TriMet adopted an ordinance Wednesday with some changes aimed at bolstering public safety and security, including its employees.
A December memo from TriMet’s board of directors says that “operator assaults have continued to be a challenge for the agency and our employees. Operators remain concerned about assaults and deserve to feel protected at work.”
Under the newly adopted ordinance, propelling bodily fluids at TriMet employees will be considered a “serious physical offense” that is punishable by long-term exclusion in addition to criminal charges.
In another change, the agency is formally prohibiting police from checking fares in most instances.
TriMet director of communications Roberta Altstadt said the transit agency decided to decriminalize fare evasion years ago. Before that, if somebody did not pay their fare they could have been cited, and if they didn’t pay the resulting fine, that would go on their court record.
“Fare evasion is not a crime, and if that’s the only thing that you do, you will not end up in jail,” Altstadt said. “We have been working with the community and with state leaders for years now to really decriminalize fare evasion.”
In the interest of further decreasing reliance on police assistance, TriMet safety and security personnel will be allowed to address any violations of state and local laws on the transit system with a citation. Alstadt said this change will likely be the most observable by riders.
“By us being able to address those as they happen, and not stop the train or bus for police response, I think that’s what customers will start seeing.” Altstadt said. “But it will probably take some time for that to really have an impact.”
TriMet stated it also will update the terminology in its code to add gender-neutral language and to remove outdated references.
“We want to be inclusive of everyone out there, and everybody is welcome on our system.” Alstadt said. “It doesn’t matter your race, your gender, your sexual preference.”
In its memo, the TriMet board stated its new ordinance aligns with its Reimagine Public Safety Initiative.
In recent years, according to the memo, the agency “has launched a low-income fare program, decriminalized fare evasion, increased the number of non-law enforcement personnel on the system, executed a new contract with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office for transit police services, conducted trainings for staff on antiracism, cultural competency, mental health and de-escalation, and is developing a crisis intervention team model.”
The new ordinance goes into effect on Feb. 25.