TriMet Board moves to clarify fare enforcement authority


Second reading of ordinance to eliminate confusion and provide clear direction to riders to occur November 14

The TriMet Board of Directors will continue action on an ordinance that would revise the TriMet Code to more clearly detail the transit agency’s existing authority to request proof of fare on the system. On Wednesday, Oct. 24, the Board considered Ordinance 351 to revise the TriMet Code in an effort to eliminate confusion about fare requirements, provide riders clear direction on their responsibilities and further improve TriMet’s efforts to keep fare evaders out of the criminal justice system unnecessarily. The TriMet Board is now expected to vote on the ordinance at their meeting on November 14.

TriMet currently has the authority by state law to enforce fares and will continue to perform inspections. Riders should be prepared to show valid fare when asked by an inspector or police officer as fares are required on all TriMet bus and trains, and on rail platforms.

Conflicting court decisions create confusion on fare inspections

A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge recently issued an opinion in State v. Valderrama, a criminal case of a woman charged with providing false information to a police officer that originated when she was found riding on MAX without a fare. 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. Another judge, in a similar inspection, found that by the mere fact of riding a transit system where fares are required, one has an obligation to pay fare and show that fare when asked. State of Oregon v. Debra Denise, opening brief

Clarifying TriMet’s authority to inspect fares

Oregon Revised Statute 267 lays out TriMet’s authority to “fix and collect charges for the use of the transit system and other district facilities.” It also gives the agency the authority to set ordinances or rules relating to the protection and use of the system. While those authorities exist today, the revision to TriMet Code adds further detail to TriMet Code and makes it clear that TriMet can lawfully ask for proof of fare payment.

The revised Code would also further detail TriMet’s necessity to collect fares and conduct random fare inspections – common on light rail systems – that are fair, systematic and nondiscriminatory.

Clarifying fare evasion only is not a crime

The revision proposed to TriMet Code also clarifies that fare evasion will not result in criminal charges if fare evasion is the sole offense. TriMet has already worked with the Oregon Legislature to decriminalize fare evasion penalties by obtaining the administrative authority to resolve fare citations in-house, before they go to the courts. As of July 2018, we are now able to resolve adult fare evasion citations directly within 90 days. With that, we changed the penalties when fare evasion was the only offense, allowing violators to pay a tiered fine, perform community service or successfully enroll in our Honored Citizen reduced fare program. Our Honored Citizen program now allows those living on a low income, seniors, Medicare beneficiaries and those with disabilities to qualify for greatly discounted fare.

Fare is fair

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.

TriMet conducts fare enforcement in a manner that is lawful and equitable. Two in-depth, independent analyses over the past four years – one earlier this year and one in 2016 – determined there was no evidence of systemic racial bias in the issuance of fare evasion citations.

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Serving our community

TriMet provides transit service across a 533-square-mile section of Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, getting 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.