Valley Metro transit system works to improve safety for light rail riders

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The Valley Metro transit system, which operates the Phoenix area’s bus and light rail operations, is launching a new, “Respect the Ride” safety and security campaign for the light rail system. It will start with a tougher code of conduct and other measures to bolster safety and security for the Valley’s 26-mile light rail line.

Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith is launching the campaign as he completes his first year on the job and tells us more about it.

According to Smith, incidents of “unacceptable behavior” on the light rail have been increasing over the last few years.



Ted Simons: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO ARIZONA HORIZON, I'M TED SIMONS. GOVERNOR DUCEY TODAY NAMED FORMER STATE LAWMAKER JUSTIN OLSON TO THE CORPORATION COMMISSION, REPLACES DOUG LITTLE TO TOOK A JOB AT THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, ALSO SERVED IN LEGISLATURE FOR SIX YEARS HE RAN UNSUCCESSFULLY FOR CONGRESS LAST YEAR, HE NOW WILL COMPLETE LITTLE'S TERM WHICH RUNS THROUGH 2018. AND ARIZONA SENATOR JOHN McCAIN IS AGAIN FEUDING WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP THIS TIME OVER McCAIN'S CRITICISM OF WHAT HE DESCRIBED AS A HALF-BAKED FOREIGN POLICY.

THE FEAR ARE IN THE WORLD WE'VE ORGANIZED AND LED THREE-QUARTERS OF A CENTURY TO ABANDON IDEALS WE'VE ADVANCED AROUND THE GLOBE, TO REFUSE THE OBLIGATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP AND OUR DUTY TO REMAIN THE LAST BEST HOPE OF EARTH FOR THE SAKE OF SOME HALF-BAKED, SPURIOUS NATIONALISM, COOKED UP BY PEOPLE WHO WOULD RATHER FIND SCAPEGOAT SAYS THAN SOLVE PROBLEMS. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] IS AS UNPATRIOTIC AS AN ATTACH THE TO ANY OTHER TIRED DOGMA OF THE PAST THAT AMERICANS CON SIGNED TO THE ASH HEAP OF HISTORY.

Ted Simons: THE PRESIDENT RESPONDED ON A RADIO SHOW BY ISSUING A WARNING TO McCAIN.

YOU HEARD WHAT HE SAID YESTERDAY, SENATOR MCCAIN.

YEAH, WELL, I HEAR IT, AND PEOPLE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL BECAUSE AT SOME POINT I FIGHT BACK. YOU KNOW, I'M BEING VERY NICE, I'M BEING VERY, VERY NICE, BUT AT SOME POINT I FIGHT BACK, AND IT WON'T BE PRETTY.

Ted Simons: AFTER HEARING TRUMP'S COMMENTS, McCAIN RESPONDED THAT, QUOTE, I FACED FAR GREATER CHALLENGES THAN THIS.

Ted Simons: VALLEY METRO IS LAUNCHING A NEW SAFETY AND SECURITY CAMPAIGN FOR THE LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM. THE EFFORT INCLUDES A TOUGHER CODE OF CONDUCT AND OTHER MEASURES TO IMPROVE SAFETY ON THE VALLEY'S 26-MILE LIGHT RAIL LINE. JOINING US NOW IS VALLEY METRO CEO SCOTT SMITH. GOOD TO SEE YOU.

Scott Smith: IT'S GREAT TO BE HERE.

