Transportation

Sacramento transit officials have been watching you. Now they want to talk

New loudspeakers will allow SacRT security to talk to passengers at stations

Don’t be surprised if sometime soon you hear a voice from above at the light rail station. The new loudspeakers are part of several security changes Sacramento Regional Transit is making.
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Don’t be surprised if sometime soon you hear a voice from above at the light rail station. The new loudspeakers are part of several security changes Sacramento Regional Transit is making.

Don’t be surprised if sometime soon you hear a voice from above at your local light rail station.

Sacramento Regional Transit already has real-time video cameras stationed at transit stations. Now, the agency has begun installing a public-address system to allow security employees who are monitoring stations from a remote command center to talk to people on the ground.

Sacramento police Capt. Norm Leong said security monitors can warn riders to leave the station if, for instance, a suspicious bag is found. Or, if a crime is happening, the agency can let people know police are aware and are on their way. The transit system could also use the speakers to deliver updates about service disruptions.

He and SacRT spokeswoman Wendy Williams said the agency also could use the public address system at night to let waiting passengers – including women traveling alone – know that the agency is there looking out for them.

SacRT is still developing a public address system policy, Leong said. “We don’t know know all the possibilities of its use, but we are going to test it out and we think it will be an added benefit for our ridership.”

“(Riders) just want information,” he said. “They want to know when things are going on.”

The loudspeakers are one of several security changes the agency is making.

SacRT will replace its last remaining private security guards this month with agency fare checkers at stations. The transit district contract with private security company G4S expires at the end of June. In its place, SacRT has hired and is training 30 fare checkers, bringing the agency’s security force up to 63.

It’s the second increase in fare checkers in a year. Last summer, the agency added 27 transit checkers, replacing private security guards who did not have the legal authority to check for fares.

Agency officials say the percentage of people riding trains without paying has been reduced from 15 percent to 5 percent since last summer. The new transit officers will be authorized to order loiterers to leave the station area if the person does not have a ticket to ride.

The agency also recently introduced a smart phone app, Alert SacRT, that allows riders to text or call RT security officials to report issues, including crimes in progress. The communications can include a photo, and can be made anonymously.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

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