Metro Transit in the Twin Cities is poised to launch a revamped fare enforcement program this Monday, signalling a significant shift in its approach to handling fare evaders. This move comes as a response to increasing concerns about the conditions on Metro Transit buses and trains.
The enforcement strategy is part of the Transit Rider Investment Program (TRIP), under which nonpolice community service officers will be deployed to verify fares on the blue and green light rail lines initially, with plans to extend this to buses. These officers will request riders to display proof of fare payment, issuing noncriminal citations to those who fail to comply.
Historically, fare evasion was addressed through misdemeanour citations, a practice that changed after the Legislature endorsed TRIP this year. Metro Transit data indicates a decline in such citations in recent years, from over 1,300 in 2019 to just 49 in 2022. A notable aspect of this enforcement was the low payment rate of these fines, with only 2.5% being settled, according to a 2020 Metropolitan Council audit.
The new system aims to streamline the process. Community service officers, as opposed to police, will conduct fare checks. This strategy allows police to concentrate on more serious matters. The fines start at $35 for a first violation, escalating to $100 and a 120-day transit prohibition for those with four or more violations. Importantly, these administrative citations won’t reflect on criminal background reports.
Beginning Monday morning, Community Service Officers (CSOs) will be asking riders for their proof of fare payment and issuing administrative citations to those who haven’t paid. Learn more at https://t.co/mPIfs1VzWZ pic.twitter.com/xF3kca5v9E
— Metro Transit (@MetroTransitMN) December 2, 2023
Riders unable to present a valid fare or identification will be asked to disembark. Refusal to comply will result in police intervention and a potential trespassing citation. However, Metro Transit offers an avenue for first-time offenders to reduce fines by purchasing future fares or viewing an educational video about transit expectations.
Community service officers will receive training in mental health response, de-escalation techniques, first aid, naloxone administration, and CPR, ensuring they are well-prepared for various situations they might encounter on duty.
Additionally, the Met Council transportation committee recently approved an expanded rider code of conduct, which is anticipated to be ratified this month and implemented in the first quarter of 2024. This code will further define the expectations and responsibilities of riders using the transit system. As Metro Transit embarks on this new fare enforcement journey, it reflects a proactive approach to addressing fare evasion while focusing on community engagement and safety.