Ted Simons: RESPECT THE RIDE CAMPAIGN. WHAT ARE ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

Scott Smith: WE RECOGNIZE WE HAVE A PROBLEM TO LIGHT RAIL, MORE OF A PERCEPTION PROBLEM BUT ALSO AN EXPERIENCE PROBLEM, OUR LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM IS SAFE, THE INCIDENCES OF TRUE CRIME AND EVERYTHING ARE VERY, VERY LOW, BUT WE HAVE A LOT OF OBNOXIOUS ACTIVITY, A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO DON'T RESPECT THEIR FELLOW PASSENGERS, DON'T RESPECT THE TRAINS, AND SO THEY ACT IN WAYS THAT MAKE PEOPLE FEEL UNSAFE, AND REALLY IT'S A SECURITY ISSUE. LY WE'VE COME UP WITH RESPECT FOR THE RIDE BECAUSE WE'RE TELLING PEOPLE NUMBER ONE IF YOU GET ON LIGHT RAIL, YOU DESERVE TO HAVE A SAFE RIDE AND WE'RE TELLING THOSE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO ACT POORLY, LISTEN, WE'RE NOT GOING ON ACCEPT THAT ANYMORE. IF YOU'RE GOING TO ACT LIKE THAT, WE'RE GOING TO ASK YOU NOT TO BE ON OUR TRAINS.

Ted Simons: THESE INCIDENTS OF UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR, ARE THEY INCREASING?

Scott Smith: THEY HAVE BEEN INCREASING OVER THE LAST YEAR OR SO. AS OUR SYSTEM MATURES, BELIEVE IT OR NOT WE'RE HITTING NINE YEARS, WE'RE GETTING INTO ADOLESCENTS AND GETTING THE PROBLEMS THAT YOU GET WHEN PEOPLE NOW FIGURE OUT HOW TO USE THE SYSTEM. AND WE HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO ARE FRANKLY ABUSING THE SYSTEM, PEOPLE WHO ARE INTOXICATED, PEOPLE WHO JUST AREN'T ACTING RIGHT, SO IT REACHED THE LEVEL TO WHERE WE SAID LISTEN, WE'RE GOING ON NIP THIS IN THE BUD SO THAT IT DOESN'T GO ANY FURTHER.

Ted Simons: AND YOU'RE LOOKING AT UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR. WHO DEFINES WHAT IS UNACCEPTABLE?

Scott Smith: I THINK IT'S THE NORMS OF SOCIETY. IF I CAN'T -- IF I GET ON A TRAIN AND I EXPECT BY GETTING ON THE TRAIN THAT I CAN RIDE FROM POINT A TO POINT B WITHOUT SOMEBODY BEING INTOXICATED AND BOTHERING ME, WITHOUT SOMEBODY THREATENING ME VERBALLY, DOING THINGS LIKE THAT, THEN I'VE PASSED ACROSS THE LINE INTO ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR. I THINK IT'S JUST SOCIETAL NORMS WILL SORT OF DECIDE IT. THAT'S WHAT WILL WE'VE BASED OUR CODE OF CONDUCT ON.

Ted Simons: WAS IT DIFFICULT GETTING THIS CODE OF CONDUCT BASED ON SOCIETAL NORMS?

Scott Smith: IT MOST EVERYONE AGREES ON THEIR EXPERIENCES. WE'VE TALKED TO A LOT OF OTHER SYSTEMS AROUND THE COUNTRY TO SEE WHAT THEY HAD DONE. WE'RE NOT THE FIRST ONE TO ENCOUNTER THIS PROBLEM AND WE RELIED ON THEM, GIVE US EXAMPLES OF WHAT THEY HAD DONE AND THEIR SUCCESSES AND THINGS THEY WOULD DO BETTER, WE LOOKED AT ALL THOSE BEFORE WE CAME UP WITH THE CODE OF CONDUCT.

Ted Simons: LET'S TALK ABOUT THE CODE. I KNOW THERE WILL BE SIGNS MISSED EVERYWHERE, YOU CAN'T MISS THIS STUFF, IT WILL BE FACING YOU THE MINUTE YOU GET ON THOSE PLATFORMS. SECURITY CAN REMOVE SOMEONE FOR BEING TOO LOUD. YOU MEAN SECURITY -- IF I'M JUST SITTING THERE SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS, I CAN STILL RIDE THE TRAIN AS FAR AS I WANT?

