It is probably inevitable that increased security will be required on Utah Transit Authority buses and trains through the years. Call it a sign of the times, with escalating crime and violence.

Fortunately, ugly incidents on local buses have been few and far between, and riders can feel safe using UTA day or night. We hope that will continue.But the transit authority's staff and board of directors are wise in taking a hard look at security issues and making long-term plans to bolster protection on routes requiring it. They should consider short- and long-range budget forecasts accordingly to provide a peaceful riding environment.

All aspects of personal safety must be at the forefront of any public transportation program. Riders must be transported by well-trained drivers, and they need drive time free from harassment, harm or intimidation.

Drivers often can control unruly passengers, but strategically placed security personnel can help foster a safe climate and discourage inappropriate incidents.

UTA should continue to coordinate its security plans with local law-enforcement officials and benefit from their expertise and cooperation. The Salt Lake County sheriff's office presently contracts with UTA for deputies to ride buses from time to time.

An increased budget proposal calls for hiring three part-time, armed officers who would wear UTA uniforms, and for installation of digital cameras on up to 30 buses.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard says that type of approach is OK now but will not be adequate when the TRAX light-rail system comes on line.

He proposes contracting with UTA so uniformed deputies would ride the rails with no mistaking who they are and what they represent.

The deterrent effects of such riders would likely be beneficial, though UTA insists that light rail will not bring a significant increase in crime. Similar systems in Portland, Ore., and St. Louis have proven secure. It is hoped those patterns will prove the same here, as well.

In the meantime, communication and cooperation between UTA and the law-enforcement community will keep security plans for the bus and rail systems on the right track.