Light rail operators don't routinely interrupt the recorded voice that announces each stop. So when the driver came on the public address system this morning it was obvious something was out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, it was not at all clear what the operator said. Even after he repeated the message, the best I could make out was that it had something to do with the 23rd Street station, the next stop on the inbound train.
As the train approached the station, everyone got a pretty good idea of what was coming next. Parked on the sidewalk next to the inbound tracks were two Sacramento Police Department black and whites. At the rear of one car was a man in handcuffs. Another man appeared to be receiving a ticket.
When the train stopped, one passenger tried to bolt but was quickly convinced to stick around by waiting police officers.
Soon the Sacramento Regional Transit fare inspector and a couple of police escorts made their way through the light rail car, asking each rider to produce a ticket or pass. Besides the guy who tried to run, I didn't notice anyone else caught not paying.
One of the criticisms repeatedly leveled against RT is that not enough is done to keep people who don't pay from riding the trains. This was a clear, unequivocal response by RT.
So I looked at RT's Web site to see if it offered some further explanation, a notice that would let people know that RT was making an effort to improve.
Nothing under "Service Status Updates."
Nothing under "Safety Information & Crime Prevention Tips for RT Passengers."
Nothing under "RT Newsroom."
Monday's Sacramento Bee had a story that began, "Federal anti-terrorism agents with guard dogs and cameras showed up at the downtown train depot briefly last week, then just as mysteriously disappeared, leaving passengers at the normally sleepy depot scratching heads."
More Visual Intermodal Protection and Response today? Didn't seem likely.
Why does RT insist upon hiding its light under a bushel? A few dozen people who witnessed today's sweep know about it. Maybe they will tell a friend or two. But people who don't ride transit, who don't think it is safe, who fear riffraff they imagine fill each train -- those people will remain ignorant.
Sacramento Regional Transit needs to do more to tell people about these efforts. People who have a choice whether to ride transit or take their car need to understand and appreciate the efforts RT makes to create a transit system inviting to everyone.