Scott Smith: RIGHT NOW, UNDER THE RULES WE HAVE AND THE WAY WE'VE ENFORCED IT, UNDER THE RULES WE HAVE, IF YOU HAVE A TICKET, YOU CAN BASICALLY DO A LOT OF THINGS UNTIL IT ARISES TO THE LEVEL OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY AND ASSAULTING SOMEONE. IT DOESN'T ALWAYS HAPPEN THAT WAY, BUT THAT'S LITERALLY WHAT YOU CAN DO. WE REALIZE THAT WAS A HUGE GAP IN OUR SYSTEM.

Ted Simons: YOU CAN REMOVE SOMEONE FOR BEING OBNOXIOUS.

Scott Smith: IF YOU'RE OBNOXIOUS, WE'VE HAD INCIDENTS WHERE FOR EXAMPLE SOMEONE DECIDED TO GET IN A ONE-WAY POLITICAL ARGUMENT, THEY START SCREAM BEING AT SOMEONE FOR SOME JUST WEIRD TYPE OF THING. WELL, IF I'M RIDING ON A SYSTEM AND I'M GOING THE STREET AT 35, 40 MILES PER HOUR AND THERE'S NO ESCAPE, THAT'S NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE, THAT'S NOW A SAFETY ISSUE, AND THAT'S NOT GOING TO BE ACCEPTABLE ON THE TRAINS.

Ted Simons: THERE ARE FOLKS WHO WHEN THEY DRINK TOO MUCH THEY BECOME OBNOXIOUS. RIGHT NOW IF YOU DRINK TOO MUCH AND YOU ARE LOUD, OBNOXIOUS, EVEN THREATENING, NOTHING IS DONE?

Scott Smith: IF YOU HAVE A TICKET, BECAUSE THAT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO BE LOUD, OBNOXIOUS AND DRUNK IN PUBLIC. IT USED TO BE, BUT IT'S NOT NOW. I FOUND THAT OUT, WE TALKED TO PEOPLE IN OUR SYSTEMS, CITIES, BOARD MEMBERS, SAID YOU REALIZE RIGHT NOW WE ARE PRECLUDED FROM TAKING ACTION, THEY SAID WE HAVE TO CHANGE THAT. NOW IF YOU ARE OBNOXIOUS, DRUNK, THREATENING PEOPLE, WE'LL REMOVE YOU FROM THE SYSTEM.

Ted Simons: ALL DAY RIDERS CRACKING DOWN, PEOPLE WHO GET ON THE TRAIN AND DECIDE THEY DON'T WANT TO RIDE IT ANYMORE.

Scott Smith: THEY HAVE A DAY PASSION AND USE OUR TRAINS AS THEIR RESIDENCE DURING THE DAY. WE WELCOME EVERYBODY ONTO OUR TRAIN AS LONG AS YOU FOLLOW OUR RULES AND IF YOU'RE GETTING ON THE TRAIN JUST TO RIDE, YOU'RE NOT DOING WHAT WE ARE BUILT TO DO AND THAT'S TO BE A TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM, TAKE YOU FROM POINT A TO POINT B AND IF YOU'RE WILLING TO DO THAT, WE'RE WILLING TO TAKE YOU, BUT WE'RE NOW A DESTINATION SYSTEM. YOU GET FROM POINT A, YOU RIDE TO POINT B, WE EXPECT YOU TO LEAVE THE TRAIN AND NOT JUST GO BACK AND FORTH ALL DAY.

Ted Simons: NO CAMPING OUT ON PLATFORM AS WELL.

Scott Smith: NO CAMPING OUT ON PLATFORMS. THOSE THINGS TECHNICALLY ARE NOT ALLOWED RIGHT NOW BUT WE HAVEN'T BEEN AS GOOD AS WE COULD BE.

Ted Simons: A LOT OF NEW RULES HERE AND YOU'LL NEED A LOT OF NEW PEOPLE, AREN'T YOU? WHAT KIND OF PERSONNEL WILL BE INVOLVED?

