Metro Transit reaches out to St. Thomas riders to help curb harassment

Metro Transit is reaching out to its youngest riders in an effort to make the trains and buses safer.

It’s all about harassment and empowering riders to report it if they don’t feel safe.

Among riders of public transit from the University of St. Thomas, it’s not hard to find students who’ve experienced harassment. Aria St. James knows about it.

“A couple of times people have said weird comments or I have seen other people getting harassed by people,” she said.

It happens more than you’d probably think. When Metro Transit recently surveyed riders, about 30 percent of women under the age of 35 said they had experienced some form of harassment while riding transit. And that’s exactly now what it’s trying to fight.

They’re getting help from these St. Thomas students. They call themselves the UST Changemakers.

And they’re working with Metro Transit to change the culture of riding transit by teaching fellow students how to recognize harassment and not accept it.

“For Metro Transit, how we define harassment is any unwanted forced interaction,” said Erica Jones, of Metro Transit. “So, that can be verbal or non-verbal. So, when it’s forced, it’s, ‘I said no, no thank you.’ And if it’s continuously, then it’s unwanted and then so we have a very brief definition so it’s not misinterpreted.”

There is also a way to report it.

“We have a text for safety,” Jones explained. “So, they text to safety to that it’s anonymous or they can go right onto our app so that it’s anonymous. On our website at change. We have specific information that anyone if they text for safety to call in so we can identify the individual appropriately.”

It’s more than just calling for help. It’s offering help, too, just like riders have done for St. James.

The number to text for safety is 612-900-0411. You can also send a message through the Metro Transit app.

Metro Transit is focusing this effort on college campuses because a lot of their young riders are students.