PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — The TriMet Board of Directors revised the agency’s fare evasion changes at its Wednesday, Feb. 28 meeting

Among other things, the board approved a tiered system of penalties in adult fare evasion cases, and allowed other options in addition to citation payments, including community service.

The changes are in response to criticism that fare evasion charges disproportionately affect minorities and unnecessarily pushes too many of them into the criminal justice system. They are based on extensive outreach including an online survey, community meetings, open houses and review of penalties used by other transit systems.

Fare evasion is a violation under ORS Chapter 153, a state law. Those caught riding TriMet buses or trains without a valid fare are currently subject to a $175 fine. Citations are adjudicated in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington courts.

Penalty changes

Beginning July 1, adults found riding without a valid fare may qualify for one of three options if completed within 90 days of the citation being issued.

• Tiered fines based on the number of fare evasion violations, if paid during the 90-day stay period: First offense: $75; second offense; $100, third offense; $150, fourth offense and beyond: $175 (no reduction).

• Optional community service as follows: First offense, four hours; second offense, seven hours; third offense, 12 hours; fourth offense and beyond, 15 hours

• TriMet will waive the fare evasion citation if an adult rider meets 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 enrolls in the low income or Honored Citizen program during the 90-day stay period; loads a minimum of $10 on their reloadable Hop Fastpass fare card during the 90-day stay period.

At this time, resolution of a citation through these options is only available to adults if the sole violation is fare evasion, and no other violations of the TriMet Code are committed. TriMet says it will offer written and possibly limited in-person hearings to resolve certain fare evasion citations where valid proof of payment can be documented. This includes, for example, situations where an honored citizen forgets the required identification but can furnish it later and therefore demonstrate proper fare.

Research and outreach lead to changes

TriMet has conducted extensive research into our fare enforcement during the last two years. According to the agency, an independent review by Portland State University found no systemic racial bias in the agency’s current fare enforcement operations. However, research and community outreach found unwanted consequences when citations go into the court system. For example, a court record can affect a person’s ability to get a job, rent a house or serve in the military.

TriMet says it believes the administrative options that go into effect July 1 in adult fare evasion cases will bring fairness and equity to our enforcement system. Riders should not confuse the penalty changes with a change in the fare requirement, however. Fares are required on all TriMet buses and trains, and those who do not pay will be held accountable.

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 was 13.1 percent. TriMet is working to increase fare and code enforcement efforts on the system.

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