Scott Smith: THAT'S OUR BIG CHALLENGE. WE'RE GOING TO TRY TO KEEP THE PERSONNEL WE HAVE BUT THE POLICE DEPARTMENTS & IN PHOENIX, MESA AND TEMPE ARE UPPING THEIR INVOLVEMENT, WE'RE ACTUALLY REDEPLOYING. MOST OF OUR SECURITY PERSONNEL DEAL WITH FARE INSPECTION RIGHT NOW, WE'RE ASKING THEM TO TAKE ON A DIFFERENT ROLE AND TO BE LOOKING AT THOSE WHO AREN'T BEHAVING AND HELP THOSE WHO NEED TO BE ASSISTED. SO WE'RE GOING TO TRY IT FIRST BY REDEPLOYING AND SCHEDULING BETTER, BUT IF WE NEED TO, WE'LL GO BACK TO THE BOARD NEXT YEAR AND ASK FOR ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL.

Ted Simons: WILL THERE BE APPS FOR SOMEONE IF I'M SITTING NEXT TO SOME GUY WHO IS GETTING OBNOXIOUS, CAN I PRESS A BUTTON?

Scott Smith: WE'LL HAVE TWO THINGS, WE'LL HAVE AN APP THAT WILL ALLOW YOU TO REPORT THAT, IT WILL BE SEEN BY SOMEBODY ELSE, ALSO HAVE THE ABILITY TO, LIKE YOU SEE AT STADIUMS AND OTHER PLACES, WHERE IT SAYS IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, TEXT THIS INFORMATION AND WE'LL HAVE SOMEBODY MONITORING THAT SO WE CAN GET A SECURITY PERSON OUT THERE. THAT WILL COME INTO PLAY ABOUT THE FIRST OF NEXT YEAR.

Ted Simons: AND IF SECURITY COMES ON AND SAYS YOU HAVE TO LEAVE AND THIS PERSON DOESN'T LEAVE?

Scott Smith: AT THAT POINT IN TIME THEY'RE A TRESPASSER AND POLICE DEPARTMENTS HAVE AGREED THEY'LL COME AND REMOVE THE PERSON AND POSSIBLY ARREST THEM. WE'RE NOT HERE TO ARREST PEOPLE. WE'RE NOT TRYING TO CRACK DOWN WHERE WE CAN PUT PEOPLE OUT. WE JUST WANT PEOPLE WHO WILL ABIDE BY THE RULES AND RESPECT THE RIDE TO BE ON OUR TRAINS.

Ted Simons: YOU'VE BEEN ON THE JOB A YEAR, WE TALKED TO YOU WHEN YOU TOOK OVER THERE, IT WAS KIND OF A TROUBLED AGENCY, VALLEY METRO NOW SEEMS RELATIVELY SMOOTH. YOU KNOW, THERE'S AN OPENING IN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 9.

Scott Smith: MY POLITICAL DAYS ARE BEHIND ME.

Ted Simons: ELECTED POLITICS ARE OVER?

Scott Smith: FOR RIGHT NOW.

Ted Simons: FOR RIGHT NOW.

Scott Smith: I'M ENJOYING WHAT I'M DOING, I HAVE AN AMAZING BOARD WHO GIVES CLEAR DIRECTION AND I HAVE AN INCREDIBLE STAFF AND WHEN I GOT IN AND I TRULY REALIZED WHAT KIND OF IMPACT VALLEY METRO HAS ON OUR COMMUNITY, THE 70 MILLION RIDERS, THE 16 MILLION ON LIGHT RAIL, IT JUST IS A WORK THAT I HAVE PASSION FOR AND I LOVE IT AND I'M GOING ON STAY HERE.

Ted Simons: SO YOU'RE GOING TO REUP WITH VALLEY METRO, NO RACE, NO MORE ELECT POLITICS FOR THE MAYOR OF MESA?

Scott Smith: NEVER, I NEVER SAY NEVER BUT I'M GOING TO SAY NEVER RIGHT NOW.

Ted Simons: GOOD TO SEE YOU.

Scott Smith: THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Scott Smith, Valley Metro CEO

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