Staggered citation amounts, community service proposed based on public outreach
The TriMet Board of Directors will be considering changes to TriMet’s fare evasion penalties in the coming months. The agency is proposing the changes following the passage of House Bill 2777 this past summer, which gives TriMet the authority to resolve some fare evasion citations before sending them to the courts, either through a reduced fine or community service. The new policy, which would go into effect July 1, 2018, avoids unnecessarily putting people into the judicial system and better align the punishment with the violation.
Unwanted consequences of fare enforcement
TriMet has conducted extensive research during the last two years into our fare enforcement. An independent review found no systemic racial bias in the agency’s fare enforcement operations; however, research and community outreach found unwanted consequences when citations go into the court system. A court record can affect a person’s ability to get a job, rent a house or serve in the military. Applying an administrative option in fare evasion cases brings fairness and equity to our enforcement system, but it doesn’t mean a change in the fare requirement for riding TriMet. Fares are required on all TriMet buses and trains and those who do not pay will be held accountable. We are working to increase fare enforcement efforts on the system.
Current snapshot of fare evasion
Fare evasion is a violation under ORS Chapter 153, with the presumptive fine of $175 under the TriMet Code. Citations are adjudicated in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington courts. TriMet issues approximately 20,000 fare citations per year. Based on the agency’s annual fare evasion survey, the estimated fare evasion rate for 2017 is 13.1 percent.
Fare evasion penalty recommendations
TriMet’s Senior Deputy General Counsel Erik Van Hagen presented the TriMet Board of Directors with the agency’s initial administrative penalty recommendations for adult fare evasion, which would go into use July 1, 2018. The recommendations are based on extensive outreach including an online survey, community meetings, open houses and review of penalties used by other transit systems. At this time, resolution of a citation through the administrative process would only be available if the sole violation is fare evasion, and no other violations of the TriMet Code are committed.
Administrative options for adult fare evasion (proposed start date: July 1, 2018)
- If paid during the ninety (90)-day stay period, the presumptive fine should be reduced to the following amounts:
- First offense: $75
- Second offense: $100
- Third offense: $150
- Fourth offense and beyond: $175 (no reduction)
- Community Service. In lieu of a fine, the cited party would be allowed to complete community service as follows:
- First offense: 4 hours
- Second offense: 7 hours
- Third offense: 12 hours
- Fourth offense and beyond: 15 hours
- Low income/Honored Citizen Option. TriMet would waive the citation if a rider met ALL of the following criteria:
- Eligible for, but not enrolled in, TriMet’s Low Income Fare program (launching in July 2018) or the agency’s Honored Citizen program,
- Successfully enroll in the Low Income Fare or Honored Citizen program during the 90-day stay period,
- And, load a minimum of $10 on their reloadable fare card during the 90-day stay period.
- Hearings. TriMet will offer written and possibly limited in-person hearings to resolve certain citations where valid proof of payment can be documented. This would include, for example, situations were an honored citizen forgets the required identification, but can furnish it later and therefore demonstrate proper fare. Limited hearings will allow for the resolution of the citations administratively without having to appear in court.
“These recommendations represent the first attempt I am aware of for TriMet to increase the severity of penalties for repeat offenders,” said Van Hagen. “The escalation reflects TriMet’s emphasis on reducing evasion by changing behavior. Increasing fines for repeat offenders emphasizes to those cited the first time that there will be further consequences for continuing to ride without proof of payment.”
Board members discussed the recommended fine for a first offense, and whether it should be lower or if $75 was effective to discourage fare evasion. However, some Board members pointed out that for a first-time offense, a rider would be able to choose community service or, if eligible, the individual could enroll in TriMet’s Low Income Fare or Honored Citizen fare program, load $10 on a fare card and not pay any fine.
“This option encourages enrollment in these reduced fare programs, reduces the burden of fare enforcement on low income and disabled riders, and facilitates compliance with fare requirements,” said Van Hagen.
Based on discussion with the Board and feedback from the public, TriMet staff may adjust the recommendations and will submit the ordinance for the Board of Directors consideration at an upcoming board meeting. The administrative options would then go into effect July 1, 2018.