PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Beginning Feb. 25, TriMet will have the authority to ban any riders for aggressive offenses toward employees, such as spitting or “propelling other bodily fluids.”
The TriMet Board of Directors revised the agency’s code following what it said has been an increase in aggressive behavior toward its staff during the pandemic.
In videos obtained by KOIN 6 News, TriMet employees are seen handling dangerous situations, like a rider screaming and grabbing a driver while on the road and a security officer pushed down a flight of stairs.
“TriMet’s general manager fully intends to hold people accountable by issuing these long-term bans — up to a lifetime ban for these offenses,” said Roberta Altstad with TriMet. “They really need to stop. No one should treat someone like that.”
The board passed Ordinance 364 unanimously during a meeting Wednesday morning.
Under the new rule, TriMet can issue long-term exclusions — up to a lifelong ban — to riders who spit or propel other bodily fluids at transit employees or similar offensive behavior.
“Most riders treat our operators and other frontline employees with respect, but those who don’t should lose the privilege to use our transit system,” General Manager Sam Desue Jr. said in an agency press release.
KOIN 6 News learned TriMet supervisors will enforce the new rules, not the operators.
The ordinance will also allow TriMet supervisors to intervene in non-criminal violations, like drug possession on board the transit system.
“This will help with some of the nuisance issues that customers report and hopefully improve their experience on board,” Altstad said.
According to the press release following the board meeting Wednesday, transit supervisors would be able to cite and possibly suspend riding privileges for anyone who carried or used a “small amount of drugs” on their vehicles.
The ordinance makes a couple other changes to the transit agency’s code, including keeping police officers from asking riders for proof of fare in most instances.
The agency said police may still be present to investigate other crimes or intervene in threatening situations, but under the new ordinance, only a TriMet general manager can direct transit police officers to check for fares.
The revision comes about three years after TriMet decriminalized fare evasion for riders whose sole offense was skipping the fee.
Among other changes, the new rule also implemented gender-neutral terminology in the TriMet code.
TriMet called the revised rules part of an effort to improve public safety on its transit lines. Ordinance 364 is set to take effect Feb. 25.