Feb 13, 2024 - News

Transit workers fight drugs on buses and trains

A TriMet MAX train at the Skidmore Fountain stop in downtown Portland

TriMet and other transit agencies are supporting a bill that would make illegal drug use on buses, trains and at stations a Class A misdemeanor. Photo: Courtesy of TriMet

Transit companies are pushing to make it a Class A misdemeanor to use drugs on buses and trains in Oregon.

TriMet, the Oregon Transit Association, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 testified yesterday to support amending Senate Bill 1553.

  • The amendment would add the use of illicit drugs to the existing crime of "Interfering with Public Transportation" and cover smoking, igniting, injecting, or consuming drugs on a vehicle or at a transit station.

Why it matters: Workers at transit agencies, including TriMet, have noticed increased drug use at stations and on buses and trains and fear it harms public safety and the health of staff and passengers.

What they're saying: Bill Bradley, executive board officer at the transit workers union ATU 757, noted that staff routinely have to deal with people nodding off in transit center bathrooms or using drugs on buses and trains.

  • "(Drivers will) pull up to a transit stop, and a user will just be finishing taking drugs, folding up their tinfoil, and putting that away, or not. You just don't know, 'Are they going to be erratic, are they going to overdose on your bus?'" Bradley told Axios.

Driving the news: Trains and buses have to be emptied and aired out for 15 minutes after someone smokes fentanyl or methamphetamine on them, he said.

  • The union is considering supplying drivers with Narcan nasal spray to treat opiate overdoses, both for users and for those ingesting secondhand.

Flashback: Back in September, University of Washington researchers collected dozens of samples from 11 buses and 19 trains across five Pacific Northwest transit agencies, including 11 TriMet trains.

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