New law gives TriMet authority to offer some fare evaders a second chance to stay out of court system


HB 2777 reinforces TriMet’s commitment to bring equity to fare/code enforcement

Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 2777 last week, clearing the way for TriMet to pursue new options that give individuals the opportunity to correct their behavior when cited for violations of the TriMet Code, including fare evasion. HB 2777 grants transit districts the authority to offer a new, administrative option for resolving citations. Read the text of HB 2777.

Currently, citations, including fare evasion, must be resolved through the courts. They can leave a permanent mark on a violator’s record that could affect their ability to get a job, rent property or serve in the military. That can be a severe penalty for not buying a $2.50 fare. HB 2777 provides a framework to make the system more equitable and bring the punishment in line with the offense.

“This law is about proportionality,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow (D) of Portland, one of the bill’s chief sponsors. “It gives TriMet new, less punitive tools to enforce fare evasion and other code violations.”

However, riders should not see this as a change to TriMet’s rules. Fares remain required on all TriMet vehicles and those who choose not to pay or repeatedly evade fare will be held accountable. Also, we continue working to increase fare enforcement on the transit system.

How we got here

TriMet began a thorough review of the fare enforcement process in 2016. We collaborated with Portland State University and other organizations to learn how our enforcement process affects the community. We wanted to understand the underlying causes of fare evasion and what we could do to improve our enforcement efforts.

Portland State issued a report in December that found no evidence of systemic racial bias in TriMet’s fare enforcement, but it recommended a closer look at factors like health and economics as precursors to fare evasion, especially for chronic offenders. It also called for a review of enforcement policies to ensure fairness.

Fairness in accountability

HB 2777 gives TriMet the authority to offer alternatives for some who violate TriMet’s Code. Under the law, TriMet can provide violators up to 90-days to engage in an administrative process that could reduce the fine or allow community service to resolve the citation. If resolved during this period, TriMet would not submit the citation to the court, which means the violation would not become part of a person’s court record. When the 90-day window closes, TriMet could still pursue unresolved violations through the court system.

“TriMet strives to be a model in the equitable application of its rules and response to violations,” said TriMet Director of Diversity and Transit Equity John Gardner. “Our aim is to get people to pay their fare, not unnecessarily funnel them into the judicial system.”

“We continually see data that shows that when people are given the chance to rectify their mistakes in a manner that acknowledges their humanity that they are much less likely to reoffend,” said Rep. Chris Gorsek (D) of Troutdale, who advocated for the legislation. “That’s what this bill does; it brings some compassion back into the process.”

What’s next?

TriMet’s Board of Directors will have to enact an ordinance to authorize the administrative options permitted by HB 2777. In the months ahead, TriMet will work with community partners to determine who qualifies, how to adjust fines, and which community service options to offer. We hope to have the administrative options in place when the new law takes effect on January 1, 2018.