Its walls freshened with floral wallpaper, shattered windows replaced and escalators and stairwells scrubbed, the Blue Line's Lake Street/Midtown light-rail station is ready for its close-up.

"We are taking back this station for the commuters," declared Metro Transit Police Chief Ernest Morales III at a news conference Tuesday.

The facelift dovetails with the newly beefed-up presence of Metro Transit police, community service officers and private security guards at the station, known as a hotspot for crime within the Metro Transit system.

So far this year, Metro Transit police say they have recorded more than 500 extra patrol hours at the station and along the Lake Street corridor in Minneapolis, not including actual time they've spent riding on Blue Line trains.

Transit officials claim that the strategy — part of a broader safety plan — is working. It's not a moment too soon, as more people continue to return to the office in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet overall crime across the Metro Transit system was up 42% through the second quarter of 2023.

With some 2,000 boardings daily, the Lake Street/Midtown Station is one of the busiest transit stops in the Twin Cities, and a kind of litmus test for Metro Transit's efforts to lure back passengers.

It was at the Lake Street station where a transgender woman was brutally attacked earlier this year, and where Minneapolis City Council member Jason Chavez witnessed a shooting in May while waiting for a train. On Tuesday, he heralded the improvements to the station.

Noting that she lives about a mile from the station, new Metro Transit General Manager Lesley Kandaras said she has "personally experienced the challenges we have here, but I've seen the improvements."

The new approach has resulted in a 58% decline in reported crimes at the station during the second quarter when compared with the first quarter, Metro Transit officials said. Police calls for service at the station plunged about 75% between January and July, as well.

And most of the 3,700-plus calls for service at the Lake Street/Midtown Station so far this year were initiated by transit police officers, "reflecting proactive patrolling," officials said.

The response from the public on Tuesday ranged from delight to skepticism.

"It is better than before," said Khalid Yusef, a Minneapolis resident who doesn't own a car and depends on public transportation. "I've seen the security around. It was very scary before with the homeless, and people smoking everywhere."

Private security guards from Allied Universal also patrol the Blue Line's Franklin Avenue Station, the Interstate 35W/Lake Street Station on the Orange Line, and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center. The security guards eventually will be deployed at the Chicago-Lake Transit Center, the Uptown Transit Center, and the Green Line's Central Station Vertical Circulation Building in downtown St. Paul.

Some question whether an increased police presence is a good thing.

"Police don't do anything useful and they're never around if you are in an unsafe situation," said India Johnson, a Minneapolis resident who mends clothing and other items at the nearby Midtown Farmers Market. After being continually harassed on public transit, Johnson gave it up and now gets around on her bike.

Her friend, Rachel Patrick, also of Minneapolis, wondered where unsheltered people go once they're kicked out of the station. "I'm glad they have a goal to promote safety, but I don't see them achieving it," she said.

Metro Transit officials have acknowledged that many of the challenges aboard trains and buses are societal, ranging from the metro area's lack of affordable housing to the opioid drug crisis.

This summer, Metro Transit launched a three-month intervention project with state and local government officials and nonprofit organizations to connect passengers with available services, such as drug, alcohol and mental health counseling.

Morales, just five months on the job, said he realized right away that the Lake Street/Midtown Station needed "immediate attention and a long-term pragmatic solution." The changes noted Tuesday, he said, are just a start.

"Our work isn't over," he said.