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Public transit forced to stop, air out fentanyl smoke causing frequent mass delays for Portland commuters

Portland’s public transportation systems are frequently impacted by mass delays due to the city’s surging drug crisis.

According to KATU, the city’s TriMet MAX trains have accumulated hundreds of hours of delays related to “passenger issues” over the last year. However, it was previously unclear what precisely was causing those delays until the news outlet filed a public records request.

TriMet spokesperson Roberta Altstadt explained that “passenger issues” is a catchall phrase for several problems, including passengers experiencing mental health issues, using drugs, being aggressive, or even holding the train doors open.

KATU found that from June 1, 2022, to January 10, 2023, TriMet logged more than 460 passenger issues. Therefore, public trains were delayed minimally 150 hours over that timeframe, with two to four incidents occurring on many days.

The public records request revealed that one passenger issue in particular was responsible for the delays – drug use or suspected drug use.

Riders smoking or suspected of smoking fentanyl and other illegal narcotics are a recurring issue in the public transit system.

As a precaution for passengers, every time drug activity is reported, TriMet stops the train and airs out the fumes for 15 minutes, even if the drug use is not confirmed. This policy was implemented last spring and intended to protect passengers’ health and safety.

During most incidents, after airing out the train, the dispatcher then calls a TriMet supervisor to walk through to ensure the noxious fumes have dissipated. However, in at least two of the 30 incidents reviewed by KATU, train operators reported feeling unwell and declined to continue their shifts.

“It’s just with what we’re seeing in the community — homelessness, mental health, drugs and addiction are up in the community,” Altstadt stated. “You’re seeing it more in public spaces, including on public transit.”

Portland drug counselor Kevin Dahlgren told Fox News Digital that drug use, particularly fentanyl, is “very common” on the city’s public transit. He noted that there is a “terrifying” risk that passengers might unknowingly touch traces of the drug.

“The risk is after a person smokes it, they usually will nod out. When they nod out, they oftentimes drop what they were using and even a couple of milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal,” Dahlgren said. “They let go of the tinfoil, oftentimes it’ll just lie in the seat next to you. And so you could sit on it, you could touch your hands on it, and it’s a lethal dose.”

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