TriMet ordinance aims to stop confusion on fare requirements

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The TriMet Board of Directors will consider a revision to the TriMet Code that clearly details the transit agency’s existing authority to require and inspect fares. An ordinance to revise the Code will be presented to the Board at their Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, meeting. This is an effort to clear up recent confusion following a trial judge’s opinion in a criminal case, State v. Valderrama. The ordinance clarifies that TriMet does have the authority to require riders of our transit system to show they have paid their fare when requested by a TriMet inspector or police officer.

Fare is fair

TriMet provides transit service across a 533-square-mile section of Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. We get people to and from jobs, schools, services and activities. Fares are an important source of funding for our operations, so we can provide the extensive network of transit service we do to the community. Fare payments are expected to bring in more than $117 million during our current fiscal year (July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019).

Fares are required on all TriMet buses and trains, and on rail platforms. That is a requirement for all riders. It means those who chose to ride our transit system have a responsibility to buy a fare, whether riding a bus, MAX train or WES train. They also should be prepared to show a valid fare when requested.

Confusion surrounding fare inspections

In September, a judge’s opinion issued in a criminal case set off confusion about TriMet’s abilities to inspect fares. The case, based on the arrest of Rosa Valderrama for providing false information to a police officer when she was found riding MAX without a valid fare, was between the State of Oregon and Ms. Valderrama. TriMet was not a party in it. The judge determined that, under the specific facts of that case, the request for proof of payment to Ms. Valderrama was a stop that violated the Oregon Constitution. However, other judges have ruled differently. In another similar case, a judge noted, “If you do not want to show your proof of fare, you do not get on MAX, because the requirement to be on MAX is to have valid fare and show proof upon demand, to an inspector or a police officer.” State of Oregon v. Debra Denise Opening brief

TriMet maintains that the inspection was an encounter not a stop. However, if a fare inspection is considered a stop by the courts, we believe it to be – in legal terms – an authorized administrative search. Such a search is what you experience when you try to enter a courthouse, where anyone entering the building are subject to search, or in our case, is subject to the requirement to show a valid fare when requested.

Ordinance clarifies TriMet authority to inspect fares

As there has been confusion among riders and others in the community concerning TriMet’s authority to inspect fares following the judge’s opinion in the Valderrama case, TriMet and our Board of Directors want to reaffirm what we can do and provide clarification. To that point, Ordinance 351 amends TriMet Code, Chapter 29. This is the section of our rules for operating and using the transit system that details the regulations for governing the proof of fare payment. It already states that riders are required to pay fare and carry proof of payment. It also prohibits a rider from failing to show their fare when demanded by a TriMet inspector or police officer.

Ordinance clarifies TriMet authority to inspect fares

Ordinance 351 revises the Code to specifically communicate the agency’s authority to inspect fares.

  • Describes TriMet’s necessity to collect fares and conduct random fare inspections – common on light rail systems – that are fair, systematic and nondiscriminatory.
  • Details how the Oregon Legislature authorized the TriMet Board of Directors to request proof of payment from passengers, including those boarding and exiting vehicles. As stated in ORS 267, TriMet has the ability to “enact police ordinances relating to the protection, use and enjoyment of district property and facilities” and to “fix and collect charges for the use of the transit system and other district facilities.”  ORS 267.150(2); ORS 267.200(6).
  • Ensures that non-payment of fare is non-criminal. When the only violation is fare evasion, the only penalty will be a warning, citation or exclusion. A single citation for fare evasion is not only non-criminal in nature, but under TriMet’s administrative process, an adult has 90 days to resolve the citation directly with TriMet without it entering the court system.

TriMet’s fare system = fair, equitable, unbiased

TriMet has been committed to a fare system and fare enforcement that is equitable and fair to all riders. We continually look for ways to improve our system and access to it.

  • Two separate In-depth, independent analyses – one earlier this year and one in 2016 – determined there was no evidence of systemic racial bias in our enforcement efforts and fare inspections.
  • TriMet offers fare assistance for those struggling financially. On July 1, 2018, TriMet expanded our Honored Citizen fare program to Oregonians earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Individuals who qualify pay half the cost of a single ride or day pass and receive a 72 percent discount off month passes. TriMet also provides fares at low cost or no cost to eligible non-profit and community-based organizations that help those who have trouble making ends meet.
  • TriMet, as of July 1, 2018, has the ability to resolve adult fare citations directly with the individual within 90 days of the violation, so they can avoid unnecessarily entering into the judicial system. This allows a person issued a fare evasion citation only to pay a tiered fine, complete community service or successfully enroll in our Honored Citizen reduced fare program for seniors, those with disability or those who qualify based on a low income. Individuals also have 45 days to appeal a fare citation if they can show proof they had valid fare at the time cited.

Committed to our community

TriMet provides valued transit service that is safe, dependable and easy to use. We are working to do our part to make this community the best place to live in the country.