Lamb quickly points out that high-profile incidents like this can be a nightmare for a transit agency and be disastrous for its ridership if it spins out of control in the media.
“There is a very real potential for this thing to kind of spin out of control in the sense of people saying jeeze if the transit system is unsafe, there is no way I want to subject myself or my family or whatever it is to it,” says Lamb.
Metro Transit’s solution to the incidents was a simple one — quickly and decisively expand its safety and security efforts in its system and on board its buses in particular.
“On a monthly basis a year ago we had about 250 hours of police presence on our buses in our system,” says Lamb.
He says the plan going into 2007 was to double the police presence in the system to around 500 hours, but the incidents caused them to drastically increase those numbers.
“When these incidents came out we reprioritized our budget and we focused on bringing that up to a five-fold increase.
“And so right now we’re averaging about 1,500 hours of onboard security. But we couldn’t do that absolutely in isolation. To be able to do that we would need to partner with the local jurisdictions,” says Lamb.
Working with the city of Minneapolis, the city has taken over walking the downtown area, allowing Metro Transit police to be redeployed onto buses, gaining a solid response from the local communities. It also helped that the system had worked to improve its onboard security features such as by adding cameras.
“The fact that the cameras that were on the buses were instrumental in terms of identifying the perpetrators and ultimately leading to their arrests,” says Lamb.
“If you commit a crime on a Metro Transit bus, you will get caught,” is the message Lamb says the agency is communicating to the community — that the agency isn’t just lying down and taking it from the bad guys.
“We’ve got a very aggressive plan towards making sure that our buses are safe and secure,” says Lamb, “Are we at a point where I am completely comfortable. No.
“I think we do have to stay ever vigilant, but one last piece I think is kind of unique how we’ve approached this is a program we actually started a year ago.
“We know that in some ways that your bus service reflects the communities in which you serve. And that if you go through some communities that have safety issues, it’s going to spill over onto your bus routes.
“You know there are a lot of people who live in these communities who don’t accept living in unsafe communities is a fait-de-compli. And so there’s a group that we’ve been working with called the Mad Dads over the course of the last year.
“What we’ve done is partnered with that group and they’ve adopted one of our most troubled routes and on a couple times a month what they do is they get on the bus and they create — it’s interesting because they create a culture on that bus where there’s a behavior expectation that is kind of like respect the ride, but they do it in [a way that you] almost have to witness it. But they do it in a very joyful way and create an atmosphere, I think, of camaraderie and trust and that kind of thing. And we’ve been very pleased with that.
“And that is one of the things in this network of things that you have to do. You need to make sure that you can reach out to the extent possible and partner with the communities that you serve. And we think this Mad Dads is really a model that we’d like to not only be able to communicate with our partner agencies throughout the country, but one we would like to expand in our own region as well,” says Lamb.
Brian Lamb likes the sense of a transit community. That the transit industry is not just people doing the same job, but a network of likeminded individuals who can tell their war stories and offer advice to those who need it.
“I think that’s what the beauty of being in this business is,” says Lamb. “You know with the exception of funding the opportunity to share successes is really unique.
“Just in the same way that the Hi-Frequency network wasn’t an idea that in and of itself we generated ourselves … It was an idea we thought would be portable here.