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Safety and security on light rail is a top priority at Valley Metro. Here’s what I learned about what’s being done to keep riders feeling that way.

Fare Inspector checking passes on light rail

As a summer Communications intern at Valley Metro, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about the agency and its commitment to make everyone’s transit experience a safe one, but I still wanted to see firsthand what’s being done.I’ve been riding the light rail off and on for years. I’ve seen activity on the light rail at many different hours of the day and ridden all around the Valley. When I was asked to shadow a team of fare inspectors, I figured I knew exactly how my day would go. Valley Metro fare inspection is conducted by uniformed security officers on trains and station platforms. Teams of officers board trains throughout the service day, verifying the use of valid transit passes, providing security oversight and writing citations.

Fare inspectors and police assistants questioning riders who did not have valid fare during a fare sweep.

I met with Roby and Hunter, who usually work along the 19th Avenue corridor. Roby has been a security officer for just over a year and Hunter has been in this role for more than four years. I figured I would meet up with Roby and Hunter and casually follow them around as they inspected fare on a couple trains and observe them possibly telling a couple riders to get off the train or stop some sort of behavior not permitted on the light rail. That seemed like a normal day for a fare inspector from my perspective.

Fare inspector checking tickets on light rail during a sweep with Phoenix PD.

On an average day, Roby and Hunter ride the train and check fare, as well as make sure activity on the train is normal and that all passengers are safe. Some days are busier than others. They frequently conduct sweeps with the Phoenix Police Transit Enforcement Unit. I showed up on a day that Roby and Hunter were assisting in a fare sweep. During these sweeps, a couple teams of fare inspectors meet at one station and board each train to check fare. If a rider does not have fare, they ask them to exit the train and may also issue a citation.

Phoenix PD and light rail fare inspectors conduct random sweep to remove riders who are riding train without valid fare.

With the assistance of the police, they are able to conduct background checks on riders who do not have fare, which may result in an arrest if they have other outstanding charges. These fare inspection sweeps could occur once or twice a week at random times and stops. Although inspecting fare is a large portion of the job for Roby and Hunter, they explained that they are also there to enforce the system’s code of conduct. If they see someone who is not following the rules, they will provide a polite warning. Some riders may try to get away with drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, which is definitely not allowed on the train or at the station. Having fare inspectors and police presence around the light rail lessens the ability to do so.

An example of a citation given by a fare inspector after a rider is removed from train for riding without valid fare.

Roby and Hunter agreed that the best way to make light rail riders feel safe is to reinforce that the system is not a place that tolerates behaviors that may make riders feel unsafe or uncomfortable. After all, most of us are just trying to get to our destinations and using public transit makes us feel better about making a positive impact on the environment. After experiencing this sweep and getting a chance to chat with fare inspectors, I definitely had a different perspective about fare inspection and overall safety and security on the light rail. Valley Metro’s safety and security team, along with Phoenix PD, do a lot to ensure a safe and secure ride for their passengers. The fare inspector or police presence may seem unnecessary to an everyday rider who’s following the rules and has valid fare, but ultimately, their job is to protect those riders and make sure everyone gets to their destination safely – and I think they’re doing a pretty good job. If you’d like more information on safety and security provided by Valley Metro, visit http://www.valleymetro.org/safety.