/Morning Report: MTS Review Urges Dozens of Changes

Morning Report: MTS Review Urges Dozens of Changes

Xavier Herrera, a code compliance officer, logs ticket fare inspections throughout the day. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Over the past year, Metropolitan Transit System leaders have committed to reforming the agency’s aggressive enforcement approach and reconsidering the structure of the agency’s security force.

Last fall, MTS agreed to pay the American Public Transportation Association to assemble a group of transit security experts to evaluate the agency’s security and enforcement practices after more than a year of calls for change from its board and advocates, a nationwide police reform push and a series of Voice of San Diego stories that revealed MTS’s crackdown on fare evasion outpaced that of other transit agencies and the impacts of that enforcement.

Now the outside report has now dropped and Lisa Halverstadt dug into its many recommendations on everything from the need for policies for handling video footage – an area where VOSD’s reporting previously spotlighted gaps – to increased analysis of the outcomes of its citations and new pilot diversion program for fare evasion, a possible ambassador program to improve customer service and visibility and more. What the report didn’t directly grapple with: the appropriateness of MTS’s dramatic increase in fare evasion ticketing in recent years or how some San Diegans – including Black riders and low-income people – may have been disproportionately impacted by enforcement the agency has ramped down over the last year.

MTS CEO Sharon Cooney said the agency has already started working on some of the suggestions in the report and that it expects to continue seeking public input as it proceeds with additional reforms, including with a riders advisory committee the report suggested creating.

The MTS board is expected to provide more direction to Cooney and the agency’s new security chief on next steps for implementing the report’s recommendations at its meeting next Thursday.

The School and Vaccine Tug-of-War

Tension has been building over the last several weeks over whether teachers in California will insist that all educators be vaccinated before they’re willing to return to schools. The CDC this week noted that if proper precautions are in place, vaccines shouldn’t be a prerequisite for school reopenings.

In this week’s Learning Curve, VOSD’s Will Huntsberry explores the debate and the constantly moving goal posts. After all, back in the fall teachers said they’d only need proper protective equipment and testing procedures in place. 

“But in all fairness, the virus and the protections we have against it, have been constantly changing as well,” Huntsberry writes. 

“In the fall, we had no idea how soon vaccines might arrive, because they weren’t even a reality then,” one teacher pointed out.

San Diego Unified School Board President Richard Barrera reacted to the CDC’s latest guidelines by urging local officials to prioritize educators in vaccine distribution. 

“In San Diego Unified, if we could just get a few thousand of our educators vaccinated, that would be the first step to starting to bring students back to school in phases,” said Barrera, according to CBS 8. “And I just think we need to have a sense of urgency.”  

Barrera suggested that the Petco Park vaccination super station should have lanes devoted solely to educators.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.