Portland’s public transportation system has been experiencing daily delays due to “passenger issues,” much of which are for drug use. On April 2022, TriMet enacted a new policy of halting service and airing out vehicles when someone is suspected of smoking illicit drugs.
Now Tri-Met has partnered with the University of Washington to study the effects of second-hand fentanyl smoke.
As the rampant rise in illicit fentanyl use fuels a public health crisis across Oregon, TriMet has begun working with researchers and other transit agencies to better understand its impacts. Researchers from the University of Washington are beginning a study to detect, monitor and assess the effects of second-hand fentanyl smoke on and around transit systems. TriMet, alongside University of Washington researchers, Sound Transit in the Seattle metro area and other transit agencies, will use the findings to determine new best practices around addressing drug use.
With illicit fentanyl surging—evidenced by Oregon’s 41% increase in overdose deaths in 2021—use of it has occasionally spilled over to shared spaces, including public transit. By better understanding the second-hand exposure levels of smoked substances, such as illicit fentanyl and other opioids like heroin, TriMet hopes to determine ways to better understand and curb the risks associated with them.
As of right now, there is little in the way of concrete data about the health effects of second-hand fentanyl smoke or its impacts on a self-contained area, like a bus or train. While there have been studies about the risk of exposure to first responders, this is the first study of its kind to delve into public transit.
Portland also just had a stabbing on a public bus. Anna Karen Perez-Velador, 28, was arrested for allegedly stabbing a bus driver in the leg. The city police have stopped releasing mugshots due to a new state law that is supposed to be protecting “people of color” from being stigmatized.