The agency which operates the Valley’s light-rail system wants to stop Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “Con Rail” idea before it leaves the station again.
Metro, in a release issued Wednesday, said it has heard from people worried about sharing trains with prisoners.
“Any situation that creates concern for passengers and discourages ridership is of great concern to Metro,” the release said.
In response, Metro’s board of directors is expected to consider asking the sheriff to reconsider. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 18.
It was to Metro’s surprise and alarm that Arpaio announced Tuesday his office now would use trains as the preferred method of moving extradited inmates, and their escort of two armed deputies, between the station closest to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and the Fourth Avenue Jail.
Arpaio and deputies first used the train to transport an inmate, a woman, on Tuesday night.
MCSO spokeswoman Lisa Allen said airport parking, for about 30 to 40 monthly prisoner transports, currently costs the county between $20,000 and $25,000 annually. The savings from using light rail, from now through 2012, is estimated to be $72,000, she said.
But airport officials have said Phoenix police already provide fellow law enforcement agencies free parking for the purpose of transporting prisoners.
Allen denied that, stating deputies haven’t been able to park for free there since July 2007.
The Sheriff’s Office also took issue with Metro’s contention that “transporting inmates using public transportation is not a common practice nationally.” Allen said authorities in the San Francisco area use the subway system there in the same manner.
As for passengers’ safety fears, Allen said dangerously violent criminals would not be transported on the trains.
Said Arpaio: “My advice to the passengers is, they should be very happy they have two armed deputies protecting them also.”