Monday’s front-page story suggesting a link between homeless passengers riding the trains and serious crime is misleading (“Serious crimes up on light rail”). I use public transportation daily, including both Blue and Green Line trains, and I am very certain the problem is not caused by homeless people seeking sleep and shelter but rather the same opportunistic criminal element that stalk us near any semi-secluded area as well as on our streets.
The heart of the problem is limited police presence and inadequate response. That Metro Transit’s chief, Eddie Frizell, offers only statistics rather than an action plan, and proposes nothing that addresses crime on our public transportation system, is very disconcerting. In essence, Frizell seems not to know the difference between homelessness and criminality. Force the homeless off the trains and there will still be criminals riding them. Our problem is not the homeless population but rather how to effectively respond to criminals and to the potentially violent mentally ill, rather than conveniently lumping them into the category of “homeless.” From what I’ve seen, most homeless people are just as frightened and at risk as the rest of us!
Michael Smith, Minneapolis
• • •
As someone who often rides Blue Line light rail after business hours, I am well acquainted with the rampant social dysfunction on the trains. I recently encountered for the third time a group of young extortionists who were asking riders for “contributions” to a bogus legal defense fund. When I politely reminded them that soliciting on the train was prohibited, they threatened to beat me. Fortunately, a “Clint Eastwood stare” in response was enough to spare me a trip to the emergency room that night.
The Minneapolis and St. Paul city councils are apparently too focused on trying to solve global problems like climate change to dedicate any time or financial resources to public safety. Consequently, I welcome the intervention of state Rep. Paul Torkelson on the issue of light-rail security (“Big ideas for safer light-rail transit,” editorial, Nov. 8). While I doubt the leaders of our two largest cities will align with Torkelson, I suspect many urban residents will applaud his efforts on their behalf.
Jerry Anderson, Eagan
• • •
Compassion and generosity may be moribund, but it’s not dead or invisible.
The proof is in the bespectacled bicyclist who boarded the northbound Blue Line train at the 46th Street station at about 7:10 a.m. on Friday at the end of September. She secured her bike and observed a man stretched across three seats, trying to catch a little warmth and sleep. She stood in the bike bay for several moments, unzipped her lunch bag, then rearranged and re-bagged some of its contents.
She pulled down her bike and the train pulled into her stop. As the doors opened, she dropped a plastic bag containing bread, cheese and an apple on top of the man’s belongings. Before anyone could say anything, she was gone.
I hope she knows this is her story and that she is not invisible. Let me say now, “Thank you, ma’am, for your gift.”
Melenie Soucheray, St. Paul
• • •
I ride the bus and the train every day.
There is a difference between safety on light rail and feeling uncomfortable with other people’s behavior. Police should not be treating behavior that’s perfectly legal as a crime even if it makes some people uncomfortable — especially since this is virtually only enforced against people of color and the homeless.
If we’re going to have a serious conversation about safety on transit, we absolutely have to address the root causes and not just the symptoms.
Any conversation about using physical barriers on light rail should actually include the people who use the system and should consider what already exists — what we know works and won’t work. Instead of barriers and more police, what if we had free fares and completely reshaped the role of police on transit? At a time when even the Minnesota Department of Transportation says we must promote public transit to address the climate crisis, why not encourage ridership instead of promoting a crackdown?
What if we recognized the humanity of everyone who takes transit? Some people are in crisis. Sometimes that plays out very publicly. Responding to that with punishment isn’t right.
Because I ride transit, I think about these issues and what it means for our community a lot. Come ride the bus and train with me. Let’s find solutions that address the real problems in our community and don’t promote fear, racial profiling and misconceptions about the people who ride our buses and trains.
Amity Foster, Minneapolis
The writer is a member of the Twin Cities Transit Riders Union Steering Committee.
• • •
Regarding U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum’s recent commentary, “All that goes into making LRT safe” (Nov. 10), she said the following: “Transit is not a luxury; it is essential.” And, “Families, students, commuters and visitors all want clean, safe and comfortable experiences on the Green Line.”
And the solutions she offers? Who couldn’t agree with them?
“Solutions must come from the community.” Really? Not Mars?
“Local leaders must pave the way.” Really? Not Estonian barbers?
And finally: “I believe every transit rider deserves a positive experience.” Way to take a stand!
Here is a thought: Most riders on public transit are not interested in having a “positive experience,” whatever that is. They are interested in getting where they are going without being threatened, hassled or hearing reams of profanity block after block. If society cannot agree to even these minimal standards, we have problems that no amount of money will fix.
Charlie Meyers, Minneapolis
War is hell, but so is the aftermath
Thanks for the Veterans Day commentary by Michael McDonald and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer on honoring vets by ending war (“Honor vets by saving the planet, ending wars,” Opinion Exchange, Nov. 11). Not mentioned, however, was the tragic fact that one of our “honored” veterans commits suicide about every 65 minutes and that 65% of those are over 50 years old. Yes, war is hell ... and it is also obscene!
Tom White, St. Louis Park
The writer is a member of Veterans for Peace.
Does no one see the problem here?
How can we entrust trillions of dollars, or one-sixth of the nation’s economy, to the federal government in a Medicare for All program when our state government cannot manage a $12 billion program without losing track of several hundred million of those dollars and without breaking the law 200 times? (“DHS woes may signal even more troubles,” front page, Nov. 10.)
Nat Robbins, Minneapolis
Sometimes, it’s simple fun
I have just read Terry Blain’s review of the Minnesota Opera’s staging of “The Barber of Seville” (“Cheap laughs cut too deep,” Nov. 11). Blain needs to lighten up. Why can’t an opera occasionally just be fun? Over the years I have seen a number of productions of this opera, including a more traditional production by the Minnesota Opera. I attended the Sunday afternoon performance of “Barber” and thought it was delightful and, yes, I laughed at the chorus in the harlequin costumes flitting on and off the stage, enjoyed the marvelous singing, appreciated Figaro’s plotting to bring Rosina and Count Almaviva together, and laughed some more at Bartolo’s and Basilio’s comeuppance.
It was a welcome diversion from the dreary news of the turmoil in the world.
Karen S. Lee, Cambridge, Minn.
We want to hear from you. Send us your thoughts here.