Now, the homeless have effectively taken over some Sound Transit light rail trains. It’s common to see the homeless sleep across several seats or slumped over in one chair.

The problem is most pronounced in the early mornings and late evenings. One Sound Transit staffer tells me this occurs regularly.

“While most riders during the day are having a safe and reliable experience, problems are acute at times of lower ridership and when support staffing is lower, such as early in the morning and later in the evening,” the Sound Transit spokesperson told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

It’s unclear when the homeless enter the light rail, but the earliest they run is 5:00am, and do not operate overnight. That means the homeless enter early in the morning, making an unpleasant — and unsanitary — morning commute. The spokesperson says the trains are sanitized only once a day unless there’s a visible issue requiring attention.

Where’s security?

Sound Transit security vendors are supposed to prevent this from happening. But they’re not, prompting Sound Transit to consider a new vendor.

“At the end of the line, our security vendor is supposed to walk through the train and ask all riders to exit. This interaction also serves as a check on the rider’s welfare, to ensure that they are responsive. The security vendor failed to perform this duty in this case,” the spokesperson said.

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

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

Sound Transit is considered different solutions in the meantime, including partnerships with King County’s Department of Community and Human Services Behavioral Health and Recovery Division. The agency does not intend to use law enforcement, as the Board of Directors does not trust police officers to act without bias and feels the criminal justice system is beyond reform.

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Is Sound Transit safe?

A spokesperson for the agency believes taking light rail is safe. He’s wrong. How can it be with this many homeless people sleeping on the light rail?

If the agency does not act quickly, an inevitable conflict will erupt and someone is bound to be hurt. One staff member tells me he has witnessed assaults and he does not always feel safe.

Beyond the safety concerns, who would feel comfortable riding a light rail under these conditions?

Sound Transit took a severe financial hit after it stopped enforcing fares under dubious complaints about involving law enforcement. And their new fare enforcement scheme does not mandate riders show their ID if they’re suspected of riding without a ticket — a giant loophole that means anyone can ride for free without consequence.

As more people return to the pre-pandemic commuting and travel to and from the airport, will they witness this homeless mess and stick with it or revert back to using a car?  We may find out if this problem isn’t immediately addressed.

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

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Rantz: Shocking video shows light rail train used as homeless shelter