Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.
I use the light rail frequently and have encountered all the problems mentioned in the special report from the Star Tribune Editorial Board “Systemic insecurity: Saving Twin Cities light rail.” (Opinion editor’s note: This report was published online on Nov. 16 and can be found at tinyurl.com/editorial-report-lrt. It will be published in print Nov. 19.) Smoking on the platforms and in the cars is common. Drug users and dealers hop on and off the train all day because there is open access and no one is checking for paid fares. Some of the main stations are dirty and grimy. The main point is that the light rail will eventually cease to exist if problems aren’t fixed. The system will be more and more financially stressed as many people do not pay fares and fewer and fewer people use the system.
These problems will embolden the anti-public transportation forces in the state Legislature, and funding will dry up. It perplexes me that they continue to plan and build more light rail projects such as the Southwest Light Rail before they solve the current problems.
Dennis West, Minneapolis
I don’t need to ride mass transit, but I would be interested in using it to get from Highland Park to the downtowns for events or a night out if it was safe and convenient. When I go to New York or Chicago, I love using transit, and it makes me sad that we don’t have a better system here. What I never see mentioned is the fact that unless you live just a few blocks from a station, light rail wasn’t designed for you. I live half a mile from any bus stop, and the closest light rail station for me is 46th Street and Hiawatha Avenue, 3.6 miles away. There are only about 10 parking spots there, and the streets nearby are designated as neighborhood permit only. I wish some of the stops had been designed with park-and-ride ramps.
Mauri Evans, St. Paul
I believe there need to be turnstiles put in place for people to enter onto the platform who have a ticket. This “just walk on” system is allowing drug dealers, drunk or high individuals and homeless people to ride for free and cause problems with other riders. I can no longer take my eight grandchildren on the light rail because of the horrible example set by others — foul language, openly injecting drugs into arms and smoking weed in full view of my grandkids. I have seen this numerous times with and without the kids. I no longer feel safe, and certainly do not want to expose my sweet grands to this kind of behavior. Every other subway, tram and bus system demands payment. In our country and other countries, everyone needs to pay to ride. Also, have a few weeks of intense security on the trains to reduce the security issues, and let the offenders know this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Arrest the drug users and dealers. Throw the offenders off the train.
Kay Rogers, Plymouth
Thank you for putting together this series of editorials. I was so pleased to see it. I used to be a very active rider on the light rail. I have not ridden it in probably two to three years with the exception of going to Gopher football games. I live in the North Loop.
I travel, and it was so convenient to take the light rail to the airport, but I don’t feel safe. I totally agree and support closing stations and more law enforcement.
While I have concern for the homeless and mentally ill, there is just too much crime and drug use. We have invested way too much money to let the system become useless to regular users because of safety. We have to hold people accountable.
I appreciate all the Star Tribune does to invest in our community.
Patrick Schwartz, Minneapolis
I was disappointed to read that the Minneapolis City Council’s budget committee voted against consideration of a plan to recruit and retain police officers (“A cold shoulder for Mpls. police plan,” Nov. 15). Minneapolis voters spoke out two years ago that they support a fully funded and functional police force. It seems to me that Council Member Emily Koski, budget committee chair, must not have been paying attention the past few months if she felt she needed to not only refuse to consider the mayor’s request but also rebuke him for not coming to the committee six months ago. It seems to me that we’ve been aware the mayor and Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara have been working on a plans to better recruit and retain police officers. Building a city budget is not an easy task, but just because this specific plan might have taken longer to work out before being presented to the budget committee is not a good reason for it to be rejected. (Opinion editor’s note: The council also voted down the proposal at a special meeting Nov. 17.)
The voters who supported a full police force for Minneapolis knew that our taxes would be needed to make this happen. It sounds to me as if the mayor and police chief found a state fund to pay for this plan. Why make the residents of Minneapolis wait even longer to get back to the appropriate number of police officers we need to protect and serve the city?
Robin Melville, Minneapolis
The City Council budget committee’s refusal to spend the $15 million requested for retention and recruitment bonuses jeopardizes community safety. This budget request allows the Police Department to retain current officers and recruit candidates who can serve and protect the community with empathy toward all the constituents. The council members need to put their egos behind them and do what is best for Minneapolis.
Mark Odland, Edina
A recent lead article, “Gun case tossed over traffic stop” (Nov. 14), raises many issues of justice and race that I am certainly not qualified to address. However, the statement from Cecil Wayman, found in possession of a gun he was prohibited from holding, was perplexing. About police work, Wayman is quoted saying: “It’s a hard job, but at the same time there are rules. I just think people have to know about what it is that they can and cannot do.” Whether the traffic stop was justified or not, it seems odd that a felon caught carrying a gun downtown is highlighted by the Star Tribune lecturing the police about following the rules. No wonder it is difficult to recruit police to work in Minneapolis.
Tom Salkowski, Buffalo
Thank you for publishing a commentary on school-age vaccines (“Vaccine exemptions are hazardous to kids’ health,” Opinion Exchange, Nov. 16). As the parent of a fourth- and seventh-grader I am deeply concerned about the drop in childhood shots. As a public health professional, I closely followed the measles outbreak in 2018.
There are children with allergies, immune deficiencies or other medical conditions who cannot be vaccinated. For their sake it’s important that everyone else gets vaccinated against preventable diseases. At a minimum, these illnesses can force kids to miss school, a hardship many families know only too well following the COVID pandemic. But some of these diseases are more serious and could lead to hospitalization or death.
It’s always a good idea to share questions with a physician, but when my children’s doctor makes a recommendation, I follow it. It’s good for their health and for the kids in their class. If your kids are behind on shots, please get them caught up.
Matt Flory, St. Louis Park