Dori: Seattle rider giving up on mass transit after feeling ‘less safe’
The stench of urine and vomit. Frightening behavior from un-ticketed passengers showing signs of drug use, mental illness – or both. And the fear that none of her fellow passengers might step up to prevent an assault.
After nearly 20 years of riding mass transit in the Seattle area, that’s what finally drove one woman to give up on light rail trains and buses for her daily north-end commute. From now on, she’s driving her car instead.
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Passenger Lynn told The Dori Monson Show she reached her tipping point last week. It started when a homeless man followed her and about 20 others into the lead car, then sprawled across several seats while littering food and screaming profanities at her during her light rail commute from Northgate to downtown Seattle.
“I knocked on the driver’s door,” Lynn told Dori, “but he just glanced over his shoulder. It felt like he was dismissing it.”
When she persisted, Lynn said the driver “took a second look and said ‘I’ve got to go’” as the train left the Northgate station.
Meanwhile, Lynn continued, she gestured to her fellow passengers – mostly men. “Not one of them batted an eye,” she said.
That was when she “felt less safe. Women react differently to these situations than men do … They didn’t want to get involved … I wished I had brought my mace.”
As the train continued, neither the train operators nor the security officers at University District and Capitol Hill stations who approached the homeless man removed him from the train car.
Fellow passengers were “trying to move away from him” while he continued “yelling profanities,” she added. When the train arrived at Capitol Hill station, Lynn said, private security entered the car and told the homeless man he needed to get off.
“But he started yelling ‘You’re a fake cop. You’re not a real cop.’ He was dropping F-bombs. He was just screaming,” Lynn described.
It wasn’t until her downtown station stop that security was able to remove the man from the car, just in time for her to exit the train herself, she said.
After the incident, Lynn told Dori, she emailed Sound Transit authorities about her concerns.
“Apologies for the inconvenience,” a contractor wrote back. “Please be advised Security is not authorized to physically remove loiterers. If the individual is causing a disturbance or acting disorderly, then security or PD can escort the individual off the train.”
This further upset Lynn, because her email described her additional concern with “the (Sound Transit) police (who) got on the train and then left, leaving the passengers with this guy. WHY didn’t PD remove the guy? This is an ongoing issue, isn’t merely an inconvenience and this was way beyond a guy loitering.”
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Lynn’s experience didn’t surprise Dori. He cited the $10 million shortfall announced last week by Marc Dones, chief executive officer of King County Regional Homelessness Authority. Dones revealed the funding shortage, and asked local governments to cover the costs, when it discovered that the authority would not be receiving that funding from the federal government.
“They’ve spent $100 billion on this light rail system. It’s the most expensive public project in our nation’s history,” Dori said. “Meanwhile, they’re telling people’s kids to ride the train. We’ll make it free for you.”
“The cars stink of urine and vomit,” Lynn added. When she returned to her car that evening, she continued, “half of the parking lot was dark because the lights are burned out. I’m walking to my car in the dark.”
It’s infuriating, Lynn told Dori, “especially when we’re paying for the service not only through taxes but by buying the Orca card.”
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