100% of sampled MAX trains test positive for low levels of meth

According to a study by the University of Washington, 100% of sampled surfaces on TriMet light rails tested positive for low levels of meth.
Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 9:36 AM PDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2023 at 7:04 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) – TriMet says it’s working to combat drug use following a study of drugs in the air and on surfaces of buses and MAX trains, as well as several other transit services across the Pacific Northwest.

According to the tests, 100% of sampled surfaces on TriMet light rails tested positive for low levels of meth. Other findings across TriMet found low levels of fentanyl across 37.5% of air samples collected and 50% of surface samples as positive for fentanyl.

The study, conducted by the University of Washington, was done by placing air pumps on board and collecting samples from seats, windows and doors in 30 transit buses and trains across the PNW, including in Portland and Seattle.

Samples on 21 TriMet light rail vehicles break down into the following:

16 air samples

Fentanyl – 6 of 16 positive (37.5%)

Meth – 16 of 16 positive (100%)

Cocaine – 1 out of 7 was positive (14%)

26 surface samples

Fentanyl – 13 out of 16 positive (50%)

Meth – 26 out of 26 positive (100%)

Cocaine – 6 out of 6 sample (100%)

42 samples overall:

Fentanyl – 19 out of 42 positive (45%)

Meth – 42 out of 42 positive (100%)

Cocaine – 7 out of 13 positive (54%)

The transit organization described the drug findings as “extremely low” levels but says it’s still taking action.

TriMet says the following changes are being made:

  • Increased security personnel for more on-board presence.
  • Updated TriMet Code to address illicit drugs.
  • Updated standard procedures for when someone is seen smoking drugs on board.

SEE ALSO: Portland City Council passes open-use drug ban

“Our riders, operators and other employees deserve to use our system without being exposed to drug use,” said TriMet General Manager Sam Desue, Jr. “More needs to be done to ensure that transit and other public spaces are safe and comfortable for everyone.”

Outside input on the safety of passengers came from Dr. Robert Hendrickson, a professor of emergency medicine and medical toxicologist at OHSU

“The concentration of drugs detected in the air and on surfaces in this study were extremely low and would not cause harm to TriMet riders and operators,” said Hendrickson. “There is no threat to the public related to these study results, and individuals who use public transportation for travel needs should continue to feel safe doing so.”

The union that represents TriMet employees says they want research done on the long-term impacts of constant exposure to the drugs.

Shirley Block, president of the local transit union, says many bus and train operators across Oregon feel unsafe when drugs are being used openly.

“People have a fear, a fear of the unknown. Right now, people don’t know long term effect,” Block said. “That’s a mental fear to them.”

TriMet says they have doubled their security staff since 2022 to address problems and are working with local law enforcement to fill all of their transit police positions.

For more information, click here.

OHSU on the findings: