(The Center Square) – Metra train officials have enacted a policy that could mean bans of as long as a year for riders who violate new code of conduct standards that union members worked with state lawmakers in crafting.
In addition to being banned from trains, violators could also lose their fair cards and train tickets stemming from the new rules that go into effect on Feb. 1.
“It’s not in response to anything specific that happened on Metra. The prompt was the passage of a state law by the legislature that allowed us to do this,” Metra Director of Communications Michael Gillis told The Center Square. “The vast majority of our passengers never violate any of the bullets on our list of prohibited conduct, but this does give us a tool in our tool belt to further protect our riders and our employees from bad actors.”
Among the acts outlawed by the new rules, which also allow public transit agencies across the state to enact such regulations, are verbally or physically threatening or harming someone while aboard a train, pushing or waving a gun at someone, harassment and acts of public indecency.
“You can tell by the bullets I rattled off a lot of those are crimes that we have always been able to charge and continue to charge,” Gillis added. “This law just allows us to suspend the riding privileges and confiscate the fares of people who are found in violation.”
With all the investigations into those suspected of conduct violations required to take place within 30 days, Gillis said the process of suspending someone involves an officer first summoning the accused rider to a hearing that will officially determine if they’ll actually be banned and have their fares confiscated.
A first proven offense will typically spell a 10-day suspension and a fourth could mean up to a yearlong ban where the rider would be reimbursed for the remaining available fare. Those charged are allowed to attend the proceedings either in-person, by phone or virtually with those being suspended allowed to appeal.
“Our trains are very safe, but as I say, this gives us not only a way to keep bad actors off our trains, but maybe it has a deterrent effect from them acting bad in the first place,” Gillis said.