For customer-oriented businesses – and Sacramento Regional Transit should act more like one – perception is just as important as reality.
So it was necessary and overdue for RT to ramp up security on light-rail trains and at stations at night. An RT guard will be on every train running after 6:30 p.m. Two more guards will be on each line as backup. Uniformed, armed officers who work under contract with RT will also be on duty more nights and weekends.
Officials acted after two high-profile shootings aboard light-rail trains that put public safety in the spotlight. In January, a woman shot and killed a fellow passenger as a train pulled into the station at 11th and O streets downtown. In March, Sacramento police officers fatally shot a man aboard a downtown train who apparently committed “suicide by cop.”
While those incidents were isolated, riders are right to be concerned about harassment, intimidation, loitering, drug dealing and other unsavory behaviors that are all too common. There’s a reason for the view that RT is safe during busy commute hours, but a last resort after dark.
The initial official response was insufficient – that the system already had high security. As The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board commented at the time, the incidents should be a wake-up call for RT to tackle the safety issue head-on.
Even if you don’t ride RT, its success is important to the region – to help meet goals to reduce car emissions and keep this a livable place. Being responsive to customers is a big building block. That’s becoming more apparent during the disruption of the Fix50 project and will become so again after the planned downtown arena opens in 2016.
More customer-friendly changes could be on the way. In July, transit officials from Denver, Portland and Los Angeles County will visit to look at security and other issues with the system – a peer review championed by Phil Serna, a Sacramento County supervisor who is chairman of the RT Board of Directors.
Any suggestions to improve riders’ experience would be welcome. To rebound from ridership drops during the recession, providing a safe and pleasant journey is job one for RT.