Riders React to Rep. McCollum’s Views on Green Line Violence

To be sure Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum recognizes “every transit rider deserves a positive experience.” Still she insists “we must address the social issues that contribute to challenges,” according to the  St. Paul congresswoman’s recent Star Tribune column on the increasing public safety threat to passengers on the Green Line.

But McCollum’s default to Democratic boilerplate rhetoric on the root causes of violence didn’t sit well with many veteran transit riders of either political party. In fact, self-identified Minneapolis liberal Michael Brennan wrote a scathing counterpoint in the paper calling out McCollum’s “troubling” views based on his first-hand experience on the transit system.

Sadly, we do not feel safe when we venture out to explore and enjoy what it this great city has to offer. Most notable is what has become a toxic and unsafe public transportation system, especially the light-rail system.

We have yet to travel on that system without witnessing egregious anti-social behavior of one kind or another.

Brennan’s description of a trip home on the light rail line after an evening on the town in St. Paul was like a bone-chilling scene out of a Bronson movie.

On a recent evening trip on the Green Line from St. Paul to Minneapolis, my wife and I were returning from a theater production when a 20-something male joined us in an otherwise empty carriage. He elected to seat himself across from us, face to face, and soon informed me he didn’t like how I looked. What followed was a six- or seven-stop ride during which he shared what his plans were for me and my wife. None were encouraging.

I remained silent, knowing that there was nothing I could say to improve the situation. I knew that attempts to reach my phone could further inflame his anger. We sat and endured, feeling it safer to stay put rather than to get off the train, as he might follow us. The torture ended on his terms when he finally disembarked, telling us we were lucky he had to go.

We saw him wait on the platform; no doubt prepared to repeat the performance for other unsuspecting travelers.

After numerous such incidents, the Brennans say they no longer feel safe enough to use the light rail system or frequent the theater district. In fact, the couple now question the wisdom of leaving Rochester for Minneapolis upon their retirement.

Rep. McCollum correctly reminds us of unmet social needs and inadequate support for the less fortunate among us. I suggest, however, that those needs cannot be met by turning the extraordinarily expensive light rail system into an unsafe mobile homeless shelter, or a place where feral youth are free to vent vindictiveness toward the citizenry.

Their parting plea to Rep. McCollum? To inform them “when it is again safe for us to travel around town.”