By SPENCER PAULEY | THE CENTER SQUARE
Western Washington transit agencies promised to take steps to improve safety following a University of Washington report that found small traces of fentanyl and methamphetamine in the air and on surfaces of transit vehicles.
According to the report, out of 78 air samples collected by UW researchers, 25% had detectable fentanyl and 100% had detectable methamphetamine.
Out of 102 surface samples, 46% had detectable fentanyl and 98% had detectable methamphetamine.
Researchers collaborated with five transit agencies, which also provided funding: King County Metro, Sound Transit, Everett Transit and Community Transit in Snohomish County, and Tri-Met in the Portland metro area.
Sound Transit said it is taking several steps to enhance safety and security, including enforcement of transit code of conduct, more frequent and enhanced cleaning protocols, and improved filtration on light rail vehicles.
In a statement, King County Metro said that the report’s findings reaffirmed its strategies are the right ones. Metro’s strategies include discouraging or preventing drug use on transit as the first step in reducing drug levels in the air and on surfaces. The department has 120 transit security officers, and is budgeted to grow to 140.
King County Metro recently upgraded ventilation on its transit vehicles, and its buses are outfitted with MERV-11 and MERV-13 filters, which are considered the best possible filtration available for transit vehicles and capable of filtering airborne viruses and drug smoke particulates.
The agency said it is in the process of converting the remaining 448 buses from MERV-11 to MERV-13 filters in the coming weeks. Daily wipe-downs of high-touch areas and the driver’s area also will continue.
Community Transit, the public transit authority of Snohomish County, said it is expanding the agency’s Transit Security Officer program. Officers work closely with others, including the Transit Police Unit, social workers, service ambassadors and field supervisors.
The agency intends to upgrade air filters on its buses from MERV-7 to MERV-13 filters. Community Transit is working to complete installation of the new filters by the end of September.
Everett Transit said it is prioritizing developing an early and coordinated response to discouraging the impacts of illegal substance use on its public transit.