Metro Transit is beefing up security on buses and trains as riders return to public transportation by adding dozens of additional police and community service officers.
The transit agency announced the public safety initiative on Thursday, which it says it aimed at making passengers feel safer.
The Metro Transit Police Department says it is launching a "significant recruitment and hiring effort" that will help it "proactively address safety concerns."
It plans to have 70 part-time community services officers who will be tasked with things like validating fares, educating riders and working with police officers "as they grow into law enforcement careers."
This marks a shift in duties for the community services officers. Previously, the department has about 20 community services officers who were responsible for primarily administrative tasks.
The Metro Transit Police Department is expanding its Real Time Information Center, which it piloted in 2020, to have a total of 11 staff, including sworn officers and civilians. They will monitor surveillance cameras in real-time "so officers can spend more time spotting and guiding responses to problems on light rail vehicles, light rail stations and other busy boarding areas," Metro Transit says.
Lastly, the department plans to hire 10 additional police officers so it can better "patrol and respond to serious incidents." Currently, the department has 141 full-time officers and 60 part-time officers.
These changes come as more people are starting to return to work in offices as COVID-19 vaccination rates increase.
Metro Transit has been hopeful that a return to normalcy will mean people start using public transportation again. To start the year, light rail and bus ridership was down 55% and 58%, respectively, compared to 2020. But the agency said there are signs ridership is slowly rebounding as restrictions have eased after the pandemic forced Metro Transit to limit service and encourage riders to only take essential trips.